Category Archives: Sex Positivity

Reflections on Violence Against Women in Guatemala

I have a lot more reading and writing to do on the subject of violence against women in Guatemala, but for starters, I can say: 1) that the state of fear women here face is historically rooted (thank you, colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism, for the destruction of a people and continued institutional corruption and violence) and 2) that the collective embracing of individual sexual liberation – of women, especially – can help dismantle the culture of fear (alongside policy change, of course, such as better sexual education and more transparent spending on public services and infrastructure).

A kiss on a cheek is a typical greeting here in Guatemala. A kiss on the edge of the mouth is not, yet I’ve gotten several of those. I’ve received lingering handshakes with a squeeze at the end, vivid stares, and pushy requests for my phone number. These experiences are not Guatemala-exclusive, though they have been happening to me more often and more audibly here. And while it is sometimes difficult to draw the line between cultural norms and abuse, there have been moments of obvious harassment. Whose business is it if I have a boyfriend? What do you care if I’m traveling alone? Why am I expected to respond to a ts ts ts from across the street? As a friend of mine and fellow Latin@ poet said, “words and actions can both be sexual violence.”

I typically move on from these uncomfortable experiences without much thought. However, a friend here described a recent and nasty verbal attack. She mentioned her resulting fears about where the line between words and actions is drawn. I reassessed my own emotions after certain experiences on the street, and decided that I, too, have been pushed to places of fear, tension, and distrust. Some of my experiences may be unique, being a foreigner, but I can confidently say that living in a constant state of fear is a very real oppression faced by all women here.

Many Guatemalans I’ve met have described Guatemala as having a culture of fear or a culture of silence. Anthropologists have used the phrases “death as a way of life” and “fear as a way of life” to describe Guatemalan existence. In her book Fear As a Way of Life: Mayan Widows in Rural Guatemala, Linda Green quotes Cynthia Enloe: “Wars don’t simply end / And wars don’t end simply.” While Guatemala’s Civil War ended over two decades ago, death and violence persist. According to the World Health Organization, 10 or more murders a day per 100,000 people is classified as an epidemic. Guatemala qualifies, along with 10 other Latin American countries. Violence has been normalized, as a legacy of ingrained intimidation, residue of the war, stubbornly persists.

What is the connection between a history of violence, current violence, and mindsets of fear? To be always afraid is to be truly oppressed. Seeing the fear that my dad manifests often evokes anger for me – I find his distrust unreasonable. But I must remind myself that he lived through a war. For him, distrust meant survival.

I hope that, through education, we can little by little dismantle the fear in which we live, replacing it with strong community ties and respect for women. Projects such as Colectiva Siluetas’ show AFUERA, about being a lesbian in Guatemala, and Rebecca Lane’s music (like this song about liberation and self love) are great first steps. Also check out this documentary about sex workers in Guatemala who started a soccer team and joined a league in order to call attention to the violence and abuse they faced. My friend also told me about a radio show on which Guatemalan women described their experiences masturbating. Revolutionary! Maybe we can even get a good burlesque class going here so women can go straight to positive pride in sexuality and self-confidence.

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Tis The Season To Buy A Vibrator

So the holidays are over but that doesn’t mean you should stop treating yourself. Have you thought about purchasing a vibrator? RLA members are sharing their experiences with purchasing vibrators, exploring their bodies and having some really good pleasure time alone and with partners!

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Vibrator Diaries – Alexis Bourgerie 

After discussing the matter with one of my close girlfriends, I decided to purchase a vibrator from Groupon. I’m not sure if you are familiar with Groupon’s vibrator selection but it is quite large. Never have seen or purchased a vibrator before so I was a little overwhelmed, and eventually I ended up settling with the “Pleasurepillar Silicone Massager,” which is a line of vibrators and adult toys modeled after characters in the popular story of Alice in Wonderland. When it got here I was not sure how to use it and to be honest I was kind of embarrassed, so for the first few months it just sat in the box on top of my dresser and I completely forgot about it. Eventually boredom and curiosity got the best of me, I went on goggle to see if there was any proper procedure (there wasn’t, to each his or HER own) and I used it! No need to go into excessive details but I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was not sure why I was so nervous in the first place. So I wholeheartedly encourage all of you, men and women, to take a little time out of your busy schedule and explore your body – find out what you like and what you don’t like. Believe me, you’ll never go back!

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1, 2,3, go buy a vibrator. – Lexis Manzara 

My story is embarrassingly PG, but I suppose that’s what makes it relevant in this case. I was at the infamous Sex World, browsing through all the overpriced plastic glory, when I arrived in the vibrator section. I thought to myself “do people really buy these? should I buy one?” Then the insecurities came rushing in.

I looked up to see an old friend who happened to be buying one right then and there. I expected her to hide it or avoid the topic, but she didn’t even flinch. She wasn’t the slightest bit embarrassed, then I immediately felt silly for thinking she would be.

To this day, I have never owned one, even though I wish I could say otherwise. At least I recognize the discomfort and negativity as something I have internalized, but can overcome. Women should be encouraged, not shamed, when it comes to taking control of their own sexuality. Bring the sex positivity!!

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My Beloved B.O.B. – Anonymous 

Never did I think that I would need or want to use a battery operated boyfriend. Until several gatherings with my girlfriends and much persuasion of the benefits of a B.O.B., they dragged me to a fantasy gift store. I used to be the girl that would always say “unless it’s the real thing, I don’t want anything going near my vagina!”. My girlfriends reminded me that I wouldn’t have to make the full commitment and buy a dildo, so instead, I bought the bullet for clitoral satisfaction. Nothing would have to be inserted so I was more comfortable with the idea of vibrators overall when I saw my options. After that trip to the fantasy gift store, my beloved B.O.B. and I have been inseparable. And now, I’m the girl who tells all her friends who don’t have a B.O.B. that I will personally take them to a fantasy gift store and introduce them to the best thing that has ever happened to my vagina! Imagine, an orgasm every…single…time you connect with your B.O.B. Who wouldn’t want that? I know it’s not the most romantic, passionate connection like you may feel with your significant other, but if that person does not exist in your life or is on vacation…then ladies, B.O.B. can get the job done! Guaranteed.

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Vibrator Stigma – Anonymous

The first time I ever encountered a vibrator in person was sneaking around in my mother’s night stand. Terrifying? Yes. Worst nightmare status actually. The second time I encountered a vibrator I was freshly 18 years of age and choose to celebrate my passage into adulthood by exercising my new right to enter a sex shop. My friends and I giggled at the porn on the TV’s and all the different shapes, sizes, and colors of the many sex toys hanging on the walls. I bought one for my friend because I thought it was funny. I guess I never really matured because seeing a vibrator still makes me giggle. To be completely honest, though, I’ve always been a little afraid of them. The whole process: stepping up to buy one, opening the package, putting in the batteries, turning it on, inserting the vibrating thing, and everything that may or may not come next. I have still never bought or used one. Maybe it’s my own personal stigma. Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s my maturity level. But that is my vibrator story.

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Vibrators As A Way To Increase Self-Confidence – Magdalena Kaluza 

My first contact with a vibrator was sophomore year of high school. My friends and I were at the Smitten Kitten, a feminist sex shop in Minneapolis, buying a vibrator as a birthday gift. When our rather innocent friend opened her gift, there were some gasps and squeals, and the package ended up in the trash. I was told she took it out of the trash later to try it, didn’t like it, and hid it away for good. While the recipient of this vibrator was a special case of nervousness, her shame around sex, pleasure, and masturbation was not unique. We don’t talk about our sexuality nearly enough. In our silence, we miss out on great opportunities to exchange experience and knowledge. Due to this silence, it took me way too long to learn to pleasure myself. I relied on others for years, and even that was spotty. I was frustrated by the irregularity of orgasm for me, and my inability to provide it for myself. The first time I got myself to orgasm (which was with my vibrator), I was ecstatic. The wonderful achievement required that I get to know my body better, and that I focus. Masturbation, usually with a vibrator, has become a great mental exercise, and is like meditating in that I center in on my breathing and on the present. I still have a ways to go on reducing my guardedness around pleasure and increasing my self-confidence. I want to learn to let go even more. I’m sure that my vibrator will be a great tool in that process, alongside other toys, people, and mental exercises.

Get yourself a vibrator.

Stanford University, my alma mater, is a grand place in that it has shipwreck, or the SHPRC. Stanford’s Sexual Health Peer Resource Center offers discounted condoms, vibrators, lube and more. Brand name items are available for a fraction of the price you’d pay at a sex shop. Additionally, the SHPRC gives every student $2 of merchandise per quarter, has a library of sex literature, and offers roving sex education workshops on a variety of topics. The SHPRC is where I bought my first vibrator. It took some courage to do the transaction with the student volunteer, and even more to take the blue G-spot wand out of its hiding place in my room for the first time. Today, I’m so glad I did both those things. Pleasure is a right, and the ability to pleasure yourself is mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically liberating. Check out GoodVibrations.com if you’re not sure where to start.

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Teaching Myself to Orgasm – Anonymous 

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I am a huge advocate for vibrators and for masturbation in general. For me personally, buying a vibrator was the step I needed to really understand my body. Although I had been sexually active for several years before I bought a vibrator, I had never really had an orgasm before. Even though I strongly believe there’s more to sex than just climaxing, it was still frustrating to feel like I could never quite access that experience. When I bought a vibrator though, that completely changed. For the first time in my life, I felt like I could just take the time to explore what felt good to my body, without the external pressures of a partner. It was just about me, and nobody else. With the help of my vibrator, not only did I start to be able to achieve orgasms alone, but I also was able to communicate more clearly to partners what I enjoyed and what worked for my body. Over all, getting a vibrator was a super empowering and positive experience for me.

That being said, when I first decided I was interested in getting a vibrator, I was totally overwhelmed. I had never owned a sex toy before and was feeling pretty naïve and embarrassed about wanting to try one. Plus, there were so many types and sizes! All the sudden I was faced with all these choices I had never even considered before…external vs. internal stimulation? Battery or power-chord operated? Realistic-looking or not? For individual or partner use? I didn’t know where to start.

So, like any good 20-something looking for information, I crowd-sourced. I started by asking a few friends for recommendations, and I also read lots of helpful online reviews (they really do sell anything on Amazon…) I didn’t go this route, but if you want help navigating the vibrator world and don’t feel comfortable discussing with friends, you should also consider talking to an employee at your local sex shop. They’re professionals so there’s no need to be embarrassed or awkward with your questions (not that you should feel awkward anyway!) and they can help you find the best product for your needs/price range. If you’re in Minneapolis, you should definitely check out Smitten Kitten, a progressive, feminist sex shop.

 Following the recommendations of my friends, I ultimately decided on the LELO Ina. I’ve had my Ina for about two years now, and I absolutely love it. LELO’s products can be much more expensive than many other brands, and the initial purchase was definitely a big blow to my paycheck, but it was SO worth the investment (pro-tip: check online retailers for WAY cheaper prices). LELO is well known for having quality, discrete products, and all their vibrators come with a one-year guarantee. Here are some of my favorite things about the Ina in particular:

–The “rabbit” style is good for g-spot and clitoral stimulation.

–It’s got a pretty design that doesn’t scream PENIS like a lot of the other vibrators do.

–It’s relatively quiet and super easy to use, with multiple settings.

–It operates on a rechargeable battery that lasts forever…I almost never have to charge mine.

No matter what you decide or whether you choose to use a vibrator or not, I hope you all feel empowered to take charge of your own sex life and to really work to understand your body

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I Want To Find Comfort And Pleasure In My Body – Anonymous 

Our bodies are incredible things, I do not know mine well enough. I have been masturbating and watching porn more recently but still feel like I hit a road block when truly discovering what feels good to me. I would like to experience an orgasm and I would like to have better sex with partners. This is precisely why I am interested in purchasing a vibrator. I have heard from many friends that vibrators actually led them to having better sex with partners, understanding what felt good to them and overall increasing their anatomy knowledge. Sign me up, I plan on investing financially in a vibrator in the near future!

Cheers to a New Year

DSCN1140_2An old poem to ring in the new year, and a new version in Spanish to keep us on our toes. Sending power and love to all my builders and fighters out there! Feliz año nuevo. ***Read out LOUD

Grrrl

Spit some poetry

Attack corporate crap

Shake yo booty

Diverge from all that’s wack

Tear off your bra

Go nakey if ya want

Liberate itty bitty titties and big ol’ butts

Show the world how you strut your stuff

Grrrrl

Unicorns and tie dye

A boombox and high tops

Reclaim the streets

Beat up bad cops

Street art

Street dance

Parking lots and rooftops

That’s what I’m talking bout

Grrrl

You fly

Grrrrl

You strong

I wish you a free mind

Social prison, be gone!

Chica

Escupa la poesía

Ataque mierda corporativa

Mueva tus nalgas

Espero que te salgas

de la ropa chambona

Libera pechos pequeños

y caderas campeonas

Mostrale al mundo

el poder que es tuyo

Chica

Unicornios y tinta

Una mano que pinta

Reclame las calles

Y nunca te caes

Calle baile, calle arte

En techos y parques

De eso hablo

Chica

Sos busa

Chica

Sos fuerte

No te frustras

La libertad esta pendiente

Comienza con tu mente

Written by Magdalena Kaluza

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“Virginity”: Why I Am Over This Term

I’ve been thinking lately, I really do not dig the concept of virginity. I am sure there have been plenty of academic, scholarly and analytical articles written about the patriarchal and homophobic background of the concept. I am not here to be the first feminist to analyze virginity but I am here to add my own thoughts on the subject.

Sex is a big deal but at the same time is it really THAT big of a deal? Think about it. What other activity designates a label to an individual who has never done said activity before?

If I have never gone snowboarding, there is no name to call me. If I have never smoked a cigarette, I do not receive a special name. Why is sex so different? Yes, sex is a big deal in the sense that there are many responsibilities that can arrive after intercourse. However, when one thinks of virginity, actual technical outcomes of sex such as pregnancy, STIs or emotional dependency are rarely a part of the conversation.condoms

On a personal note, I “lost my virginity” at what I felt at the time was late in life. I remember feeling so much shame around the fact that I had never had sex. I did not want to share with anyone that I was this horrified title…virgin. I felt embarrassed and avoided the conversation whenever possible. I would say something and others would attribute these opinions to my lack of sexual activity, where as I personally saw no correlation. When I did have sex for the first time it was not that big of a deal. I remember the expectation that it would be though. Nothing I authentically felt after having sex made me feel like a changed woman.

People on the other side of this equation, those who had sex on the “earlier side of life”, also experience shame around sex. I know women who would not dare tell their community that they had sex out of fear of judgment and further shame. It seems that women are screwed on all sides of the equation. We are prudes if we choose to not have sex or we are sluts if we choose to.

Sex is not a necessary part of every person’s life. There are a number of reasons you may not be having sex. Maybe you have not found a partner you wish to have sex with. Maybe you are asexual. Maybe you have had a traumatic experience of sexual assault.  Not having sex can be just as positive of an aspect of your life as having lots of pleasurable sex. Both of these options need to be incorporated into the sex positivity movement. If we only talk about sex as something that women must participate in to be fully liberated, we are excluding a large amount of individuals and not allowing for a variety of experiences of liberation.

Who does it and how does one “lose their virginity?” What is the identification of virginity when one does not have sex with a member of the opposite sex? In our heteronormative world, is the concept of virginity only relative in the experiences of individuals who solely sleep with members of the opposite sex? Even if a person does predominantly have sex with someone of the opposite sex, this does not mean that his or her definition of sex is solely vaginal intercourse. Society’s understanding of sex and this idea that one can “lose” their virginity is centralized around a penis. Although much homophobia is placed unto the experiences of two men having sex, I have witnessed somewhat of an acceptance that two men having sex is “legitimate sex.” It might not be “traditional” or “moral” according to homophobic individuals but most people would call this sex, whether or not they supported it. Therefore, the majority of accepted forms in defining sex, place the penis as a crucial component to how one might lose their virginity. Where do women who have sex with women fall into this definition? If a woman never has sex with a man in her life will she always be considered a virgin? Even typing that is ludicrous.

The concept of virginity has a narrow definition, is rooted in the assumption that all people are heterosexual and at the end of the day is pretty damn worthless. Have sex. Don’t have sex. Do whatever you want. Whatever you choose to do, just remember you are a PERSON before you are a “virgin” or any other label. The label of virginity is irrelevant; I will be avoiding THAT from now on.

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