I attend the “All Bodies Have Voices” panel discussion and was presently surprised by the experience I had there. The panelists each brought their own topic of discussion, views, and opinions which help to add depth to the conversation. Wanda Burton the peer education programs coordinator for the women’s resource center talked a great deal about the legal aspects of consent as well as gave us all a better understand on how and when we should ask for consent. Mrs. Burton and another panelist Cory Harrison have caused be a rethink how information about sexual assault is delivered. They brought to my attention the way we have a culture that is victim center in the way we always talk about how to avoid getting rape, when in reality to should be educating people on how not to rape people as a way to prevent the act of happening in the first place. The highlight of the discussion was the analogy given by Amelia Brock a member of the students that put the project together. She related talking about sex and consent to cake, in the way that you always get birthday cake on your birthday and you will keep getting the same cake whether you like it or not if you don’t voice your opinion about it, or that you can’t assume that some likes the cake today just because they liked it once before. This analogy just help to reinforce the fact that consent is not a onetime thing , but rather a fixture of a healthy relationship as it serves as a way to make sure all parties feel safe and cared for in the relationship.
Over Spring Break a close friend of mine invited me to attend a male friend’s birthday festivities with her. I had never met the friend and did not know anyone that would be in attendance besides her. However, I was intrigued when she mentioned that the festivities would end at a famous gentlemen’s club in Atlanta called Follies. I had been to gentlemen’s clubs with female friends, but never a group of males. Attending one with mostly men allowed me to focus in on the “ritual” of attending a gentlemen’s club. The ritual began with drinks, of course, at a sports bar. All the guest in attendance, especially the males guest, would casually mention the club in conversation, and make reference to the types of women that worked at the club and what they expected the women to do. One of the interesting things about Follies gentlemen’s club is that it is known to be multi-racial, unlike other gentlemen’s clubs in Atlanta that feature either solely African American or Caucasian women. When we arrived at the club, the line outside was a mixed crowd of age, race and gender. The patrons immediately in front of us were from Africa. At this point, the second part of the ritual of the gentlemen’s club visit begin to take place; the anticipation. The men that I was with, and the men that were surrounding our group, struck up conversations about what type of women they wanted to see inside the club. I found it peculiar that men seemed to be attracted to women that were opposite of the type of woman that they would normally date or associate with. Many of the black men noted that they wanted to view the clubs Caucasian, Hispanic and Asian women. While I overheard white men discussing a particular dancer, who’s description eluded to her race as being African American. I drew the conclusion that Follies was a place for men to live out sexual fantasies based on defying cultural taboos, such as dating or having sexual relations outside of one’s own race.
Once inside the club, we all gathered around the stage and watched as each woman stepped up to perform as her name was called. The women were dressed in attire similar to swimsuits that were flashy and drew attention to their female body parts. While performing, the women would do moves or dances they believed would entice their patrons. Many of the moves were sexual in nature, as most of the caressed their breast and rubbed their genitals. Others danced seductively; doing a particular style of dance referred to as “twerking” in urban culture, which involved the shaking and gyrating of the buttocks. As the women danced, they removed the minimal clothing that they had on; most ending up completely naked before the audience. These dance movement particularly excited the men, while the women in the club seemed to be more excited by the dancers’ use of pole tricks. The women performed acrobatic tricks such as spinning, climbing down and sliding on the pole. The danger in the tricks that they performed combined with their overt sexuality created a very entertaining show. The more pole tricks and dancing that they did, the more money that patrons threw on the stage for them to collect at the end of the performance.
If they were not performing, many of the dancers would attempt to persuade patrons into purchasing personal dances from them that took place in a private room. Of course, the birthday boy felt that it was only right that he received one of these personal dances, and as a joke, purchased one for my friend and I. The dancer grabbed our hands and led us back to a dimly lit dark room where we sat as she proceeded to give her private performance. As a heterosexual woman, it was strange to have another woman perform such sexual moves on me. Many of the dance moves used in the private dances were ones that would arouse men. They were particularly focused on grinding against the genital reason and close body contact. Although we were not attracted to the dancer, my female friend and I could not help but be intrigued by her and extremely aware of her sexual energy. The male friend expressed that he was aroused after the dance and that he would like to take his relationship with the dancer further than the dark private room. It soon registered to me that he would never fulfill is fantasy with the dancer, and this was how they earned money in the gentlemen’s club, by selling the fantasy of overt sexuality, intercourse and desire. As we left the club, the men discussed the things that they had seen inside and what particular women had done that they found pleasing. My friend and I even joined in on the conversation as well, our post-experience recap thus ending the gentlemen’s club ritual. I could not help but think that male sexual desire was so domineering that it would allow them to pay to be teased.
The shift from childhood sexuality to adult sexuality happened for me when I was 15 years old. I was dating a guy who was a year older than me. He was my first “real” boyfriend. I thought I loved him…. Well I guess I did love him, but it was unrequited love. His so-called best friend was a girl. I trusted him to be around her because she was actually quite butch. I thought I had absolutely nothing to worry about, because I thought she was a lesbian.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. He cheated on me with her. However, this wasn’t the type of cheating I was used to at that point in my life. For me, cheating meant talking on the phone with another girl, sitting at lunch with another girl, or (this is the big one) kissing another girl. He actually had sex with this girl…. I was absolutely devastated.
After that experience of truly being cheated on, I began to think that maybe if I had been having sex with him, he wouldn’t have done it with her. I started paying attention to the things I would hear on television and read in magazines in regards to being cheated on. These things actually had meaning to me now that I had been through it. I saw shows where women would try to “get back at” their cheating partner by having sex with his friends, destroying his property, and by fighting the other woman. I read in magazines about “how to keep your man satisfied.” I looked to these cultural cues for guidance. I thought they could help cure my pain.
However, I didn’t realize that these television shows and magazines were not intended to appeal to 15 year olds. I thought that in order to ensure that I would never get hurt again I had to do two things: start having sex, and stop having feelings. So that’s exactly what I did. I shifted from the childhood idea of intimacy within a relationship to what I thought was and adult understanding of the concept.
Almost my entire life I had never really thought of my sexuality. My high-strung, Christian parents had definitely NEVER discusses sex or sexuality with me. My private high school gave a small sex-ed talk, but most definitely was on the “abstinence bandwagon”. They did not publicly admit it, but any student could tell that the real theme of our talks was “do not have sex until marriage”. This all seemed great and fine when I dated throughout middle school and the first half of high school. My boyfriends were fun (some were serious) but none were extremely sexually based. We kissed – fondled maybe- but usually nothing more. This, I believe, was mainly due to their extremely strict Christian up-bringing. Their parents literally told us that “if we were alone for more than 5 minutes, only bad things would come” [no pun intended – ha]. But seriously, I was told that we WOULD have sex if we were left alone for more than 5 or 10 minutes. Thus, I was very sexually repressed (even during longterm relationships). When I started dating my boyfriend in the 11th grade… everything changed. I immediately saw sex and sexuality as a viable option. I had never before even considered having sex (to any large degree, at least). Yet, even upon our first kiss, something changed. We talked openly about sex. His parents (both doctors) were vey open about sex. They made sex jokes, talked about birth control and made SURE he was being safe. My boyfriend and I talked about it and decided we were both ready. We waited almost 6 months into our relationship, but we were most definitely ready. I convinced my (usually illogical) mother that I needed to be on the pill. I explained that we were going to do it anyway and would it not be safer if I was on the pill? She saw my logic and allowed it to be prescribed. We both dove into sex and had a great time – seeing as it was both of our first times. We had NO clue what we were doing. Yet, since we were both clueless, it was great. We had no way of knowing whether we were having “good sex” or “bad sex”. Anyways, his parents always preached that “as long as both partners are happy and OK with it, almost anything is alright in the bedroom. What happens there is between you and your partner – no one else. Not culture. Not religion. Not family. Just the two people”.
I really believe that my parents, their religion, my boyfriends religion (or lack there of) and my school all repressed my sexuality at a young age. I was SO sheltered until the 10th or 11th grade. I never dreamt of a cuss word or having sex. Yet, the second I changed boyfriends, I was introduced into a whole new world *cue Alladin music here*. What you are being told about sex completely molds your mindset. It is almost impossible to mold your own views of sex as a young person. I am glad that I finally got the chance to experience my own sexuality, explore and discover new things. With this change I learned about sex, porn, birth control… the whole nine yards. It also still amazes me that there are people in the world who are so out-of-tune with their sexuality (or with sex in general). It is a thing that everyone experiences on some level. It is human nature. Why can we not talk about it openly? Why do people have to feel or be so repressed?
My junior year of high school I went on a band trip. I know what your thinking, I mean cooped up in a hot bus on a 10+ hour drive to the goal of sleeping in a hotel with a bunch of band nerds. The only prize being a trip to the beach as compensation for the hours of horrible jazz competition music having to be played by less than competent musicians. By far not your typical 16 year old girls dream vacation. However, the chance to get out of math class for a week and play tag along with the rest of my dance team was something I couldn’t say no to. So there I was. At Orlando, Florida’s Wet N Wild Waterpark. Days of boring band competition behind me and ready to hit some slides and float my ass in a lazy river for a few good hours. I was giddy.
As a group we were rangled into the park, given locker keys and meet times, then released onto the general public. I quickly slipped off my tank top and shorts and ran out to start the fun. But as much of an eager beaver I was I soon realized my teenage counterparts weren’t on the same page as me. As I stood unashamed in my tiny red and blue bikini, my classmates, most of whom still had teenage frames untainted by the college drinking years, glanced nervously at one another. Pulled and tugged at swim trunks and tankini tops. Some even sporting one pieces and t-shirts.Standing in a group of my peers, I was alone and different. Two things you learn quickly in high school it’s not so easy to be.
So where was my awkwarness? Where was my hand reaching to the edge of my bikini bottoms to check for non existent cellutite or to my stomack to feel that extra layer of fat in a place it shouldn’t be? Where had my timidness gone? My lanky uncordination? It was there before, I know it was….
Then it hit me.
Like that moment you realise you’ve left something at home only when you need it most. Like your umbella in heavy rain or your pencil when you hear a line of poetry you never want to forget. I knew where my adolescent self -reprise had gone, but yet knew of no way to get it back in this time of dier need to fit in.
See, about a year prior I got my first real boyfriend. A family friend. Same age as me and quite attractive. Both good students. Both star athletes. Both complete VIRGINS. So of course we had a problem on our hands.
We sneaked kisses in the movies and holding hands in the back of the car. But soon our hormones caught up with us. The drive to fulfill the urge to touch each other won over the awkwardness of each others glances. Each touch was heavily weighed and always on the edge of something new. Sneaking kisses turned into below the pants explorations when parents were away. Shaking hands unbuttoning shirts and undoing bras replaced the thrill of interlocking fingers on the bus. Little by little the finger tips that lightly shook the boundaries of pubesence became the confident tools used to make the other person shiver. And for each bolder move came a more intense response till I learned how to move easily across another body and have another body do the same for me.
THERE was my high school self loathing! Shoved into a teenage boy’s bedsheets between dirty socks and sports magazines was my childhooh angst. Timid touches and shaking hands had led to eloquent movements and a confident stance. It seemed every bold move into the taboo field of my sexual desires had cracked the surface of my awkward adolesents. I felt confident and strong. And what made that so was knowing, at that point, being exactly how I was, I, little me, could make another person want me. Make their pupils dielate and their breath come quicker. And in that was the metamorphasis into what I would describe only as an overly flirtatious young adulthood.
To this day I hear my friends ask me how I can be so sure of myself. How is it that I have the confidence to go up to a guy I’ve never met and ask him to dance or wear an outfit no one else would dare? I still look by to this one occasion. Think about when it hit me. The moment I knew I had it; whatever it was.
The Baptist church and my parents formed my childhood conception of sexuality. I was taught from a very early age that sex was meant for marriage and that any kind of sexuality outside of marriage was extremely taboo. My Sunday school teachers taught us about sex by comparing girls to a cup. By having sex, you would become a used and dirty cup, and no man would ever want a used dirty cup when he can have a new clean one. My view of sexuality was transformed when I was exposed to other views about sexuality. A friend of mine who was having sex in high school explained to me that not having sex before marriage was an ancient concept much like many of the concepts in the Bible. My view of sexuality was also change when I did a foreign exchange in Germany my senior year of high school. My friends and I were asking our German friends about different German words, and when we asked them what the German word for slut was they told us that there is no such word in German. I came to the realization that sex outside of marriage is normal.
Realizing that my sexuality was prevalent in my daily life started with some of my friends talking about Playboy in 5th grade. We were all sitting at lunch and some friends were talking about their dad’s Playboy magazine they found and the pictures that were inside of it. I had never thought of a woman in the ways that they were describing her, naked. To me at that point, a girlfriend was making my friends who were girls happy when their friends told me that a girl in my class liked me. It was not until I went on the computer and searched “Playboy” that I really was thrown into the world I know now. I looked at the pictures online and I tried to understand why it was so appeasing but my friends and I could not figure it out. My parents got involved when our search history on the family computer read “Playboy Magazine”, and they felt like they needed to give me a talk. I was so confused that I put the whole subject to the back of my mind until I ended up started to have feelings for girls. The moment that my parents had that talk with me was that big moment that I knew there was something more to girls other than what I knew from my mother and my sister. It did not help that I got into rap music at this time and learned new words that were said and researched them. That was the beginning to my new adulthood sexual chapter of my life.
My childhood memories and thoughts when it comes to my sexual transition from childhood through puberty are quite vague, but I do remember a few things that did bring a change. One happened to be during early middle school, when I overheard some guys talking about themselves masturbating and ejaculating. I was not use to hearing anything sexual related talked about in pubic for one thing (or in private and personal conversation for that matter), but this also made me think about my own sexual awareness of my body and opened the idea of masturbation. Physiologically, I had not really hit the same stage as some of my school peers around me. It was not until I hit that puberty stage and also accidently found the adult movie channel that my sexual awareness kind of shifted. Basically, that was when I thought about what sex “was” (was being defined only by what that adult movie framed at the time) more so than the naïve thoughts I had before (I just didn’t really think critically about sex). As far as I remember, it was the cultural influence of peers (overhearing, I never talked about it) and discovering certain media influences (T.V and internet porn) that help spurred a transition, I guess.
The Freedom of Birth lecture was actually very compelling. Part of me wants to get pregnant just to have it at home and fight the system! (Just kidding…sort of). The video and speech really did change the way I think about a lot of things—doctors, pregnancy, birth, drugs, etc. First off, I had no idea such a war is being fought against female autonomy. The fact that midwifery is illegal is mind blowing to me. Who decided to outlaw it? I feel like that’s on a par with making running illegal, because it’s bad for your knees and screw it, we have cars now anyway. It all goes back to the almighty dollar. Healthy, natural practices cannot be taxed in the same way technical/surgical procedures can be. Every last bill that gets passed is only done so because someone else is getting rich, and that is truly disgusting. If science upheld the law, and medicine could be proven to work more efficiently than midwifery, then maybe I could see an argument. But unless this speaker was just full of shit (which I doubt), midwifery seems to be a legitimate alternative. As a woman and a human being (not a specimen in a lab) I feel that having a midwife would be much more comforting than lab coats and surgical instruments. I watched a documentary one time. All these mothers were talking about how childbirth with their midwife allowed them to actually orgasm. It seemed pretty weird. I wish I had thought about it and brought it up when this lady was speaking. Maybe I’ll find it on you-tube and put it on the class Facebook page.
For me, this transition occurred when I was 12 years old. I grew up and lived most of my life in Mexico, but when I was 10 years old, my family and I moved to Madrid, Spain.
When I lived in Spain, all my friendships and activities were still very child-like. My friends and I would talk about school, sports, movies, etc; we rarely talked about boys or sex, and when we did, it was not a big deal. After two years in Madrid, we moved back to Mexico City and everything was different. I started going to a different school than the one I had gone to before I moved to Spain. Since I was in 7th grade, I went to a private escuela secundaria (Mexican equivalent to Middle school or Junior high). The majority of my classmates came from the same elementary school, but there were still many that came from other schools.
The first day of school was a cultural shock for me. In only two years, I had got very immersed in Spanish culture, and it was really surprising to come to a much different Mexico than the one I knew before. Everyone used slang Mexican expressions that I did not understand. For example, the very first day of school, I remember hearing a conversation among 4 girls, about how a boy and a girl in our class “se pusieron calientes” (became horny) but I had no idea what they meant by that. Now I do not think that they even knew what it meant, but we all pretended to understand and to be surprised. This expression, as well as many other things that I heard in this school, was so vague that it made me think that maybe kids my age were already having sex. It seemed to me that 12-year-old kids in Mexico were much more advanced than 12-year-olds in Madrid. In Mexico, most guys talked dirty and constantly made sexual jokes, while the girls laughed and said: “Ew! Stop being gross!”
After a year of making friends among these kids and getting used to living in Mexico, I became an expert in Mexican slang and sexual innuendo.
I do not know if it was because of cultural differences between Mexico and Spain, or if it was the different school system; or the huge American influence that kids in Mexico City are exposed to (by watching American movies, MTV, listening to American music, etc.); or if it was inevitable that I would have my transition at this age, but I think that my environment and contact with other kids were the mainly what made me stop being a child and become a teenager.