Category Archives: Sex & Sexuality

Bisexuals at London Pride 2017

We ARE marching!

All the bi groups of London will be marching with ‘UKBiPride‘ this year as part of the ‘UKPrides’ section of the parade. They are the ones allocating our marching spaces, however we have very few details from them as yet. We will do our normal meetup thing and then meet them in the form up area of the parade.

Pride colours

Bisexuals are a diverse group with no single unifiying attribute, but at Pride that means no-one can see who we are! The bisexual colour is purple, so please everyone wear head to toe deep purple outfits, so that we look like a unified block that can easily be seen. We want to be visible!

Deep purple is an unusual colour and you will not have something suitable in your wardrobe on the day. Lilac, blue or “wearing your purple socks” are not good enough! You need to go online and buy something NOW especially for the parade. We want to be loud and proud!

Here are some inspirations:

These beauties can be ordered from The Bisexual Index Their other t-shirt designs sometimes come in purple too. Make sure to select purple when purchasing!

If you can’t afford these, grab yourself a plain deep purple tshirt from ebay.

Pre-form up meeting

The pre-form up meeting is once again at The Fitzrovia Centre at 11am.

Address: 2 Foley Street, London W1W 6DL. Nearest tube: Goodge Street

Here you can paint faces, change clothes, meet some other bis, have a cup of tea, eat cake, use the toilets and collect your wristband for marching in the parade. You will also get on-the-day updates that will be very important.

Attending this meeting promptly is the only way to guarantee you can march in the parade. Please attend this meeting on time!

Wristbands

You must have a wristband to march in Pride.

Important change to last year: UKBiPride are requiring all participants to email them directly in order ot get a wristband. The deadline is 16th June and there are only 50 wristbands to allocate. Please email biprideuk@gmail.com saying you would like a wristband (put it in the subject line).

Last year we ran out of wristbands when we only had 50, please email anyway so that we have an idea of numbers for next year (and come along anyway, there are always no shows and dropouts).

Since we are co-ordinating with another group this year we have to arrange distributing wristbands. This will most likely happen at the pre-form up meeting in The Fitzrovia Centre.

The Parade

We must form up in <street unknown> at <time unknown>. (Likely near to Baker St Station) We will depart The Fitzrovia Center at <time unkown>.

The area becomes extremely busy and phone signal sometimes blacks out. It is quite hard to get information about the parade on the day if you have missed the pre-form up meeting. If you persevere though, someone might get back to you on Facebook, Twitter or Meetup eventually. I recommend the app WhatThreeWords, which uses a three word code to give you a map pin that is accurate to within 3 metres of a location. I’ll post our three word location once we are installed at form-up.

The parade takes a very long time to move off and reach Traflagar Square, be prepared for lots of standing and being out in the elements for several hours.

Trafalgar Square

The parade ends in Trafalgar Square and a stage with live music is set up there, plus stalls and food and drink. If you can get in (!) it’s a great way to socialise after the parade. Jon Bi from the London Bisexuals Meetup Group normally forms up a group there. More information can be found on his Meetup Page.

What to bring

London Pride is a long day that is very tiring, you’ll need to bring two types of things: extreme fun and dressing up stuff for a wild day and extremly boring things to keep you comfortable and happy on a gruelling day of standing up.

Wild party fun times: Pride is so great because the gays go absolutely wild. There’ll be all the men in just g-strings, extravagent carnival-style drag queen wonders and people dressed in leather dog masks, to name a few,  all running wild down the centre of Regent’s Street and Oxford Street as neary a million normal people cheer them on. It’s a goddam rush and is the most wild dressing up you’ll ever see, so don’t hold yourselves back 🙂

  • Facepaints, especially bi colors: Pink, Purple, Blue
  • bi flag
  • deep purple clothes, head to toe, including pants (I like to get my pants out)
  • purple/rainbow unbrellas
  • whistles
  • portable speakers
  • bi badges and stickers
  • spares for everyone else: purple scarves, hats, tops, long socks, badges anything you’ve got
  • CAKE

Why not check out the Biscuit Magazine Etsy Shop for stickers and cards.

Practical stuff: those hot men in g-strings will be wearing just two other essential items: trainers and sun lotion. Remember how you had to prepare carefully for a day trip to London, because being a tourist in London for the day is exhausting? Well this is that. Don’t be complacent just because you live here now.

  • comfortable walking shoes – VERY IMPORTANT
  • umbrella
  • foldable waterproof jacket
  • sun cream
  • hat/headscarf
  • medium/large bottle of water
  • snacks (you will be without food 12noon – 3pm)
  • cash money
  • oyster card
  • foldable layers of clothes – light jumper, leggings
  • string, tape, scissors, safety pins (useful for attaching bi flags to people & wardrobe emergencies)
  • plasters, paracetamol, antihistamines

 

YAY

We look forward to seeing you there!! Any questions you can comment here or email me: jezzburton@yahoo.com or tweet @ssica3003.

10710420_10100863213051534_3693768349143471867_o

 

Eternalist problems with bisexuality

Preamble

My thoughts in this blog post rely on other frameworks to better understand bisexuality.

The first set of frameworks are eternalism/nihilism and  monism/dualism as outlined by David Chapman on his project called meaningness. Very briefly,

  • Eternalism says that everything has a definite, true meaning.
  • Nihilism says that nothing really means anything.

I will be focussing on eternalism. Eternalism resolves the ambiguity of life by saying that, even if we can’t fully see or understand it, there is an ordering principle to everything. This ordering principle can explain everything, providing comfort and a sense of control. The most obvious examples are God, or the non-theistic Fate. However many things can be eternalist, such as staunch belief in Science (scientism) or political ideologies.

There are two common ways to futher enact eternalism, called monism and dualism by Chapman. Very briefly,

  • Monism is the idea that “All is One.”
  • Dualism is the idea that the world consists of clearly separate objects.

To take a religious example, Monist Eternalist thought appears in New Age religions that state “you and the universe are One”, meaning you will be saved because you are God. Dualist Eternalist religions say God is a thing, separate from you and he will save you.

I will also be looking at several of Chapman’s ‘Eternalist ploys’ and linking to them as I go along. I really do recommend an extremely long click-around the book linked here before reading my thoughts to come.

Problems of bisexuality

In the bisexual activist community, it is commonly known that advocating for bisexuality is extremely difficult because of a number of problems.

To begin, almost nobody actually identifies as bisexual because the label, or stereotypes of the label, do not fit their experience.

Most people believe they are ‘not bisexual enough’ because they don’t have equal and unbiased sexual attraction to all genders, all of the time. Many people disagree that “both homo- and hetero- sexual” is an adequate term for their feelings.

Many bisexually-behaving people either swing between identifying as ‘straight’ or ‘gay’ depending on their current partner or refuse labels entirely and state “I am just me”. Some find their way to the queer community, which is more of an umbrella term but some of their bisexual behaviour must be sublimated to fit into queer spaces (eg opposite-sex attractions), just as those who remain in a hetero society sublimate their same-sex attractions.

Tragically, despite feelings they are not a ‘true’ bisexual, most bisexual people’s experiences are very similar to each other and distinct from other people’s. This means that services of any kind which are tailored to straight, gay, lesbian or trans people are inadequate and unhelpful for bisexual people, whereas bisexually-tailored help would work, if it were available, or if anyone accessed it, which they don’t, which means funding for new services is hard to get, because no-one identifies as bisexual.

This leads to depressing statistics about mental and physical health amongst bisexually behaving people, with outcomes being far worse than any of the aforementioned groups.

When bisexual people come together in an understanding environment, the effects can be profoundly positive, but finding a way to reach bisexual people is notoriously difficult. The positive effects can also fade quickly over time as normal life once again denies bisexual experience.

Understanding bisexuality through frameworks

Having read Chapman’s ways of slicing reality into stances, I became very interested in how or why this might apply to bisexuality.

I believe bisexuality is inherently nebulous, complex, changing over time, with multiple things going on. It explodes neat binaries and refuses to be its own, easily understandable thing.

At the same time there are strong patterns of commonality between people who feel or behave in a bisexual way, grouped into clumps of common experience. Most bisexual people share some but not all of these groups of experiences, some but not all of the time. This makes the label bisexual more of a marker for a rough direction than any kind of explanation, leading to everyone’s frustration with it, and labels in general.

Common objections to bisexuality from the stances

The eternalist stance has a problem with any sexuality that is not fixed over a long time, while some gay activism has focussed strongly on eternalist principles to fight their cause, such as having no choice about sexuality, whether from a genetic or environmental standpoint – ‘born this way’.

However, bisexual people experience attractions to other genders fading in and out over time. Some bisexual people “decided” to become bisexual or first experienced another-gender attraction quite late in life.

This leads to many people denying that bisexuality can exist. It is dismissed as “just a phase”, as if sexualities must eventually become ‘stable’. Or dismissed as treacherous or dangerous,  as ‘watering down the message’. Sexuality studies exclude bisexual people because they ‘muddy the water’.

The monist view that we are all one comes into play when bisexuality is denied by appealing to similarities. People either say “well, we are all human, that’s what matters” or the extremely pernicious statement “well, we are all bisexual really”. While it is true that most people could conceive of the idea that someone’s attractions may vary across gender boundaries, it is certainly not true that everyone behaves in a bisexual way. Otherwise everyone would be bisexual, really.

I believe this monist inability to see categories also leads people to entirely reject labels. The monist view says ‘I don’t see why we need labels anyway, it only serves to divide people unneccessarily’. However as we have seen, when bisexual people cannot rally around some words or identities, their health and wellbeing suffer tremendously.

When it comes to being gay, almost no-one  gives the following advice: “well, you are just you, you are unique, you should only take up labels that suit you” but this is almost always given as advice to someone questioning whether they are bisexual.

Similarly, the dualist view ends up rejecting labels. Dualism insists on concrete categories, particularly gender of self and gender of the people to whom one is attracted. A bisexual person suspects that they do not fit neartly into the category of hetero or homo, so the dualist creates anthoer category called “both”. This category is entirely unacceptable to a bisexual person as briefly described above.

It’s also very hard to undestand as a dualist, since liking two “opposites” at once sounds suspiciously like categories shouldn’t exist at all. The dualist then wants a bisexual to ‘decide’. Parents constantly state “so you’re straight now”, “so you’re gay now” to a bisexual person when they have a new partner and bi people themselves swing between “gay” and “straight”. Other dualist biphobc statements include “pick a side”, “choose a team”, “stop being on the fence”.

Many valiant attempts to create categories that do seem to fit bisexual people have occured to better describe bisexual experience. These include:

  • bi-romantic, to capture the relationship aspect of attraction only
  • hetereo- and homo- flexible, to express a ‘mostly, but not always’ fit into dualist boxes
  • pansexual, to describe attraction based less on gender than on other attriubutes
  • queer, to express ‘not straight, but check the details’
  • fluid, to desribe lack of fixity over time

And many others.

However, each label only decribes an aspect of bisexuality. The process of choosing and applying many labels which may change over time or not be an exact fit soon becomes absurd, and many people give up the idea of labels all together as unworkable.

As we have seen, the monist view dismisses labels as divisive, while simple dualist labels are not nebulous enough for real people to fit into, but at the same time applying mutliple, more fuzzy categories becomes absurd.

Eternalist ploys

A couple of the eternalist ploys mentioned by Chapman struck home as being relevant to bisexuality.

Continuum Gambit

The ‘continuum gambit’ is a ploy by eternalist thinking to regain control of, and create boundaries on, nebulous things.

When it becomes obvious that things are not either this or that, but somewhat both and neither—a typical manifestation of nebulosity—the continuum gambit suggests that reality is a matter of shades of gray, corresponding to numbers on a continuous scale.

This describes the Kinsey scale perfectly. Kinsey was radical and needed in his time and set us on a new course of thinking about sexuality forever. However, the Kinsey scale is misleading and useless about 10 minutes after it is first discovered.

A person will yield as many different numbers on the scale as there axes of experience around sexuality. The same person will have wildy different numbers depending on the history of their relationships, compared to feelings now, compared to the future, let alone actual behaviour vs desired behaviour in an ideal world vs fantasy life (which normally has no correlation with actual acts).

The Klein grid is an attempt to take into account these considerations, and involves some interesting thoughts, but the results seem to me to become immediately meaningless. A bisexual person will not be indentifiable from the general population when taking this test, and interpretation of the results is apparently complex. This is normally a sign that it is useless for ordinary people and indeed the website itself suggests it’s better to find a therapist.

(Lack of) wistful certainty & others

Wistful certainty is the idea that there definitely is a right system to do things that will solve all our problems, if only we can discover it. For example, the certainty that once we discover the correct laws of physics, they will explain the entire universe. Or the certaintiy that if we develop just the right combination of policies, there wil be a political system that works well enough for everyone.

The fact that this is not true is not immediately obvious (in my view), with the above examples. I believe many people are supported by wistful certainty surrounding many assumptions in their lives, making them more comfortable than they might be otherwise.

However, the lack of wistful certainty is immiediately apparent with bisexuality. There is no hope that someone is working on this stuff and it will all be figured out eventually. Rather, the bisexual person is simply weird,wrong and does not fit any systems.

No-one is examining the puzzle of bisexuality to give them hope. Rather they are excluded from studies as anomalies There are no meanings to bisexuality, fixed or otherwise.

This lack of eternalist bolstering leads to the opposite stance to eternalism, nihilism. Nihilism is not sustainable for very long and is very depressing. Bisexual people either switch back to dualist eternalist (“straight now, gay now”), monist eternalist (“I’m just me, I don’t need labels”) or tragically, commit suicide.

Stages of development

There is another way, however and hopefully many bisexuals reach this stage, at least eventually.

Chapman calls the answer to the eternalist/nihilist stances the complete stance, which sady he has yet to talk about in any great detail (but there are smaller sections on many of the other pages, take a look).

However, the next key framework I am looking at is Kegan’s framework for social and cognitive development, a summary of which can be found here. This is Chapman’s summary and I found it through the meaningness blog. I have yet to read the book, I have only read the summary but it seemed like a good summary that extracts and explains key points.You must read this first before anything I say next makes sense (and we’re at the end so you can stop here if you like).

The first 4 stages do not really relate to the stances, but the 5th one, fluid mode, seems relevant.

There is much discussion on the meta-blog about how few people reach stage 5, about how society operates largely in stage 4, providing no structures to support the transition from stage 4 to stage 5, leaving many stage 4.5ers adrift in nihilisitc depression.

Stage 5 is the moment when the system that a person has been using to have beliefs, achieve projects and relate to others has been replaced by the idea that there are many systems, none of which is objectively the ‘right’ system, because any system is founded on fallable axioms. Rather systems are simply a better or worse fit for situations. Where previously a person was adept at defining their role within a system, a person can now use and even define entire systems dependent on context. In this mode, conflict between systems seems less problematic, as do internal inconsistencies.

A bisexual person will hopefully come to realise that the system we currently have for gender and sexuality is flawed. Labels are both useful sometimes, but not descriptive other times. Categories like gender don’t really exist, but are still handy shorthand for a cluster of attributes. Bisexuality is something outside of gay/straight, it is not simply “both” but it is also not “neither”. That each bi person is different, yet there are commonalities of experience.

I will make a blog post soon talking about how lessons learned from bisexuality can help individuals and societies progress to Stage 5 / fluid mode / complete stance with more understanding and emotional support.

Bisexual notes – genitals and new binaries

 

New Binaries

Before we even move beyond binaries (that bisexuals can access) we can point out that there are a wealth of more subtle binaries that become visible to bi people, because they have opportunity to play on both sides and being overly invested in neither. Trends that are normally hidden by the apparently impenetrable miasma of gender norms (that the trans movement and feminists both live under, and in certain crucial ways contribute to or reinforce due to their preoccupation with historicity) become clearer to bisexual players.

These oppositionals include:

Active role’ and ‘passive role’

(which can be in part loosely situated within old style ‘masculinities’ and ‘femininities’ but which in this case are obviously accessible to both genders/all bisexual players and with any combination of partners)

‘Subjective role’ and ‘objective role’

in which players can idolise (for example) a celebrity in two ways, sometimes wanting to be with them, have sex with them, experience them as an outside/objective agent. In that way your sexual object has their gender and one raltes to them through one’s own gender. Then alternate: sometimes want to be them, emulate them, inhabit them, in which case an agent takes on that person’s gender and one’s own gender becomes the ‘other’ gender to interact with.

‘hard… thrust’ versus and as well as ‘sponge… flow’

expound [Elizabeth Grosz, philosophy of the body]

similarly

‘defined inside/outside boundaries’ (enabling ‘in/out’) vs. and as well as ‘shifting/diffused boundaries’ (which dissolves the notions of ‘in/out’);

The whole damn mess is all so rhizosomic daahhlink… Deleuze and Guttari postmodern chiciness.

Versus and as well as… power of and, and, and

no wonder some bi people decide to be polyamourous – half and half seems like loads but is actually statistically likely if we really are supposed to have a choice.

Genitals

Clitoris as engorged, waving around object, clitoris as a penis, continue with that thought, clitoris enjoys the same things, engorgement, envelopment, lubricated massage.

‘Thrust’ – contraction of the muscles around the legs, backside, within the vagina, makes the vagina small, the back wall pressed against the back of the clitoris, creating a larger surface area out of composite bits of the genitals, create a thrusting pole, if viewed in cross section. This sensation we could attribute to ‘masculine’; since it is persons with penises that learn this lesson first, and womb/vagina havers learn more slowly.

Vaginal as sponge, feminine, space, envelopment organ

(subsection lips) (Irigaray??)

[other male genitals – huge and needing research but possible sites of pleasure could be: skin sensation on the head, around the edge of the head, shaft engorgement, pressure on the penis/shaft, lubricated massage of penis, testicular sensation/musculature*

*candidate for exclusive to males/masculinity]

Gooch skin and pressure…

Anus sexuality…

Anal canal – for itself and then in relation to pressure on prostate/pressure on vagina then in relation to simultaneous inside and outside pleasure, anal interior, manual exterior, which is available to all genders

Simultaneous within/without

Anal with exterior manual stimulation, whether head/penis/balls or clitoris/labia

Worst housemate ad ever

I’m clearing out my Sticky notes on my desktop and thought I’d repost this amazing piece of prose before I delete the sticky forever. Needless to say, no-one replied to this ad, which I consider to be a failure on the part of the human race.

Slutty meat eating smoker wants to live in the dirty parts of town.

Bisexual, polyamorous, feminist, activist, loud, cantankerous, meat-eating smoker seeks furnished self-contained accommodation in the dirty parts of town.

The good part (?):

I’m a manager at the council (“professional”), always pay the bills, always wash up, have no pets and I’m regularly out of the house. I have no mental health problems and have this other side of me that is kind, polite, witty, quiet and full of good conversation. Honest. I also have a vagina – which seems important to some people.

For 400 quid or less you can have me (and regular income secure for the near future). References and deposit available.

Let’s Talk About Street Harassment

Lately, in any discussion on street harassment, there has often been a comment along the lines of ‘but… some of this doesn’t seem to be harassment’, ‘it’s a fine line between harassment and good nature’, ‘what if the guy was just saying hello?’, ‘don’t tar all men with the same brush’ etc.

Let’s talk about that.

The comments made above seem reasonable, and here are my thoughts that are probably not obvious to men who have never suffered street harassment:

Comments like ‘hello’ and ‘good morning’ are still harassment because it is unequal. It is clear, being in an urban area far from home, that there is no chance that this person is a neighbour or otherwise a not-stranger. It is also clear that this only happens to women. This stranger is a man and aside from anything else, men do not say ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ to other strange men. When men interact with strange men, they avert their gaze, don’t speak unless spoken to etc.

But strange men do not show the same deference to strange women. They speak to them, they stare at them, they wolf whistle them, they catcall them, they turn around to check them out after they’ve walked by (my personal un-favourite because they think no women see it) and yes, they say ‘hello’ to them. The ‘hello’ and ‘good morning’ is a plea for attention that is exactly the same as the more directly sexual comments. It is also completely and entirely obvious from their body language, tone of voice and social context that their ‘hello’ means, “I’ve noticed you, I want you to notice me because: sex.” I mention social context because it is important to remember that this never happens if any other man is present. It is also much more rare with groups of women, and in this case the guys often yell from cars, from across the street, in groups, or other ‘safe’ places. When a woman is street harassed she is in a public place, alone and being harassed by a strange man.

Now, when men comment on stories of female harassment there seem to be a number of feelings tied up in the comments. The feelings are also all tied together. They seem to be:

‘This is awful, I don’t want this to happen to women’. ‘I’ve never done this to women, in fact I’m careful to not do it’. ‘I’m sure I’ve said ‘hello’ to women in the past, I don’t want them to think I was harassing them’. ‘Maybe some of these guys these women are complaining about were guys like me, truly well-meaning’.  ‘I’m now scared to ever say hello to women in case I get tarred with the man-hate brush’ and ‘How is anyone meant to meet anyone new/get laid?’

Let’s talk about this.

Let’s just lead with the fact that street harassment is a massive open secret that has only begun to be spoken about with any kind of coverage in the last five years. And I repeat, ‘spoken about’. We’re not even close to doing something to make it change yet.

Street harassment is very much part of a spectrum of behaviours that has murder through domestic violence on one end and lad’s mags/page 3 on the other end. None of it is good, some of it is worse than other bits, and we’re not *very* close to the murder end of the spectrum today, we’re more in the middle (although street harassment has lead, and continues to lead, directly to murder if you’re trans*), however it is an endemic spectrum of behaviours that shows us that the whole system is rotten. Men are bound up in this rotten system just as much as women, and it’s the system that needs to change.

Only a percentage of men harass women on the street, although a greater percentage may have done so in their lifetime. Everyone on every side of this debate knows that not all men do this. But people who are posting about it are not being careful to remove any implications of this. Men, I’m asking you to please let this one slide. Why? Because we’ve only just started talking about this. Decades of rage, oppression and very negative feelings are all coming out in a rush. We are not being nuanced about this. When out on the street, there is no way to know which man will harass and which one won’t. We know that three out of the 100 or so men who pass us today will demean and degrade us, we will feel threatened, frightened and alone. Not only that, but we’ll see it happen to other women too. We know it’s not all men, we have fathers, brothers, sons, dear friends and most of us have kind, wonderful lovers. We know it’s not all men, it’s only some men, but we’re having a really freaky bad time over here, we’re finding it really hard to talk about, let alone with any careful language and the ‘not all men’ argument derails the debate. Any victim is going to have a hard time talking about their experiences at all, and expecting a victim to be careful in their speech is quite a stretch. Women don’t hate all men, just as men don’t hate all women. This is a given.

This is the part of the conversation where, despite lack of nuance, the listener just listens. (And I do honestly believe this debate will evolve over time and it’ll be totally cool to call out the ‘All men’ statements, just not yet.)

We also know that most men make sure they don’t harass women on the street. We know most men have refused to bow to the pressure of peers or culture and have carefully figured out that strangers should probably be left alone, even though that leaves us with a bit less opportunity for amazing interactions. We appreciate your efforts, we really do. Like I said before, fathers, brothers, lovers…

Now we approach the idea of the misunderstood guy. The friendly ‘hello’ guy. This part is particularly hard. Men are defending a straw man that doesn’t exist because the feelings behind it are: ‘these new-fangled rules are pretty darned strict and it’s uber hard to not come off as creepy. Plus, I’m really freaked out that I might have done this accidentally in the past’.

I sympathise strongly with the feelings, but not the straw man argument of the mythical misunderstood guy. By saying one or some or all of the harassers might have not meant any harm is demeaning to the women who report being harassed. It implies you don’t believe them. It implies that they cannot read body language, tone of voice or social context. That women are unsophisticated with social interaction. It implies that they haven’t been dealing with this since they were thirteen years old. It implies that the intentions of the harasser matter more than the feelings of threat. It implies the patriarchal pat on the head, the ‘don’t be so silly’ argument that has been used to dismiss women’s experience over and over in all of living memory. Or worse, it implies that women are lying and on a hate-campaign against men. This is fucking rare, about as rare as men who have hate campaigns against women. These implications give women rage. Which does not help with refining a debate and using correct words to describe things.

So, don’t say ‘maybe those guys didn’t mean it’ because we need to practice believing the victim and you have no idea what happened, you weren’t there. Instead say ‘I am scared I’ve done this and didn’t mean it’ or ‘I’m scared someone will think I’m creepy when I wasn’t’ or ‘Can we have a talk on another thread about this whole thing because it feels shaming’.

EDIT [ Actually, this part is key. Women have been victims, and when women speak out, men are feeling shame, even though it’s not personally their fault. I’m asking men to listen to female victims, even if they are not very nuanced, but I’m asking men to have nuanced replies, even though they are having bad feelings too. I think we definitely need a space for men to talk about these feelings, where they are supported and uncriticised. We have always needed this space. It might just have to be a separate space to the original victim speaking out. ]

In terms of the past, it’s highly unlikely that you accidentally came off as creepy. People are generally very able when it comes to social interaction. It’s very nuanced. If we go down the road of believing that women have the skills to notice a creepy ‘hello’, they can also tell an un-creepy ‘hello’. Women aren’t unsophisticated about this. Women want to find new friends and lovers just as much as you, and continue to engage with random interactions and go on dates, despite all the horror.

But if you did come off as creepy once, don’t worry too much, it’s probably forgotten and mistakes happen and you have friends and lovers who know you’re not creepy and you’ve heard about the types of things that come off as creepy and you haven’t done them. And you’d rather the person walked away and called you creepy than we live in a world where we’re going backward on this whole patriarchy thing. So it’s ok. I’m sorry if you’ve been misunderstood, it was in the service of a good cause and everything is going to be alright.

The current rules ARE darned hard, because everyone is trying to be better to each other than they were before. We’re working inside of a toxic system that sets genders against each other and no-one has any easy new rules about how to deal with this new stuff. Women are going to react in wildly different ways, and it’s going to be hard to find a baseline that generally means everyone is ok. It’s going to be a bit sad for quite a while, what with stranger interactions being reduced between men and women while we sort the harassment thing out. But overall happiness will still be higher since women will feel less threatened, day to day.

The only good general solution is honesty and respect for boundaries (and this is on everyone, not just men, of course). Honesty with ourselves about why we’re saying hello to this person on the street, or someone is saying hello to us. Honesty that certain things are gonna seem creepy. Honesty that there is a lot of sadness around this, and everyone needs to give support to people who feel sad. Honesty that we’re scared we’ve done the wrong thing, because the new rules are so hard to fathom.

And almost no-one is doing that yet, so we’re all well outside of comfort zone, and social sanctioning. But it’s worth it.

It’s worth it because, we’re trying to build a world where men and women can openly say to each other in the moment, without conflict or fear of violence, ‘hey, that came off as creepy’ and the other party can say ‘oh my god that was NOT my intention, please tell me in detail what it was that seemed creepy’. This will also be a world where both men and women can say, without fear of shaming or violence, ‘hey, you are attractive, any interest in fucking?’ and there is no obligation to say yes or no. In a world when all genders are empowered to ask for/accept sexual interaction in an equal, honest and open way, street harassment could disappear.

I want to live in that world, and we need to do everything we can to get there.

On feminist movement, at “its peak”…

“it was also important to claim the body as a site of pleasure… We had all-girl parties, grown-up sleepovers. We slept together. We had sex. We did it with girls and boys. We did it across race, class, nationality. We did it in groups. We watched each other doing it. We did it with the men in our lives differently. We let them celebrate with us the discovery of female sexual agency. We let them know the joys and ecstasies of mutual sexual choice… We reclaimed the female body as a site of power and possibility…”

hooks goes on to talk about a reticence on the part of revolutionary feminists to engage with mainstream media on the topic of sexuality because of the inevitable distortions that occur. She challenges the stereotype of antimen feminists:

“… Heterosexual women turned on by feminist movement learn how to move away from sexually dead encounters with patriarchal men who eroticize exploitative power and domination scenarios that in no way embrace female sexual agency, but these women do so not to give up sex  but to make sex new, different, liberatory, and fun…

She speaks about the need to publicise this shift in sexual attitudes in a positive way.

 

“… Were many more of us documenting our sex lives in art, literature, film and other media, there would be an abundance of counter-hegemonic evidence to disprove the popular sexist stereotype that women in feminist movement are antisex and antimen.”

– bell hooks in ‘Talking Sex’ published in Outlaw Culture , 1994

Illicit Kisses In The Lady’s Room

I’ve recently been flirting with women who are in some way unavailable.  When I interact with these women the locations are varied, but when they are in public I find myself fantasising about private places in public locations where I could try to steal a kiss from them, or something more.

In a very public location, such as a pub, the one guaranteed place I can think of as a location away from prying eyes is the toilets of the establishment. Since the interaction is a girl-on-girl fantasy, I observe that I can imagine our kiss occurring in the public areas of the bathroom, ie near the sinks, by the mirrors, in the lobby section that many toilets have etc. It would only be an extreme need for privacy that would send us into a cubicle (well, for a kiss anyway).

When I have feelings of taking a girl off in private, the door of the female toilets becomes the safe zone. If the bathroom were a unisex one, then I would definitely retreat further into a cubicle. This is the first time I’ve considered the single-sex toilet as being a “safe space” for women. I have allowed discussions about unisex toilets happen to around me, and I am broadly in favour of unisex, since many problems are solved by this approach.

Being a girl who moves outside of “girl” stereotype somewhat, being more interested in games than clothes, programming than makeup, feats of strength than social graces, and boys more than girls, I rarely encounter the benefits of all-female spaces. I don’t feel actively alienated from these spaces and there are some that have strong positives, such as feminist groups, but overall I find my experiences neutral.

It is thus a surprise to find comfort in the idea of the female toilets as a safe zone, in order to be with other women. In addition to feeling more private than a large room such as a pub, I feel I can rely on social norms practiced by groups of women. These include the idea that I will not receive unwelcome attention (in the form of stares or spoken intrusion) from whoever might also be in there. Similarly, any reproach for my activities will be easily brushed off, since women reproach each other through social punishments like exclusion, (rather than, say, physical bullying) which is no threat from strangers. I even feel that if another woman from our mutual social circle should happen to see my illicit encounter with a “taken” woman, that person would have at least a 50% likelihood of keeping the tryst they’ve observed a secret.

I also reflect that the female toilets are not a universally safe space. The toilets at a lesbian club are an entirely different beast to a mainstream establishment. I have heard stories from my friends of women busting into cubicles and feeling them up even while they were pissing. But broadly, generally, as a cis-gendered woman the female toilets feel like a safe zone that can be sought out almost anywhere.

This means I’ll have to think in more depth about women-only and “safe” spaces, but I thought I’d share this little part of my sexuality with you. If me and another woman have disappeared at a party, you might be able to guess where we’ve gone.