Kelly Worrall’s story: The costs and the courage of coming out

-What’s your name?
-I don’t know!! I’m Kelly, but I’m also John.

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All I want for Christmas…

Thanksgiving is over, and everywhere the Christmas decorations, lights and most importantly advertisements are being put up. So in lieu of the looming holiday, here I am, sitting in the library, making a list (no double-checking, I have finals and deadlines) of things I want for Christmas.

Here’s what I have off the top of my head:

No more objectifying women’s bodies in advertising.

getyourhandsoffourbodies

It’s a cheap shot and products worth buying have more going for them than half-naked women (and men) anyway.

No more slut shaming.

soupforsluts

Being sexually active does not mean your “cheap, fast and easy”.

No more vilifying feminists…

Feminazi

If I hear one more person arguing they’re not feminist because they believe all feminists correspond to the straw feminist trope I will high five them. With a chair. In their face.

… but let’s acknowledge that patriarchy hurts men too.

all men are rapists

Although I think MRA’s can gtfo, and I am a firm believer in male privilege, this article makes a valid point about why we need to talk about misandry (although this term is quite loaded and I do prefer to call it toxic masculinity – semantics).

A minimum wage that’s also a living wage.

minimum wage

‘Murica plz.

For everybody to gather and do this:

smash the patriarchy

…with a tinsel-covered hammer. It’s the holidays after all.

And finally this on a T-shirt so I can wear it while I do the former:

mymarxist feministrhetoric

Isn’t it perfect? :3

I leave the parting words to Rosie:

Rosie christmas

How wonderfully secular.

Seeing Red

red ribbonToday I see red. Yup folks, it’s that time of year again. Like every year on December 1st, it’s World AIDS day. This disease has infected over 60 million people worldwide since it was discovered in the 80’s, and currently the highest rates of infection are sound in countries of Central and Southern Africa.

Dealing with HIV/AIDS is very different depending on the place in the world you’re in. The challenges faced in developing countries very much differ from the challenges in the developed world, and because I am most familiar with my own cultural context, that is what I will stick to. (Not to take away from the aspects of the struggle I won’t talk about, but I’m really no authority on them. If you want to find out more, here is an interesting article by Richard Parker PhD discussing the global pandemic, structural inequalities and the politics of international health.)

I came across this very moving article in my Facebook news feed, and it really made me think. Blogger Michael Specter discusses what he feels is a disturbing trend among the new generation that, unlike him, hadn’t experienced the AIDS epidemic at its height in the 80’s: ” (…) the people on the street were dying. The Castro was lined with thirty-year-old men who walked, when they could, with canes or by leaning on the arms of their slightly healthier lovers and friends. Wheelchairs filled the sidewalks. San Francisco had become a city of cadavers.”

Act upNow it’s not strictly a gay man’s disease (there is no magical gene inside the virus that differentiates between different sexual orientations, capisce?), but it is true that gay men are disproportionally at risk for infection. But as Specter puts it: “What twenty-year-old man, enjoying his first moments of sexual adventure, is going to be scared because, ten years before he was born, people like me saw gay men writhe and vomit and die on the streets where he now stands?” Young people are not as careful about STI’s as they used to be when AIDS was still a more visible issue. There is a stigma around this particular disease (but also around STI’s in general) that constantly pushes it off the table of information we should be feeding to the public.

But at the heart of the problem lies misinformation and a lack of education, and (as per usual) the disenfranchised, minorities, poor people, non-heterosexuals are the most at risk: “there is little public funding available to teach young gay African-American men how to have sex with each other safely”. And as the Times reports here, more young gay men are having unprotected (anal) sex, and less are getting tested for HIV. (And tbh this trend seems to be rising among straight people as far as I’ve been told).

hivaids-knowing-is-everything_infographic

THIS IS A PROBLEM. People that are HIV-seropositive in the developed world mostly have access to antiretroviral drug treatment that can prolong their lives for years, decades even. We don’t see people dying in the streets anymore. But this doesn’t make HIV less of a serious disease. Antiretroviral therapy is strenuous. Living with HIV is permanent. People, especially those most at risk, need to be educated and have access to preventive methods.

Now take a moment to commemorate the lives unnecessarily lost to this disease, the loved ones left behind, the people living with it and dying from it today. And when you’re done, grab the nearest pack of condoms (or go buy one / get free ones from your nearest free clinic) and put them in your purse/in your night stand drawer/under your pillow so that next time you need one, it’ll be within reach. Then, find out about HIV testing resources here and GET TESTED. As many as 21% of people living with HIV in the US don’t know they’re infected.

Want to check your HIV-savvy? Click here to take a quiz! (courtesy of hivaware.org.uk)

Here you can find some of the most popular myths around HIV/AIDS debunked (because knowing is everything). 

If you want to know more about HIV in the US, you can check out the CDC‘s info page.

Again for those of you who rate this as tl;dr, have an infographic:
what-about-hiv_

(I’m sorry it’s so small, I’m still figuring this wordpress thing out, but clicking enlarges)

Today, I steal my parting words from Rent (the musical):

“Actual Reality! Act up! Fight AIDS!”

Party with Playboy – College & Consent

So I came across something a couple of months ago that I thought was super awesome and that I wanted to share with all y’alls.
It was the beginning of my first semester at an American college in quite the college party town, and the stereotypes were quite intimidating. Roofies, rape, excessive drinking and the whole shebang. Not to mention the cultural standards around sexuality, so different from what I’m used to, starting with the way people dance (btw – grinding – wtf?).

consent commandments

All of a sudden on the 17th of September this year, a month after my arrival, the online world was buzzing: Playboy had just released a new reinvented version of their college party rank, namely their “Top Ten Party Commandments – The ultimate guide to a consensual good time”. Or that’s what people thought. (In reality, this was a prank set up by round 25 college students that are part of the upsetting rape culture network – the plot thickens.) Playboy quickly found out about it, and like any other corporation defending their image and name would do, they decided to distance themselves from the article.

party on - party foul

Isn’t it ironic? A brand of the sexual industry that refuses to associate itself with promoting consent culture in an industry fraught with pervasive sexualization of violence gets upset over someone using their name – without their consent.

Anyways take a look – it’s beautiful.

 

Cheers

Drunk sex and consent – forget YOLO, only yes means yes

ConsentSo the other night I was skyping my friend back home in Lux and I remember telling her little bit about America and all the crazy college parties and the people and the crazy double standards. I try not to be judgy about people around me, but it’s fun sometimes to vent, I’m not going to pretend I’m not human like that – people sometimes irritate me. But then she says something along the lines of “you know these dumb bitches that pretend to be perfect little Christian princesses but give them two shots and they open their legs for just anybody”.

There is definitely more than just one thing wrong with this statement, but for this post I’m going to talk about one particular message that is engrained in this statement: there are women who deserve to be taken advantage of. Somehow alcohol and promiscuity very much like to walk hand in hand in the public opinion. If she was drunk, she must have wanted it right? Just because she regrets it the next morning and “cries rape” doesn’t mean it was, right?

drunk does not equal consent

WRONG. Although it’s something often cited in rape cases as part of the defense, there is something very important that many of the people defending rapists forget, are unaware of or simply won’t acknowledge: consent while intoxicated is always questionable. Some even argue not possible.  But without going to extremes, we all know (or at least those of us who have been

intoxicated at some point or been around drunk people) that maybe not all of our decisions are the best. Like that time you thought it would be cool to through cheese and hide a rotting fish at your school and put a port-a-pottie you just stole from the nearest construction site in front of the main door because you just graduated and never really liked that place anyway. Seems like a good idea at the time but when you return to your normal, less impulsive sta

te you think to yourself “yeah, not so much”. But I digress. The point is, if you’re quite drunk or your partner is or that random stranger you danced with at the club is, don’t do it. Opportunities come and pass, but as this highly recommendable blogpost on the drunk sex vs. rape question puts it “You’ll have another chance to have sex, but sexual assault is permanent.”

whateverwewearwhereverwegoNow let’s talk about consent for a moment. If being drunk is something that impairs your ability to consent, what exactly are we talking about?
For a long time, there have been campaigns against rape sporting the slogan “No means no”. And while this is all well and true, there is a reason that this has, in recent years, been switched to “(only) Yes means Yes”. Legal definitions of consent, especially of implied consent, often vary and can be unclear, but the general agreement of consent-culture campaigns is that consent to sex should be enthusiastic – which means that if it’s unclear, if you’re not sure, than it’s probably not a yes, since an enthusiastic yes, well, should be obvious and clear given that it’s enthusiastic (Duh!). Which also means that when you’re engaging in sexual activity with someone, under the influence or not, where there is a doubt in your mind that they are not enthusiastically consenting, the go-to response shouldn’t be “YOLO”.

I know many people will find this idea of actually having an open conversation about sex with a partner, or with anyone really, is new and revolutionary and frankly quite daunting. We’re raised to think it’s taboo, it’s dirty and wrong. But properly communicating with a person about sex (and I don’t necessarily mean dirty talk), like ASKING if they’re okay with what you’re doing, or saying that you’re NOT OKAY with what someone else is doing, is not dirty and wrong. Rape is dirty and wrong.

So for those who thought this was tl;dr, have a flowchart:

consent flowchart

Cheers