I want to say up front that this post is kind of mature. I debated for a while on whether or not to write it because some of the content might be controversial. Then again, when have I ever run from controversy? Once I thought about the topic, I knew I wanted to post. And anyone who has read my books or is a follower of this blog knows the kind of issues I tend to discuss. Still, I felt the need to warn you.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
So you've been warned.
As I've mentioned before, I'm about to turn 20. It's terrifying. I mean, I have loved being a teenager so much, and while I know logically being twenty won't be so different, it still freaks me out. I'm growing up. And sometimes that's not so fun. Sometimes it kind of sucks. One way in which it sucks is that, as you get older, you become disillusioned to the world around you. This can be good, of course, but it can also be really upsetting. Sometimes you realize things that are just outright infuriating.
When I was younger, I thought we lived in a nearly perfect society. I know, I know. I was naive. As I got older, I realized that we didn't. There is a lot of hatred in the world. Senseless hatred that ruins lives. There's a lot of poverty. A lot of illness. A lot of abuse. And yet, even up until last year, I truly thought that at least people were equal in my world. Then I took sociology and I learned that, when it comes to gender, we are not.
Sure, we're more equal than we were in the fifties. Women can have jobs - great ones. Women can make choices. Women can make money. Women can go to great colleges and do things besides teach!
And yet . . .
I recently read an argument about feminism. Basically, the argument was that feminism was unnecessary because men and women were, for most purposes, equal. I strongly disagree with this, and I made some points about sex positivity and how women are victims of the virgin/whore dichotomy and how gender roles are still an epic issue. I also mentioned the recent Planned Parenthood drama in congress that threatened to take away some of women's rights.
Still, I was told that men and women were equal enough that feminism wasn't necessary. I put the debate out of my mind for a few days, and then, this afternoon, I learned something that made the issue come rushing back into my head.
And this is where the content is going to get a little more mature.
I learned (rather randomly) today that vibrators are illegal in Alabama. Like, you actually can't sell them or buy them. They were deemed too obscene. Several other states (including Texas, Kansas, and Colorado) used to have bans on vibrators, but the laws were overturned. But Alabama's law continues.
So you can't buy vibrators, but firearms are just fine.
(To be clear, I am actually not opposed to the selling of firearms, but I find it absolutely ridiculous that firearms are considered more ethical than sex toys. I've never, for instance, heard of someone murdering another human with a vibrator as a weapon.)
Now, I know that vibrators can be used by both genders, but statistically and culturally they are more associated with females. Quick History Lesson: The first vibrator was actually steam powered and it was used by doctor's on women with "hysteria." It was not seen as sexual at all, but they believed that "pelvic massages" helped treat hysteria. (Basically, they'd help a woman reach orgasm and they believed it would help her. A vibrating device made that easier.) Over time the devices became used less for medical purposes and more in homes. And today, with shows like Sex and the City bringing them to the forefront of pop culture, vibrators are seen primarily as female sex toys.
And they are ILLEGAL in Alabama.
Okay, why am I harping on this? Because after I learned this, I did some googling. I was just so shocked by the idea that something so simple and harmless could be banned anywhere in 2011. That's when I ran across some info on the ethical debate about vibrators. This quote (which I found on wikipedia) particularly started and infuriated me.
An American Baptist preacher, Dan Ireland, has been an outspoken critic of such devices and has fought to ban them on religious and ethical grounds. According to Ireland, "Sometimes you have to protect the public against themselves....These devices should be outlawed because they are conducive to promiscuity, because they promote loose morals and because they entice improper and potentially deadly behaviors." Ireland believes that "there is no moral way to use one of these devices."[
For full disclosure here, not that it's super relevant, I want to say that I consider myself a Christian, so I in now way mean to condemn anyone for their faith. Not at all. In fact, it's as a Christian that Ireland's statement offends me. Because this statement is just so ridiculous and offensive, and it insinuates that women who choose to use sexual devices are unholy in some way.
After reading all of this, I was left asking myself why people are so afraid of vibrators? Is it fear that women will no longer "need" men in a sexual way? Or is it fear of women seeking sexual pleasure for themselves? We do have a strange idea in our society that men want sex and women don't, and those who do are "promiscuous." What I have to ask is, how is using a vibrator (particularly if someone decides to use it by themselves) promoting promiscuity? Isn't it actually doing the opposite?
But if there's one thing I've learned over the past several months it's that female sexuality is something many people fear. I don't understand why. I'm not really sure I want to understand why. It's something that bothers me so much, and its a huge part of the reason I wrote Shut Out. This idea that women should keep topics of sexuality secret because they are "dirty" is ridiculous, and yet it still affects even me. I hesitate to write this post for its content, but why should this discussion be considered inappropriate? It isn't graphic. It isn't overly personal. It's all just fact. And the fact is, by banning the buying and selling of vibrators, Alabama is taking away women's rights.
Which brings me back to the beginning of this post. Growing up. It sucks. It sucks to realize that the world you thought was perfect is actually kind of unfair. It sucks to realize that a society that masquerades as being equal actually has a long way to go. It really sucks to know there's not much you can do about it.
Except, actually, there is. I'm doing something about it right now. It's a small thing. I'm sure no Alabaman politicians are reading this post. But this is about more than Alabama. Its about our culture, how we view the world. If we came telling ourselves the genders are equal, we'll never fix the problems we still have. And the only way to change culture is to change minds, to help the next generation move past the stereotypes and fears and prejudices of the world we live in. And to make that happen, we have to speak up.
I speak up through my books and this blog. But you don't have to have a platform to speak up. You can do something as simple as standing up for yourself or others when issues of sexual politics or women's rights come up. You could help a friend get over her embarrassment about issues of sexuality. You could have a sex talk with your kids that didn't leave them feeling awkward or embarrassed or afraid to be honest. You can speak up and make a difference in so many ways.
This is my way.
So you know, growing up sucks, but as a kid, I never thought I could make a difference even if I wanted to. Now I know that I can. So in that sense, that knowledge that my voice matters, growing up has its perks, too. I might not be happy to know some of these things, but I'm happy to know that I can change them if I try hard enough.
And so can you.