Medium: What’s the worst sex you ever had?

Medium: What’s the worst sex you ever had?

My first ever piece at Medium is about painful sex, consent, and desire. Unsurprisingly, it’s intimate and fairly graphic. You’ve been warned.

It will hurt so much that you’ll wonder if he’s putting it in the wrong hole. It will hurt so much that it will feel like he’s stabbing you in the vagina. It will hurt so much that you’ll stop long before he gets close to coming. And that’s how you’re going to lose your virginity.

When you tell your friends about it, you’ll lie about how it went. You’ll tell them that you were both nervous, but that you both enjoyed it. Inwardly, you are baffled that this activity could ever feel good for a woman. The space between what you just experienced and good — let alone orgasmic — is a wide, yawning gap. “This sex thing is pretty great,” you’ll tell your two best friends, feigning both a satisfaction and a nonchalance that you do not feel.

You will try again in the coming weeks — in fact, you’ll try many times, hoping that the pain was a first time thing. You’ll tell yourself that it probably hurt the first time because your hymen was breaking, which is highly unlikely. You are an ex-gymnast, and you fell with one leg on either side of the balance beam a few too many times for that to be a plausible explanation. Still, you’ll keep trying, and at your insistence he will keep ramming his penis on in there, even as your vagina burns and screams in protest, feeling like it’s tearing with every thrust. It will hurt enough that you wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled his dick out to find it covered in blood.

You can read the whole thing here. And if you or someone you know suffers from pelvic pain during sex or otherwise, I cannot recommend the good people at Renew PT highly enough.

Reuters: Scout, Jean Louise, and white women in the world of Harper Lee

Reuters: Scout, Jean Louise, and white women in the world of Harper Lee

My latest at Reuters is about Harper Lee’s new novel Go Set A Watchman, and about what the book can teach us about white womanhood and racism:

Released not even a month after a white supremacist entered a black church in Charleston, South Carolina and declared, before opening fire and killing nine black people, “You rape our women,” Go Set A Watchman is also remarkably — depressingly — timely.

When Dylann Roof’s words were reported, my mind flew to the fictional Maycomb, Alabama, where Scout Finch grows up, and where, in Mockingbird, she watches as her father tries and fails to defend a black man who is framed and sentenced for the rape of a white woman. The woman in question, Mayella Ewell, has led a life of poverty and sexual abuse at the hands of her father, and she’s to be pitied, Atticus tells the jury in his closing arguments. But not to the extent of killing an innocent man, Tom Robinson, to protect her reputation. “I’m in favor of Southern womanhood as much as anybody,” Atticus has told his sister, “but not for preserving polite fiction at the expense of human life.”

The polite fiction is that white women feel no sexual desire toward black men, and that white men never molest their daughters. That proper women in Maycomb are, in the words of the anti-segregation speaker who addresses the local Citizen’s Council meeting in Watchman, “fresh white Southern virgins” in need of protection — violent protection, if need be — from black men by white men. In the antebellum South, during Reconstruction, and under Jim Crow, the polite fiction was used to justify the murder of black men and the terrorizing of black communities. It was believed by white men, and deployed by white women: at the end of the rape trial in Mockingbird, Scout realizes that “Tom Robinson was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.”

You can read the whole thing here.

BuzzFeed: When my boyfriend gained weight I had to confront my own eating issues

BuzzFeed: When my boyfriend gained weight I had to confront my own eating issues

Relationships are messy. Recovering from mental illness is messy. Human desire is messy. Blend all three and you can get what I got: a painful, complicated tangle. That’s the topic of my latest essay at BuzzFeed Ideas:

I told him early in our relationship that I was recovering from an eating disorder. I had only stopped compulsively overexercising and subsisting on lettuce and baby carrots a few months before we met. Having struggled with his weight for most of his life, he sympathized. In the year before we met, he told me, he’d lost a dramatic amount of weight, and was only now starting to like the skin he was in.

As a feminist writer, I had felt like my eating disorder made me a hypocrite. For two years, while I wrote about body image and loving yourself and being healthy at every size, I had been starving myself. On one day in 2011, I moderated a panel at a body image conference — but I was starving; I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I had spent those years feeling tremendously guilty, not just because I was a feminist who ought to have “known better” than to have an eating disorder, but because I felt immense pressure to set an example for others.

I felt like such a fraud. The double whammy of perfectionism — you must have a perfect body and you must be a perfect feminist — tied me up in a painful knot. The guilt, the extra layer of self-disgust, lay thick on top of the kind of self-loathing that makes a person starve herself, and only deepened the pain I felt. The knot was so tightly tangled that I spent a year and a half in therapy before I turned a corner and stopped actively hurting myself.

Then I met B, and we fell in love. And then B started putting on weight.

You can read the whole thing here.

The New Republic: The role of white womanhood in violence against black people

The New Republic: The role of white womanhood in violence against black people

Last week at The New Republic, in the wake of the horrific church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, I wrote about the long history and ugly present of using white womanhood as an excuse for violence against black people:

We cannot talk about the violence that Dylann Roof perpetrated at Emanuel AME last Wednesday night without talking about whiteness, and specifically, about white womanhood and its role in racist violence. We have to talk about those things, because Roof himself did. Per a witness account, we know that he said: “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country.” “Our” women, by whom he meant white women.

There is a centuries-old notion that white men must defend, with lethal violence at times, the sexual purity of white women from allegedly predatory black men. And, as we saw yet again after this shooting, it is not merely a relic of America’s hideous racial past. American racism is always gendered; racism and sexism are mutually dependent, and cannot be unstitched.

You can read the whole thing here.

Reuters: Hillary Clinton and the double whammy of sexism and ageism

Reuters: Hillary Clinton and the double whammy of sexism and ageism

My latest at Reuters is about how Hillary Clinton is up against sexism and ageism as she runs a second time for the presidency:

Simply put, Clinton is living proof of how sexism and ageism interact: when it comes to leadership positions, women always seem to be held to a higher standard than men, and by the time they’ve accumulated the experience to meet that standard, they’re old enough to be hit with age discrimination. That Clinton is running at 67 is one high-profile example of how long it seems to take women to amass the experience necessary for people — whether it’s voters or employers — to overlook the fact that they’re women. We know this about ourselves: in January, a Pew survey found that 65 percent of people recognize that, in business, women are held to a higher standard than men.

Clinton is far and away the most qualified person to enter the race so far. Between her legal and advocacy experience; her time in the White House as the most politically active first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt; her time as a senator; and her service as Secretary of State, she has amassed more relevant experience and knowledge than a number of the current Republican candidates combined. Detractors can reasonably question her judgment, her trustworthiness, her husband and her emails, but her qualifications are indisputable. Her resume is undeniably presidential.

None of which protects her from being subjected to what Catalyst, a research and advocacy group focused on normalizing gender and race representation in corporate leadership, calls the High Competence Threshold. “Women leaders face higher standards and lower rewards than male leaders,” Catalyst found in its 2007 study The Double Bind Dilemma for Women in Leadership. “On top of doing their job, women must prove that they can lead over and over again,” the study found.

You can read the whole thing here.

Marie Claire: I married myself

Marie Claire: I married myself

I have a piece at Marie Claire today about my not-engagement ring, and about how we might endow old symbols with new meaning:

Forget men—one of the longest and most meaningful relationships I’ve ever had was with my doctorate dissertation. It consumed me, and fascinated me, and took up all my time and energy. It accounted for four full, pivotal years of my life.

As I worked on it, friends all around me were getting engaged, tying the knot, and changing their names from Ms. Them to Mrs. Someone Else. When the full draft of my thesis was finished and the end was in sight, I decided that I wanted to mark the pivotal moment when I changed my name from Ms. to Dr.

So I bought myself a diamond ring at an auction, and when my I passed my thesis defense, I put it, proudly, on my left ring finger.

My statement can result in weird interactions. “So what does your fiancé do?” strangers will ask, and I’ll stare blankly at them for a second before collecting myself. “I’m not engaged,” I’ll reply. “I’m a doctor.” Then it’s their turn to stare, understandably confused by the non sequitur. But then I get to explain why I bought the ring, and why I wear it where I do.

You can read the whole thing here.

The New Republic: Australia is bad for celebrity puppies, worse for actual humans

The New Republic: Australia is bad for celebrity puppies, worse for actual humans

My latest at TNR is about Australia’s treatment of refugees, and why they ought to be shamed for it on the world stage:

Australia’s treatment of refugees has been repeatedly criticized by the U.N., with the offshore detention program coming under particular fire recently. In March, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on torture reported that the Australian government, “by failing to provide adequate detention conditions; end the practice of detention of children; and put a stop to the escalating violence and tension at the regional processing center, has violated the right of the asylum seekers including children to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.” The Australian government, the U.N. concluded, is in violation of the Convention Against Torture.

In response, Abbott said that Australians are “sick of being lectured to by the United Nations.”

It’s not just the U.N., though; plenty within Australia have called for an end to the practice of turning away refugees and of imprisoning them for seeking asylum, which is explicitly not a crime. This Easter, Tim Winton, one of the nation’s most renowned living novelists, gave a Palm Sunday address in which he declared “that what has become political common sense in Australia over the past 15 years is actually nonsense. And not just harmless nonsense,” he went on. “It’s vicious, despicable nonsense… Australians have gradually let themselves be convinced that asylum seekers have brought their suffering and persecution and homelessness and poverty on themselves. Our leaders have taught us we need to harden our hearts against them. And how obedient we’ve been, how compliant we are, this free-thinking, high-minded egalitarian people.”

To go along with the “newly manufactured” political common sense that those people represent a threat to Australia’s prosperity, sovereignty, and national identity, Winton said, “is to surrender things that are sacred: our human decency, our moral right, our self-respect, our inner peace.”

But as in the United States, poor treatment of those seeking refuge is framed as necessary to protect the nation’s interest, and Abbott has gone so far as to argue that it’s the humane thing to do, as it will protect refugees from dying at sea or from attempting the dangerous passage in the first place. Which might be true, but it won’t give them a safe place to live, either. As in the U.S., openness to immigrants and the nation’s history, as one of millions of immigrant success stories, is built into Australia’s national self-identity. In practice, though, Australia’s comportment belies the promise of its national anthem, and its claim to being a modern and “fair go” society.

You can read the whole thing here.