Friday FREAK OUT! Revenge porn

This week there’s been a lot of talk about revenge porn. What is revenge porn, you might ask? Urban dictionary provides a good definition: “a nude photograph or video which is publicly shared online (most frequently by an ex-lover of the subject’s) for the purpose of spiteful humiliation.” There are apparently an abundance of websites that cater specifically to exes everywhere wanting to post the sexy pics they took of their previous partners. A few popular examples include isanyoneup.com and submityourex.com.

While revenge porn has been part of modern day culture since the dawn of the internet, it’s gotten a lot of attention lately because of a law suit against the website Texxxan.com. The NY Times highlighted the lawsuit in an article on Monday. This comes alongside legislation being considered in California to criminalize revenge porn. In only one state, New Jersey, is it a crime to distribute images without the subject’s consent. Since it’s not illegal, the posters, the websites, and/or the web hosts (such as GoDaddy.com) are not at fault for posting these pics. (They may not be at fault, but they are jerks. I guess being a jerk isn’t against the law. yet.) The call for criminalization legislation is spearheaded by endrevengeporn.org.

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Emily Bazeon’s piece in Slate makes an excellent point: Why do we tolerate revenge porn?

But while legislators are pushing for laws that criminalize the act of revenge porn, what can we do to help prevent it in the first place?
– Talk about the risks of sharing nude photos
– Talk about the responsibility of having nude photos
– Talk about what it might mean if those photos are shared publicly
– Talk about how it might feel for someone to be a victim of revenge porn
– Talk about how society both applauds and abhors revenge porn
– Talk about how if someone voluntarily seeks out and consumes revenge porn, that’s a way of promoting and encouraging the behavior
– Talk about how it’s really all about consent- the poster is sharing something without the consent of the subject
– Talk about how to cope with loss when a relationship has ended, and how to channel negative feelings about an ex into healthier behaviors that don’t involve violating someone’s privacy

We should have a no tolerance policy when it comes to doing things that are nonconsensual, and we also need to help individuals realize that revenge porn is at the end of the day, an unethical, and downright jerky thing to do. And no one wants to be a jerk.

Friday FREAK OUT! Pope Francis: “We must always consider the person”

Yesterday, an interview with recently ordained Pope Francis was published in America magazine, which reveals what many are calling a new direction for the Catholic Church. He is quoted saying,

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

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Excerpts from the interview can be found in the New York Times, which makes the lengthy interview a little easier to absorb. People are seriously freaking out about the impact of Pope Francis’ statements, particularly about his response to whether he approved of homosexuality…

“I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”

Other news sources are playing up how the interview reveals Pope Francis to be a Liberal and that he denounces abortion.

This news has pretty big implications for the messages that Catholics might be getting (at least from this new Pope) about sexuality, and while Catholics make up only 15.6% of the US population, they do have significant cultural influence in the United States. Sexuality educators can use Pope Francis’ statements to highlight how important it is to consider individual worth, and how “we must always consider the person.” This can relate to sexuality in many ways:

– Teaching someone to respect another person’s decision to say no to sexual contact.
– Accepting someone’s sexual orientation as part of who they are, rather than trying to change them.
– Interacting with someone who tested positive for an STI with compassion.
– Maintaining appropriate boundaries, both physically and emotionally.

All in all, it’s not a bad mantra for people to keep in mind as they not only teach about sexuality, but also as they interact with others on a regular basis.

(and more ruminations about how Pope Francis is breaking from the mold of traditional popes…)
20130920-173815.jpg From NY Daily News

Friday FREAK OUT! “FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)”

On September 3rd, an unknowing blogger posted a piece on her personal blog with a ‘small’ audience titled, “FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)“, which went viral and was widely shared and yes, WIDELY criticized. So much so that there is a specific Huffington Post page devoted to the responses to this post.

In a nutshell, Mrs. Hall urges teenage girls to refrain from posting pictures on social media that are sexually charged (in particular, braless). She packages this message of being sexually subdued with a call for self respect and living out individuality. She also describes a family task of reviewing social media posts and using those posts as conversation-starters about the impact of using technology. (I hope you read her post though- it’s a thought-provoking post that has clearly led to lots of strong reactions.)

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So people have been truly freakin out about Mrs. Hall’s post, and there have been quite a few very real, and very eloquent responses that deserve recognition…
Five Kids is a Lot of Kids shares…

1) Although men certainly retain memories of seeing exciting things – “like I’ll never forget seeing my first Ferarri!” he said – it’s demeaning to men of any age to presume they can only see a woman as a sexual object once they’ve seen her in a state of undress, and 2) This shifts an unreasonable burden of responsibility to young women for ensuring men don’t view them sexually.

Jessica Gottlieb tells us…

Girls, adults are afraid of your sexuality. The moms who are teaching their boys that you’re nothing but a seductress if you dare go braless or post a selfie where your [gasp] shoulders are exposed are terrified.

Angi Stevens reminds us about the sex-positive approach…

But I also want you to know that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel sexy. I want your idea of sexiness to be grounded in what makes you feel awesome and comfortable and excited inside of your own awesome and unique body, whatever shape or size that body might be. I don’t want you to feel forced to conform yourself to anyone else’s idea of what sexiness is. But you have nothing—absolutely nothing—to be ashamed of if you want boys or girls to find you attractive. It is normal and natural and OK for you to find other people sexy, too, and to have sexual desire. This does not make you a slut. It makes you a perfectly typical teenager.

Karen Rayne gives parents wise council in her post, inspired by Mrs. Hall…

See, the thing is, your teenagers spend more time in their own head than in yours. You cannot control what is inside their heads. Instead, you should try and get into your teenagers’ heads along with them. Hang out with them there. Understand what makes them tick without making them feel guilty about ticking in the first place. You’ll eventually learn the levers, the moments, the small openings, when an opinion or a thought from you can slide in and fit just right.

And there’s so much more. I don’t have a whole lot more to add that other people haven’t already said so very well, and there are approximately 1,000 responses that you can find if you jump down that Mrs. Hall rabbit hole, but I hope you do. Her post, and the responses that follow mark a critical conversation that we need to have about the messages we send explicitly or implicitly to teenagers. Sexuality educators (and really parents, too) need to constantly think, “is this message telling teens that it’s not ok to be a sexual being?” and if the answer is yes, find a way to rephrase it.

Friday FREAK OUT! “The twerkiest week of all time ever”

So if you don’t know what twerking is, it’s about time that you found out. Especially because according to the Huffington Post, last week was the “twerkiest week of all time ever.

Maybe it’s because Myley Cyrus performed the “Twerk that Changed the World” with Robin Thicke at the MTV video music awards in a nude bikini as he sung his summer anthem, Blurred Lines. (See my post earlier this summer about how this song has been accused of being ‘rapey’.)

Maybe it’s because within 48 hours of Myley Cyrus’ performance, the word “twerk” made it into the Oxford dictionary, defined as: “dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance” (as of August 2013). (Check out slate’s commentary)

Maybe it’s because you’ve seen this INSANE video of an epic twerk fail, posted by a user attempting to make a video for her boyfriend, but instead she ends up smashing a glass coffee table and setting her clothes on fire.

Or maybe you’ve seen the parody YouTube video, Captain Kirk watches Miley Cyrus performance.

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Still confused about what ‘twerking’ really is? You’re not alone!!

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Well, maybe urban dictionary‘s definition will provide a more accurate explanation: “The rhythmic gyrating of the lower fleshy extremities in a lascivious manner with the intent to elicit sexual arousal or laughter in ones intended audience.” In essence, some sexy dancing.

My question is, where does the HANDSTAND come in? I mean, people have been ‘dancing to popular music in a sexually provocative manner with thrusting hip movements’ at least since Elvis, if not the beginning of time. But the handstand? I think that’s what got 33 students at Scripps Ranch High School suspended for posting a twerking video filmed on school property.

So, have you explained twerking to your parents yet? No? Well, this hilarious (yet at times racist) NY Times op-ed may help, and it’s important to remember,

A critical first step is to acknowledge that twerking is a normal part of life and that there is nothing shameful in their questions.

Which is actually a great message for sexuality educators as well. Your students may be wanting to twerk, have tried it out at home (hopefully without burning candles nearby), or watching YouTube videos of people twerking. And if twerking hasn’t come up in your classes yet, you might as well be prepared. Here are some suggestions for finding out more about what your participants know, and helping them process this twerk freak out:
– Simply ask, “what comes to mind when you hear the word ‘twerk’?”
– Check out some twerking youtube videos so you have a good handle on the wide variety of interpretations of twerking. (WARNING, it could be rather explicit if you simply google ‘twerk’)
– Have participants think about the various perceptions of twerking, such as what the twerker may be seeking, what the twerkee may be experiencing, and what the twerk bystander may be observing.
– Ask students why twerking is causing such a ‘freak out’ in the media.
– Explore scenarios in which twerking may be appropriate (at a dance club) or inappropriate (at a job interview- except if it’s for a hip-hop backup dancer).
– Ask students to consider how twerking can relate to World Sexual Health Day (celebrated this past week, on Sep 4, 2013)- this year’s slogan: “To achieve sexual health, picture yourself owning your sexual rights”.

Just remember, we all twerk in our own ways. Some with nude-colored bikinis, some standing on their hands, and some just swaying from side to side. At the end of the day it’s all sexy dancing. And, if you want to reach your audience, don’t put down their twerk- your twerk may be different, but it’s still a twerk.

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