On Violence

Edit: Okay, this is just to make clear that I totally love Idle No More, and this is in no way a critique of what they’re doing or how they do it. I’m also not all like YO LET’S ALL START A VIOLENT REVOLUTION RIGHT NOW FUCK YES. I’m a big proponent of non-violent methods of protest. But I think it’s important not to immediately shoot down other kinds. I’m just trying to make people think a little bit before making grand, sweeping statements from some imagined moral high-ground. Now, with that in mind…

 

“I believe violence is NEVER the answer,” a girl announces proudly from the front row of desks.

We’re sitting in our squishy, height-adjustable, swivelling office chairs in the new building on campus, discussing decolonization and resistance movements in our Indigenous Studies class. Each desk has several electrical outlets installed, conveniently placed for our laptops (mostly MacBooks) to stay charged during the three-hour lecture. It’s minus twenty degrees Celsius outside, but we all have our jackets off in this comfortably-heated room with double-glaze windows.

“Non-violent methods are more productive.”

We read an article by Frantz Fanon, “On Violence”, about the decolonization movements in Algeria. Decolonization will always be violent, he says. And maybe that’s not a bad thing. But nobody seems to agree with him.

Non-violent methods are more productive?

That’s easy for you to say. That’s easy for any of us to say, sitting in our expensive room on our expensive computers completing our expensive undergraduate degrees. We’re cosy. We’re comfortable. Violent resistance is a theoretical abstract that is just so wonderfully easy to dismiss.

Don’t we need to consider the fact that maybe we can so self-assuredly say that “violence is never the answer” because we’ve never been put in a position where actually, maybe violence is the only answer we have left? Maybe deciding that “violence is never the answer” is much more straight-forward when we’re not faced with immediate, actual, physical violence? Maybe, just maybe, sitting in a university classroom in Canada and deciding that violence is never the answer is a bit different from the conclusion you might come to if you were living the experience of being actively, violently colonized.

Canada WAS actively and violently colonized, and the colonization of Indigenous peoples is ongoing and still violent, albeit in usually more covert, indirect, non-physically violent ways. I’m not dismissing that. But the idea that violence is never the answer — coming to that conclusion so easily and assuredly — often comes from a place of privilege. The privilege of thinking of state-endorsed violence as an abstract concept. We’re not faced with imminent physical danger as we sit in our classroom.

And it’s not that there aren’t people living in those situations who don’t still think that violence is not the answer. It’s not that thinking that violence is not the answer is only EVER a privileged opinion. It’s not that it’s a less legitimate opinion. It’s that those of us who live comfortable lives need to stop to wonder why that’s such an easy conclusion for us to come to, why we so immediately dismiss anyone suggesting violent resistance as “wrong” or “irrational” or somehow “behind the times”.

We value non-violent methods of protest so highly, and we consider them so much better than violent methods. If someone says “yeah actually, violence is sometimes called for,” we consider ourselves much more progressive and liberal and just nicer people than them. They’re advocating people KILLING people!!!!!!! Aren’t they?? HOW COULD ANYONE ADVOCATE THAT. They must be right-wing psychos! Or extremists! Why would they not see that sitting down and talking out our problems is just so much more civilized?

Civilized.

Another of the activists whose work we’ve been reading for this class, Taiaiake Alfred, talks a lot about resisting the colonialist framework; he says that trying to work within the framework, to try to get the government to recognise Indigenous people’s rights, is completely futile. To work within the colonialist framework (“Aboriginalism”) basically lends that framework legitimacy that it doesn’t deserve. Trying to make a place for yourself in that framework helps to support it and ensure that it stays in place. So, Alfred suggests, to effectively decolonize, Indigenous people need to break away from that framework, create their own, to stop from depending on the colonial systems.

People in class didn’t argue with that. Taiaiake advocates for non-violent means of decolonization, and everyone likes that. Idle No More comes up in the discussion, of course, and people think that it’s great that the movement is non-violent because then the media has no ammo to discredit them. They have to be viewed as legitimate now!

Legitimate.

There’s something underlying this discussion that doesn’t come up, and it bothers me, but I don’t say anything because I can’t quite think of how to articulate the feeling of yuck. But as the conversation goes on, the idea starts to form and by the end of class I am uncomfortable and I can identify why that is.

The professor asks a question that brings my issue into sharp focus.

“Who defines violence?”

“The colonizer.” We all know the answer. Gosh, we’re so self-aware. But nobody takes this further, nobody applies this to the assumptions and claims that we’ve all been making throughout the three hours of class. Non-violent means of resistance are always better. Violence is never the answer. Is it a coincidence that all of us, brought up in the West, in a colonialist school system, in colonized countries, unanimously agree that violence is never the answer? Why do we all agree?

Maybe because that is exactly what we are taught. By the colonial system. The colonial system that gets to define even the meaning of violence. The colonial system gets to decide what counts as violence, who’s a terrorist. But not only that; it also gets to decide that “violence is never the answer”. Because why would a colonialist system want anyone to think otherwise? Non-violent means of resistance can be a lot easier for a colonialist state to ignore. Do I think that non-violent means are NEVER effective? No, of course not. But maybe, just maybe, there’s a reason we’re all taught that violent resistance groups are wrong and bad and irrational and taking things too far.

We learn about Martin Luther King Jr. and “I have a dream”. We’re taught that Nelson Mandela and Gandhi are peace-loving, non-violent leaders of protest movements. Look, they are good! They are just, and their movements are successful! They are how protest leaders and movements Should Be!

Martin Luther King Jr. made many more speeches than just that one. How many of them have you read or heard? A lot of them were just as — if not more — stirring, inspiring, and effective… and also a lot less white-colonialist-friendly. A lot less “non-violent”. Same goes for Mandela and Gandhi. There were also protest movements that were explicitly violent, or a lot less dedicated to being non-violent, that we are taught are BAD BAD BAD, WRONG. TERRIBLE. Maybe we’re only learning about certain resistance leaders, and very particular parts of their histories and opinions, for a reason.

Maybe the colonialist state is choosing how we define and think of “good” resistance and “bad” resistance.

As I said, people in my class like Idle No More because they are non-violent and thus can’t have their acts misrepresented by the media. So people acknowledge that the media has an agenda, that when a resistance movement can be discredited, it will.

But nobody points out that the whole idea that a protest movement MUST BE NON-VIOLENT to be considered legitimate, is in itself a colonialist system’s means of discrediting a portion of resistance movements.  Somebody pipes up and says that being non-violent means that the colonizer will be more likely to listen. Hence why violent resistance movements are unproductive.

Maybe those who advocate violent resistance don’t care about being misrepresented by the media. Maybe they don’t care about the colonizer being more likely to listen. Maybe that’s because so far, the colonial system has come up with an awfully large number of reasons not to listen. The media, as extension of the colonialist system, will always be able to find ways to discredit a resistance that is inconvenient. So maybe working within the colonial framework of non-violent-is-the-only-way-to-go is futile. Because the colonial system is defining how people are even allowed to resist it. We’ll only listen to you if you say it nicely. No shouting! Stop being so aggressive! Maybe we’ll start listening if you’re more polite! Say please! Say thank you! Say “sir”! It means the colonizers get to move the goalposts and forever decide that your resistance efforts aren’t legitimate enough. Aren’t civilized. And so they don’t have to listen to you.

So maybe those who advocate violent means of resistance are fed up with that and are choosing to ignore the framework that non-violent = good, legitimate, worth listening to and violent = bad and irrational.

After all that, it might sound kind of contradictory of me to say that I’m NOT arguing that violent resistance is the better or only way to go. I am just questioning the assumption that the opposite is always the case. Think about the major social revolutions that have occurred; there was a lot of non-violent protest. I have a dream, and all that. But, alongside it, there was ALSO a lot of violent protest going on. Maybe instead of looking at it as the violent resistance being wrong and unnecessary and it was the non-violent portion of the resistance that won people all those rights and recognition under the law, maybe it was both at once. Perhaps both methods of resistance are necessary to achieve decolonization?

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I’m Studying Sticking Pencils Up My Nose.

“Music is EASY”. Music is a SOFT course, you don’t have to WORK, you just sit around doing what you already enjoy and already spend time doing. You don’t know hard work until you try engineering or chemistry. This is what I hear all the time.

Go read about “The Picasso Principle”.

Do you want to attempt to do what I do? No I mean like, really — here, take my saxophone. Look, I’ve even supplied the ideal mouthpiece and reed to get the perfect jazz tone out of it. That’s already work done for you. That alone took years of trying out different reed types and thicknesses, different mouthpiece materials, different opening sizes, different barrel types. Not that you know what any of that means. But I digress. Now put it in your face and play. Oh, wait, you can’t? You don’t know how? You’ve never played the saxophone except maybe in elementary school music class? Maybe even high school, okay, well then you’re already a pro right there aren’t you. Oh wait, except you’re not.

Because it takes time. Oh lord, how much time it takes. My point is not “haha, you can’t play an instrument”. My point is that I had to start where you are and then take so, so much time and so, so much hard work to get where I am right now — able to play my saxophone competently. It is a professional who makes their art look easy, like it comes so naturally. Well, it DOES come naturally. After years. Decades. And we’re forever working. FOREVER working to improve, because we’re never as good as we could be. We can always get better.

You want to pay me shit all to play at your crappy little business venue? You want to tell me that music is easy, I don’t work hard doing a degree in music? Well obviously I don’t, I mean look at how good my marks are! It couldn’t possibly be that it’s taken years of hard work to become good enough for something to be easy.

If you spent as many hours a day, for as many years of your life, focusing on practising lots of exercises with mathematical equations and formulas as musicians spend practising their instruments, you would find university calculus just as easy and natural as musicians find playing music. If you spent as many hours a day, for as many years of your life, reading that biology textbook and memorizing those terms and how those proteins relate to that one, you would ace your bio exam as easily as musicians ace performances.

Don’t even tell me about how many bajillion hours you spent studying for that bio exam this year. I have played my saxophone for EIGHT YEARS. I practised for AT LEAST two hours every single day for four years. And that’s not as much as most people, the actually-dedicated musicians. You just feel like you do so much more studying because you’ve crammed it all into these past however-many-years of university, the first time you’ve really focused on the subject to the same extent that musicians focus on music throughout their lives.

I don’t practise as much as I used to, admittedly. So my number of hours spent practising my sax this year is probably around the same level of the hours you spent studying for those tests and exams or working on your calculus homework all year. But hey, guess what? I didn’t ace my music classes, and I didn’t find them easy as pie. We’re in the same boat when we spend the same amount of time on things. Why is that?

Music is HARD. That’s why.

Books That Shaped My Life

I was a pretty avid reader as a child. In fact, I still would be if it weren’t for good ol’ university getting in the way so much; now I just read avidly, when I get the chance. So, lately I was thinking about how my understanding of the world has been shaped by the books I’ve read. And I realised that a lot of my feminism and social-justice-ism has stemmed from the books I read when I was young.

The formative years for my ideology seems to have been when I was 13-17 years old. Which is when I read the most books, yay! And I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the following books actually really shaped my life, they influenced who I have become today. This is not to say that they are all 100% awesome and don’t have any kind of problems in their portrayal of characters/etc; but there’s nothing major — or often, even minor — that I noticed, and they all have very positive messages overall. So here they are, in order of most influential! I have included the age at which I read each book, and a link to each amazon page so you can take a look inside :D

I call this my Pretty-Much-Mandatory Booklist for Raising a Social-Justice-Type Kid

Stargirl – Jerry Spinelli
Age: 12-13
The Lesson: Don’t be afraid to stand out
Amazon: Linky!

This book was like my freaking Bible. I read it in 7th grade, it was actually a mandatory book to read for our English class. The teacher and class all agreed, during the group discussion, that I was very much like Stargirl; though I would actually say I’m more like her now than I was then. Stargirl is about being free to be who you are, about people needing to open their minds to people who are “different” or “whacky”. You know, typical “yay be yourself!” message, but it is a really well-written YA book with a character who may seem unbelievable to some, but to me it was like a shining beacon of “hey, being silly and whacky is actually awesome!” I also always loved that part of Stargirl’s fearlessness for being herself also included not being afraid to be incredibly kind. And I think that was a major point (if not THE major point) of the book; in all this conformity, this wanting to be cool, your humanity and kindness can sometimes get lost.

Fire’s Stone Tanya Huff
Age:14-15
The Lesson: You are all freaking awesome, no matter what.
Amazon: Linky!

I still go back and re-read this book. It’s one of my favourite EVER. It’s an older-YA book, so the messaging is a lot more subtle and underlying to an otherwise not-message-y storyline, unlike with Stargirl. This is a fantasy book (not sci-fi, shut up Amazon) about a sort-of-middle-ages-y-esque world with wizards and magic-ness and monsters and sword fights and YAY! The three main characters are: A woman of colour with shit tons of awesome attitude, a white gay(? though possibly bisexual or fluid-in-sexuality) man who has been exiled, and a white bisexual man who is the third son of a king so he sort-of-has-power-but-sort-of-doesn’t. And what’s awesome about this book is that they are all AWESOME. None of them are stereotypes even though at first they seem like they will be.

They are all fully-realised characters whom you grow to love equally, depicted as *gasp* HUMANS! And their “different”-ness is not portrayed as some kind of novelty; the relationship that develops between the two men is written just like a straight relationship is written in any other book. It’s not “LOL THEY’RE GAY FOR EACH OTHER LOL!” It’s “this is a human relationship developing! Yay!” And the WOC character rocks my socks. She’s powerful but flawed (as are all the characters), and although at first she’s considered to be the “bitchy” character, the reader and the other characters gain insight and realise that she’s not at all a bitch. She’s awesome. And the author is Canadian, by the way. SO READ IT :D

Whale Talk – Chris Crutcher
Age: 14-15
The Lesson: Racism of all kinds and calibre is hurtful and damaging to people’s lives and society.
Amazon: Linky!

I only read this one once, and don’t remember much from it… but man, does it still haunt me. It deals with racism, and though if I recall correctly there maaaaay be a bit that could be taken as “White Saviour”-ness (though I took it, at the time, more as just the father wanting to protect his son), it deals with it really well. There’s this one scene, in which a little black girl, whose white father is a racist shithead, tries to scrub her blackness away with a brillo pad. I don’t think I will ever forget this scene, because of just the starkness, that this IS a reality for people. What I got from the book when I read it at age 14 was that even for people who don’t try to scrub away their skin, the ever-present racism in our society can make you fucking feel like doing it sometimes. And us white people don’t know the half of it.

You Don’t Know Me – David Klass
Age: 14-15
The Lesson: Life can be really shitty, but it’s usually worth living. It gets better.
Amazon: Linky!

This is another book that I only read once, and a while ago, but I remember how it made me feel. It covers depression, abuse, thoughts of self-harm and suicide. It deals with the reality of many teenagers’ not-so-awesome lives. It made me consider that I actually had a pretty fabulous life, as well, with a good support system. The book deals with how important it is to have a support system of people who you can trust and who really love you, and that sometimes the people who you think don’t care really truly do. It’s written as if we were in the main character’s mind, a character with whom pretty much anyone can relate even if they’ve never suffered the abuse that he has. It was really eye-opening for me to think about the reality of some people’s lives, as well as to finally have a book that deals honestly with internal turmoil that teens can have, without blowing it off as hormones or just a phase.

Flipped – Wendelin Van Draanen
Age: 13-14
The Lesson: Don’t be an asshole.
Amazon: Linky!

This one is kind of surprising for me, and if you’ve read the book, you might find it surprising too. The main plot is about a girl obsessed with a boy who doesn’t like her back. It follows their lives growing up, and their interactions with each other. Each chapter alternates between characters’ narration, so you get each persons’ perception of the interactions between the two. And although it’s mainly a love story, this narrative style actually worked really well for the main lesson I learned from it. It was one particular scene and each characters’ feelings around it that taught me this lesson. The main female character has a developmentally disabled uncle whom she loves dearly and spends time with as much as possible. In the particular scene, she overhears the main male character laugh at some ableist joke that a friend of his made about her uncle. Seeing it from the two different characters’ perspectives, it becomes really clear that doing or saying things just to try to fit in — even if it is simply laughing at a joke nervously when you don’t know what else to do — can make people feel just as awful as saying those things totally earnestly. Being a bullying jerk is shitty even when you’re just laughing along. Enabling bigoted and prejudiced thought can be incredibly damaging and hurtful. So. Don’t be an asshole.

Extra Bonus Books That I Read Too Late But They Totally Would Have Shaped Me If I’d Read Them Earlier On!

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson
Age:18 (but suitable for 14-16 year olds, I’d say)
The Lesson: Rape is terrible and terrifying, and healing from it takes time, and just surviving with the reality of it every day takes incredible strength.
Amazon: Linky!

This is a pretty famous book that also got turned into a pretty decent movie (starring Kristen Stewart? Zomg no wai). It’s about a 14 year old girl who is raped by a schoolmate, and it deals with aaaaall the social SHIT around rape. It follows the beginning of her journey towards healing from her assault, and it’s a very real and honest story that is easy to relate to. It takes all the things we “know” about rape and brings it to us on a personal level, making the reader not only know, but understand.

When She Woke – Hillary Jordan
Age: 20 (but suitable for 15-17 year olds)
The Lesson: Autonomy is an incredibly important thing, and the reality of not having it would be horrifying.
Amazon: Linky!

I read this book just a few months ago, and I think it’s pretty awesome. It’s more politically-minded than any of the other books, so I think it’d be for an older age group than the others. The book is about a dystopian future (which is creepily similar to what’s going on in the states right now, actually) in which abortion is legally considered murder and people who have had abortions are socially exiled. It deals with what the reality of what taking away reproductive rights would mean for individual people. It shows how utterly important a person’s autonomy is, and how devastating it can be to have that taken away. It is, of course, wildly pro-choice, so yeah, some people would say it’s “political propaganda”. However, it’s about the personal relevance of the politics. It’s about how, if fundamentalist Christians were to really get what they want, individual people would be affected by their autonomy being taken away. It’s a reality that people who are pro-life often don’t seem to consider; I think it’s a reality that everyone NEEDS to think about, and this is a pretty well-written and interesting introduction to thinking about that reality.

~~~~

So, that’s my list! Even though I read the books when I was younger/I think the other two would be appropriate for younger readers, I’d still say everyone should read all of those books. Even though they will be a pretty easy read, they’re still really freaking awesome. And really freaking awesome books are great to read at ANY age! In fact, I’m going to go and re-read all of them RIGHT NOW.  You should go and read them too. DO IT.

I’d also really love to hear about books that other people have found to have the most impact on their ideology and mindset. What would YOU say is the book that influenced you most, and what about it was so influential?

Hey, You. Stop Having Bad Sex. Yes, YOU.

What I notice a lot is that people — especially women — seem to be totally content with having mediocre, if not outright bad, sex. And I really don’t understand why. It’s so EASY to have GOOD sex. But people don’t even realise that the sex they’re having is subpar, that they could be enjoying themselves so much more. So here is my hopefully-comprehensive list of How to Have Good Sex, accompanied by various resources with more in-depth discussion on the topics. And hopefully you, even though you don’t think this applies to you, will take these ideas into consideration and perhaps start having really awesome sex.

1. Stop Hating Your Body and Yourself

This is a big big BIG biggie. Well, I guess they all are… You know that corny line about “how can you love someone else if you don’t even love yourself”? It’s pretty much true. If you don’t like your body, body parts, or yourself, it’s hard to really take part in an activity and enjoy yourself fully. If you are constantly ashamed of your body, or constantly criticizing yourself, you limit your ability to really lose yourself in the moment and enjoy it. This doesn’t just apply to sex. You know, for example, when you go to a pool or a beach and you go “Uuuuuugh I have to wear my bathing suit in front of all these people! They have to see my body OH NOES THE SHAAAAME”? That clearly limits your ability to just jump into the water, play some beach volleyball, or generally have a good time. Same goes for sex. So start working on completely scrapping that attitude right now! It will take a while, but believe me, the results are SO worth it.

The Scarleteen Do-it!
Seven Ways to Love Your Body

2. Stop Feeling Guilty!

This is related to the last one. A lot of people, because of the current social climate around sex, feel guilty about the sex they are having (this includes masturbation too, of course). This is often made even worse by religious upbringings that have taught people that anything relating to sexuality, sexual expression, and sex are dirty, wrong, or “sinful”. Even for people who have taken a step back from their religion and no longer believe that sex is something to be ashamed of, it can still be very hard to feel completely okay with every kind of sex every time because guilt can be so deeply ingrained. However, sex is not something that anybody should be feeling guilty about, and feeling guilty can really limit your enjoyment of your sex life. So if you are feeling guilty, focus on ways to move past this; there is no magic cure, I’m afraid, because different things work for different people. But the following links give some good input and ideas.

How can I stop feeling so guilty?

3. Use Lube! Seriously!

Quite a lot of women (mostly straight women, for some reason) seem to have a big huge hang up about lube. They think that using lube is like admitting defeat or something? No! I cannot use lube! For that would be admitting that I am not enough of a woman to produce enough lube! Saywhut? It’s pretty much inevitable that we’re all going to need to use lube at some point in our lives. For many various reasons; hormonal birth control can reduce someone’s production of self-lubrication, condoms need extra lube to help stop them from breaking, and some days someone will just NOT produce enough lube to have sex comfortably. It’s not some sort of failing. And seriously, you really can’t go wrong with lube. It is your friend. Trust me.

Lubricant is a Girl’s Best Friend
The I-Don’t-Want-to-Use-Lube Blues

4. Explore

Whether you’re currently in a sexual relationship or not, exploring is really huge in getting the best out of your sex life. Explore your own body, your own fantasies and desires. Try new ways of masturbating — using sex toys, touching places on your body while you masturbate that you don’t usually, thinking up new fantasies to see if they work for you. Masturbation can also help with your partnered sex life; if you have explored your own sexual self thoroughly, you will be able to give your partner suggestions on what works for you. And with your sexual partner, explore their body too; don’t just assume that because they are a certain gender, touching a certain body part in a certain way will be the best thing to do. Also explore what works between BOTH of you together, because you’ll be surprised to find that some things that don’t work for you when you’re by yourself actually may work well with a partner. Bring toys, roleplaying, games, anything into the mix with your partner, and never be afraid of being awkward or silly; having fun is a big part of having sex, and it’s not all about being Super Srs Bsns Romance Time. Something you think would be silly might end up actually being totally awesome and sexy and fun. And if it doesn’t work for you, what’s the big deal? The worst that could happen is that you have a hilarious inside joke with your partner.

Vulva, I Hardly Knew Ye
The Clitoris, the Vagina and Orgasm: Feelings and Frameworks

5. Stop Doing Things You Don’t Actually Like

So many people, but definitely the vast majority being women, take part in sexual activities that just don’t rock their socks. It’s a big part of our culture, the expectation that a woman will do things to “please her man” and the “pleasure” she gets from “making her man happy” should be sufficient. This is not to say that enjoying yourself by giving your partner pleasure isn’t legitimate, or that people should only ever do things that make everyone involved orgasm. But there is a big difference between doing something that isn’t personally your favourite and doing something that you really don’t care for, or even dislike. If some activity just really doesn’t appeal to you, or you find yourself being totally bored while participating in it, then just STOP. You don’t owe anyone any kind of sex, and they don’t owe you anything, and neither of you should be EXPECTING any kind of sexual activity from one another.

Instead, find something that you BOTH enjoy doing. That way you will both have oodles of fun instead of one person falling asleep (also, protip: seeing that your partner is obviously bored out of their mind or experiencing discomfort is a turn-off for most people. So even if you’re doing something because your partner enjoys it, they’ll enjoy it LESS if they know it’s something you don’t dig). Of course, if you don’t want to do something because “EW GROSS” or something similar, you need to think about why that is and work on ridding yourself of that mindset; hang-ups around yours or other peoples’ bodies are not conducive to good sex overall, so if they’re the reason you are unwilling to participate in a certain kind of sexual activity, that is definitely something to work on. But in the end, some things just aren’t that exciting or appealing for someone, not for any reason other than just the uniqueness of human beings. Doing things that you don’t actually enjoy doesn’t make your sex life better; it makes it boring and unfulfilling for everyone involved.

An Immodest Proposal
Reciprocity, Reloaded
I Don’t Want to Give Him a Handjob Back: What Do I Do?

6. Stop Having Sex With an Asshole

A lot of people are in sexual relationships with partners who are not the greatest partners, and they don’t even realise it. If your partner EXPECTS certain sexual activities, thinks you are obligated to participate in any sexual activities for any reason, or gets angry at you for not wanting to do something sexual or not reacting a way they want or for not orgasming when or how they want, etc etc etc, they are a shit partner and your sex with them will NEVER be good. A partner doesn’t have to be abusive to be a bad partner. If they pressure you in any way, or make you feel like you HAVE to give a certain answer or participate in certain activities or put on a certain “performance” during sex, or if they focus solely on their pleasure and not yours, you are never going to be able to fully enjoy yourself. And that is a perfectly valid reason to end a relationship, even if other areas work just fine.

A huge amount of people seem to think that it is shallow or cruel to dump someone “simply” because the sex isn’t working out. But we are all sexual beings, and sexual happiness is a part of general, overall happiness. You CAN and WILL find a partner with whom you have a great sex life as well as romance/etc. This also applies to asexual people; you don’t have to put up with a partner who pressures you into sex you don’t really want to have. There absolutely are people out there who will respect your boundaries and desires (including lackthereof) and will not pressure you into doing anything you don’t enjoy. And it is totally worth it to dump that chump and find someone who makes you happy and respects you in ALL areas of your relationship.

I Think He’ll Dump Me if I Don’t Have Sex With Him. So, Should I?
I Survived Sexual Assault, Then Got Stuck in a Relationship I Don’t Feel Good About
Does Your Relationship Need a Checkup?
Hello, Sailor! How to Build, Board, and Navigate a Healthy Relationship

7. COMMUNICATE.

I cannot say this ENOUGH. You know how in the movies, people look at each other with fire in their eyes, and then the next scene pans across the floor, clothing strewn everywhere, and they’re lying there panting with a slight smile on their faces? No words need ever be spoken, because in their PASSION, their FIERY LUST, they understood each other exactly. Except no, not at all. People are not mind-readers. Communication is probably THE most important thing to having good sex. Talking during sex is not unsexy; it is necessary and can be TOTALLY sexy. You don’t have to sound like you’re reading out of a biology textbook or a list of yes/no questions. If talking during sex doesn’t seem natural to you, practise doing so and then it WILL come naturally. Talking before, during, and after sex is crucial to leading a good sex life. Talk about what works and what doesn’t work for you physically, what fantasies you have or new things you want to try out, what safer-sex methods you would like to use, everything. Talk. A lot. It is so unbelievably important. TALK.

Be a Blabbermouth! The Whys, Whats and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner
Driver’s Ed for the Sexual Superhighway: Navigating Consent

8. Educate Yourself and Stay Safe

Whoever said that knowledge is power really wasn’t kidding. Educating yourself around sex and sexuality is vitally important if you plan on having a happy and safe sex life. This includes the very basics; sexual anatomy of your own and partners’/potential partners’ bodies, the physical basics of how sex works, basic knowledge of safer sex. But it also goes far beyond that. You can never ever know everything there is to know about sex and sexuality, and there is no such thing as knowing too much. So poke around sex ed sites, read up on every topic under the sun; healthy relationships, sexual orientation, sexuality in general. Sex education has been proven to help people make safer decisions around sex, and decisions that make them happier. Ignorance often causes fear; I see a lot of people getting freaked out about possibly being pregnant from situations that just would never result in pregnancy. If these people had been provided with proper sex education, they would be aware of the risks of any sexual activity, and they would be confident in knowing exactly when they have risked pregnancy or contracting an STI. Similarly, if a person is educated fully in sex ed, they will know their options when it comes to birth control and pregnancy, and they will know where to go for care. Knowledge leads to peace of mind, sexual confidence, and safer sex practises.

So, with that in mind, here are a buttload of links for you to click at your discretion! My two favourite sources for sex education are Scarleteen and sexetc.org, and about.com’s sexuality column has some really awesome information, too!

Articles:

10 of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Sexual Self at Any Age
What Makes Someone Good in Bed?
From OW! to Wow! Demystifying Painful Intercourse
First Intercourse 101
Yield for Pleasure
Life Lessons from the Third Stall on the Left
Safe, Sound & Sexy: A Safer Sex How-to
Safer Sex… for Your Heart
Sexual Health 101: His
Sexual Health 101: Hers
With Pleasure: A View of Whole Sexual Anatomy for Every Body
Vagzilla! (Or, All Genitals, Great and Small)

Disclaimers: ***This article used to contain links to videos on lacigreen’s youtube channel. I felt that they were informative and fit with my message in this article. However, after incidents on tumblr since this post was made, I no longer feel comfortable supporting laci’s channel.

So I’ve been mentioning “both” in reference to you and your partner, but of course all of what I’ve said here is not limited to only sex involving two people. All the same rules apply to polyamorous relationships, as well as sex with multiple partners simultaneously.

Also: As you may have noticed, this is a huge post with tons of links. Please let me know if any of them are broken or lead to the wrong place! I did double check everything, but I’m human and make mistakes, so I would greatly appreciate it if you would let me know about any errors.

Also Also: Please share this with people you knooooow! And click the links! CLICK THE LINKS LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT. Sex education is so so SO important, and spreading the knowledge is just one little thing you can do that has so much impact.

The Enemy

What is the deal with (usually older) adults – of every background – getting so worked up about teenage sexuality. I mean, it seems to particularly be parents who are also republican/conservative (unsurprising), but it’s not at all limited to that. I’ve heard adults who are not even parents getting all tied in a knot over teens having sex, or even just teens’ romantic relationships. I’ve seen even some pretty-damn-liberal parents getting all uncomfortable about it.

When are they going to get over it?

I quite often hear adults minimizing and trivializing teenagers’ feelings when it comes to sexuality and sexual or romantic relationships – I hear over and over again things about “puppy love” and “it’s just a phase”. Teens seem to particularly hear “it’s just a phase” about sexual orientation, but it’s not just limited to that. In the past, my long-term relationship (that lasted three years) was sometimes treated by adults like it wasn’t really that serious. Because teens are so fickle and don’t know anything, amirite?

Adults – who, in this situation, tend to be about 40+ years old – seem obsessed with the HORRORS of children learning about sex. They seem to think that if we just cover children’s and teens’ ears and shout LALALA, we’re protecting them. Even though studies have shown over and over again that with more sex education, teens are more likely to put off their first sexual experiences, and/or to be much safer about them.

It’s pretty much taken for granted that republicans are freaked out about teens and pre-teens learning about sex and sexuality – but they’re not the only ones. And even when it comes to the republicans, I really want to know why exactly it is. Why do they think that teens having sex is the END OF THE WORLD? Although they’d probably never admit it, they likely started having sexual encounters when they were relatively young, too. And even if they didn’t, when they did start having sex, the world didn’t end, now, did it. So why are they so convinced that it will for present-day teens?

So, let’s take a second to think about this. The average age of people having intercourse for the first time is between 16 and 17 years old and has been for quite a while (this is a 2002 study but I’ve seen more recent studies that gave a similar average age [excuse me for not having any links, I hadn’t started the blog at the time so I didn’t think to keep track of studies]) But how many of those teens get pregnant/an STI*/flunk out of school/something else that is apparently life ruining? The majority do not. The vast majority of people have perfectly satisfactory lives after having sex, and golly gee, that includes people who first had sex when young. Which really, if you are relaxed and really thinking about it, isn’t surprising. Sex doesn’t ruin most people’s lives?! Who’da thought.

I consider the fact that perhaps a lot of these adults did start sexual activity when they were quite young, and ended up regretting it for various reasons. And they just don’t want their kids to go making the same mistakes. But I don’t think trying to stop/dissuade your teen from having sex is the way to go about stopping them making the same mistakes. Because sex usually isn’t THE mistake – it’s usually the context in which the sex took place that is the problem.

Perhaps these parents, when they first started sexual activity, weren’t really ready for it because they hadn’t learned what it meant to be truly ready for sex both physically and emotionally. Maybe their early sexual activity resulted in an unplanned pregnancy – because they weren’t properly aware of their options when it came to contraception, were not realistically prepared to deal with the potential outcomes (didn’t have money set aside in the possibility of needing emergency contraception, etc), or any of the vast array of reasons. Maybe they did know about contraception but just didn’t take it seriously. Whatever the reason was, none of them are reasons to just try to dissuade teens from having sex altogether, or to try to cut them off from knowledge about sex as “protection”.

The solution to all of these problems is to talk about sex more.

The way to make sure people make as informed, as right a decision as possible, is to give them as much information as possible. So they can weigh the reality of the situation, of their decisions, so it is not some big mysterious mystical thing that they are Totally Rebellious and Grown Up for doing. So that they can know what they’re getting into and can be smart about it and make decisions that they feel are right for themselves based on good solid information. That’s true of anyone at ANY age.

Because after all that, if a teen knows how to be safe around sex – physically as well as emotionally – and are open to having discussions and know enough to make informed decisions… then why does it matter if they do have sex? They have all the equipment necessary. Hell, it’s stuff that not even all adults have. If someone knows all the right stuff and is making a decision they feel good about, the chances of it ruining their life is very, very slim.

Sexuality is just one facet of a person’s life – sexuality goes the same way as any other aspect of life. If teens are given the skills and knowledge required to smartly handle sex, they’re as likely to screw up majorly as they are in any other part of their life. And since most people survive their teenage years… not only survive, but thrive and succeed, it becomes pretty clear that this isn’t a huge issue. Yes, sometimes, especially when young, people make decisions they decide weren’t so great later on, but if someone is as informed around sex as they are around other areas of their lives… the mistakes are going to be of the same calibre, have the same level of implications, as mistakes in those other areas. Which is to say, rarely huge.

And which is also to say, if you’re freaking out this much about the possibility of them screwing up around sex even if they have all the info about it in the world, you’d better also be freaking out the same amount about the possibility of them screwing up in any other aspect of life. Otherwise you’re just not making any sense.

Parents often seem to think that “banning” their teens from doing something will actually… work. Parents “ban” their teens from having sleepovers with opposite-sex friends, or from going to parties with opposite-sex friends, or from going on trips with opposite-sex friends, or from being in their rooms alone with opposite-sex friends or blahblahblah. But banning people from doing things never works. I don’t mean just for teens because hurhur teens just loooove to rebel. This is true of most people at most ages. If you don’t give someone a good reason not to do something, why on earth would they actually listen to you? People are not drones. They don’t just do as they’re told “BECAUSE I SAID SO!” If someone wants to do something, and feels they are ready for it and have all the knowledge necessary, they will do it whether they have been “banned” or not.

“Banning” teens from certain situations that MIGHT POTENTIALLY RESULT IN SEX only closes the door on very important discussions that a parent should be having with their teen. Banning someone from something lets them know that you are not open to having reasonable conversation about it, so they’re not even going to bother. It lets them know that you are not willing to actually give their feelings and thoughts any weight, and you’re not willing to give them the information they need. Which leaves them on their own, to find the information out for themselves – or not, and end up making a bad decision that they wouldn’t have made if you hadn’t closed that door.

What it comes down to is this. Teens are humans. I know, seriously, wow surprising. Teens are not stupid. They can and often do make good decisions. When they make bad ones, it’s usually because they don’t have good information or good support**. And lo and behold, there is an easy fix to this.

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*hey guess what, the high levels of STIs among teens has been linked to abstinence only education. STI rates are lower among people who received good sex ed. Sex ed 1, Ab-only 0

http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/publications-a-z/597-abstinence-only-until-marriage-programs-ineffective-unethical-and-poor-public-health

More resources (referenced in the advocates for youth link):

Kirby D. Emerging Answers: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy. Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2001.

Bearman PS, Brückner H. Promising the future: virginity pledges and first intercourse. American Journal of Sociology 2001; 106:859-912.

Brückner H, Bearman PS. After the promise: the STI consequences of adolescent virginity pledges. Journal of Adolescent Health 2005; 36:271-278.

** having discussions around sex/sexuality can and should include discussions around peer pressure. If parents are supportive and open to having discussions and giving information freely, it absolutely will have an impact on how affected by peer pressure a teen will be. http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/06/16/o-canada-survey-finds-more-teens-model-sexuality-on-parents/26987.html

If you want any more information on any of this kind of thing, the kinsey institute is an amazing resource.

http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/resources/FAQ.html