Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ten of the Best Things You Can Do For Your Sexual Self (at any age), by Heather Corinna

If we look at our sexuality one way, it looks a million times simpler than it actually is. If we look at it another way, it appears a million times more complicated. While it's important that we bear everything in mind we need to in terms of infection and disease, birth control, our relationships, our bodies and the whole works, now and then we need to remember the bare bones and the human element of the thing, and keep the essentials in the forefront of our minds.

Choose yourself as your first partner

We hear a whole lot about who should be our first partner. Most of the time, we're told it should be someone we love and who loves us back, someone committed to us long-term, perhaps even someone we plan to spend the rest of our lives with. I agree completely, because you, all by yourself, have all of those qualities, more than any other person ever can.

It's not abstinence propaganda to say that no one is ever going to know your body like you are, and that no one else is ever going to be able to GET to know your body well unless you do to begin with. Really claiming and recognizing yourself as your first and foremost sex partner is a powerful thing. It equips you with tools you'll need for a healthy sexuality and balanced relationships for the rest of your life: the ability to determine when it's the right time for you to have solo sex (like when you're just plain horny) and when it's right to take a partner (like when you're wanting deeper intimacy, or able to account for another person's feelings and desires). Getting to know your own body and sexual identity through self-evaluation, through masturbation, enables you to find out what you like and dislike physically, to see and feel what your genitals and the rest of your body are like in a healthy state, to discover how your individual sexual response works, explore your orientation and gender identity, and to gauge your sexual expectations realistically.

Flick the switch in your head that says masturbation or self-love is only something we do when we don't have a partner available. Even when you have a partner in your life, you'll discover that there are things you'll do, and responses you'll have, only when you're your own lover. Treat your time alone as special time, the same way you'd rev yourself up for a date with someone else. Sounds hokey, but the truth is that some of the best sex you'll ever have is sex with yourself, and when you do have a partner, sex with them will be all the better for that.

All too often, young men and women -- more often young women -- rush into sexual partnership simply because they think a partner can give them something on a sheerly physical sexual level that they can't give themselves because they haven't become their own first sex partner. And many times, that results in hurt feelings, overly high expectations, and careless treatment of sexual partners, especially when a person just isn't ready for all that sexual partnership requires. All too often, "hormones" are said to be why a teen feels the drive to partner with someone else, but the truth is, your "hormones" and your physical body do NOT know the difference between your fingers and someone else's. Your mind and your heart might, but your clitoris or penis do not. Spending dedicated time being your own lover first helps you be able to know the difference.
And hey: masturbation is the safest sex there is!

Let's talk about sex, baby.

When and if you're sexually active with a partner, communication issues are usually the biggest hurdle in those relationships. If we feel awkward or uncomfortable -- or unable -- bringing up issues about birth control, safer sex, sexual boundaries, sexual satisfaction or dissatisfaction, things we need to be emotionally or physically safe, we not only greatly limit the mileage of those relationships, we put ourselves and our partners in positions which can be very detrimental to all of us. At best, being unable to communicate can greatly limit our pleasure, enjoyment or emotional well-being. At worst, they can get us deeply hurt emotionally or physically, or be the root of an unwanted pregnancy, disease or infection transmission. Being able to talk openly about sex can't just protect our hearts, minds and bodies, it can save our lives.

We can all learn to talk about sex, even in a culture where that is a major handicap. Start simple: talk to friends or family about sexual issues or questions. Learn to ask your doctor when you've got questions or concerns about sexuality or sexual anatomy, even if it feels embarrassing or a little funny at first. And well before you get sexually involved with a partner, start establishing meaningful dialogue about sex: about both of your expectations and wants, about your readiness levels, about birth control and safer sex practices, about how you'll plan to deal with friends and family regarding your sexual relationship, about what relationship model you'd like to build, the works.

Practice a tough talk with a parent, partner or doctor on your own or with a friend. make notes of what's important to you to bring up, and deliver the talk the way you'd like to, no holds barred. if you've got a friend to help, he or she can role-play the other "part" and shoot you some challenges so you can practice dealing with them.

Live in the real world

Honesty, like most things, starts at home: in other words, with yourself. Sex can be a veritable minefield when it comes to game-playing, delusion, manipulation, even when no one intends any of those things. Being willing and able to be honest about your sexuality is your biggest asset when it comes to being happy, healthy and whole in this regard.

Be willing, for instance, to really take a deep look at what you want and what you need, and make choices based on the real deal when it comes to those things. For instance, if you know that you're not entirely sure about a sexual partner in terms of furthering your activity with them, don't shove that feeling in the closet for fear of losing them if you don't agree to what they want. If you know you're questioning your sexual orientation, be clear on that with potential partners.

Assess obstacles you have to honesty, and your fears as to what the outcome of your honesty in a given situation might be. So, if you're afraid to tell a parent you're sexually active, afraid to tell a partner about something you want sexually and aren't getting, or are afraid to come out of the closet if you're bisexual or homosexual, make a list of what scares you about those things, of what the negative outcomes of that honesty might be, and pair it with a list of what the positive outcomes might be as well. Sometimes, just being able to get a clear look at all those possibilities helps dissipate a lot of our fears.

If you know you can't be sexually active without lying to friends and family, put a hold on things until you can be honest about that. If you aren't as into someone else as you know they're into you, let them know, don't lead them on or take advantage. Don't make promises you can't keep: of eternal love (even if it feels that way), of monogamy, of sexual favors you aren't surer you want to, or can, deliver.

Ask for honesty from your partners as well as from others involved, even tangentially, in your sexual life: friends, family, your doctor, and learn to accept that honesty, even when it's not so easy. being in an environment of honesty sometimes means that the people we're involved with tell us what they really feel, rather than what they think we'd like to hear, which isn't always comfortable, but which, both long and short term, is the best thing for everyone.

Break your drama addictions

It's easier than any of us would like to think to mistake high drama for love or passion, especially when we're younger. Most of us are pretty restless in our teens: maybe school is just utterly boring, maybe we've had the same social circle for years, maybe our towns or cities don't offer us much to do, maybe we're just feeling ready to move on with our lives, but can't because of our age. So, it's not at all surprising that when a love affair enters our lives, we're going to be pretty excited about it.

But it's very clear, even just with what we see at the message boards here, that a lot of teens confuse drama with love, affection or real connection. The higher the level of drama gets -- parents disliking a partner, promises of marriage, a profound age difference, even emotional or physical abuse -- the more a feeling of love or passion is interpreted because the emotional stakes are raised and the tension is elevated.

That's not unreasonable, after all, writers have been using that exact same device to elevate their readers emotions for thousands of years. But.

It isn't real, even when it very much feels real. We're simply reacting to those escalated circumstances, and all too often, that drama can keep young couples together, not love or real bonding.

So, when the drama kicks in, try to learn to see it and know that then, more than ever, is NOT the time to leap in with both feet, but to step back and really look at what's going on. To take a break to do that, if need be. To do whatever it is you need to to get a good, solid reality check.

One of the best tests of love, really, is if it feels like love when it's at it's quietest and calmest, not its loudest and most tumultuous.

There's no medal for who suffers the most, especially at their own hand. While there are pervasive messages telling us that we should sometimes stick out bad relationships, the truth is that a lot of those messages are bogus. When the drama reaches Shakespearean levels, instead of plummeting through it, try stepping back just once, by asking for a short break for everyone to breathe and have time to look at the situation from outside of it. That's the sound, mature way to deal with drama in relationships, and in a sound one, that time apart will only have positive effects on it, even if the outcome isn't what you'd like initially.

Be a smartypants

Let's be honest: very few of us, whether we're 15 or 65, can be truly objective when we're head over heels in love or in lust. So, it's a bit of a given that when making sexual choices, we can rest assured that our judgment is bound to be a little colored from the get-go. Being in love, having a crush, and sexual partnership is heady stuff. That's some of why it can feel so nice. Colloquially, some of us call that space NRE, or new relationship energy. It's great stuff, and it feels fantastic (and it should!), but it can do quite a number on our analytical or critical thinking.

It's important to recognize that when we're in that space, we probably need to use a little more caution than usual when making decisions because those feelings can really do a number on our heads as well as our hearts. Other additional factors may also be at play which can impair sound judgment: body or self-image issues, feeling pressured to be sexually active or have a sexual or romantic partner, performance pressures, rebellion or conformity issues, and even simple curiosity.

Don't lose your life when you're in a relationship. After all, if you don't have your whole, own self, you've got nothing to give and share with anyone else. So, even when it's brand-new and shiny, keep on doing the endeavors, like work or hobbies, that have always been important to you. Keep up your platonic friendships and family relationships, and be sure you also get some quality time all by yourself, at least a couple days or nights a week.

So, it's generally sound to assume that we're probably going a little faster than we would otherwise, and so we should be sure to step back inasmuch as we can, and evaluate where we're going, what we're agreeing to, and what we're initiating. Asking for more time to consider something, asking that something going very fast get its reins pulled in for a bit or asking for some physical or emotional space to consider sexual decisions is always, always okay. Asking friends, family or people you value in your community for input and advice is always a good idea, even if you end up disagreeing with what they contribute -- divergent opinions are going to give you food for thought so you can make the best choices for you in the end.

And by all means, handicapping your judgment intentionally from the outset with alcohol or drugs which impair your critical thinking is just never a wise idea.

Start a revolution: stop hating your body!

We live in a culture that is obsessed with appearances, in which lookism and ableism are epidemic. The messages we're sent via our culture and media about our bodies are almost always about how they look or how perfect they should be, and more specifically, how they look to the opposite sex (despite the fact that some of us aren't even interested in the opposite sex, all of the time, or ever). Advertisements for gyms or exercise regimens rarely talk about feeling increased energy, getting sick less often, getting better strength or balance, but all too often, instead work to sell us or trimmer thighs, tighter bottoms, or washboard abdominals because those things fit our current physical ideals of beauty and attractiveness.

That isn't to say we have to ignore how our bodies or faces look. People are amazing creatures, great to look at, and sexual attraction is part of our physical nature. But it's only one part of many. Our bodies enable us to do everything we do each day: to go to work or school, to build cities and cultural movements, to create and nurture families and friends, to live out our whole lives. And the state of our bodies effects the state of our minds: when we're physically healthy, it's a lot easier to be emotionally healthy.

So, take care of your body in every way you can. Give it healthy food, the rest and activity it needs, the healthcare -- sexual and general -- it requires, both preventatively and when you become ill. Don't sacrifice your health or well-being for appearances with fad diets or starvation, with obsessive focus on physical perfection, with conformity to ideals which not only may not fit you, but which change almost as often as most of us change our underpants.

And understand that when it's right for you, be it by yourself or with a partner, sex can also be part of honoring your body, whatever it looks like, however it works. If any sex you have with someone isn't about your bodies just as they are, it's not likely to feel very good or leave you feeling very good about yourself.

Let's also look at body and self-image. It always feels good to have someone we're attracted to or in love with tell us we're beautiful or sexy or wonderful or smart or perfect.

While that can make us feel fantastic, that can't replace feeling those things about ourselves first, nor can having someone else tell us that make us feel those things about ourselves. It's not pop psychology or bullshit to say that self-image is just that: from the self, about the self. It can only start and end with you.

Having a boyfriend or girlfriend can make us feel great about ourselves, and having sex can make us feel great about our bodies. But if we aren't already there, or at least part of the way there, on our own, if something starts to go wrong with our partnerships or our sex lives, what made us feel great about us can turn and start to make us feel terrible instead because we've put much too much stock in those things creating positivity in us we need to have all on our own.

Screw magazines that tell you to focus on what you'd like to improve about your body. Heck, if you've got one, burn it. If you've got health issues to deal with, or need to make some healthy changes in terms of what you're eating or not getting enough activity, do that. But your body is not a home-improvement project. Most of it is perfect as-is, right now. So, document that. Sit down and make a list of all of your favorite parts, and write down why they're your favorite. Maybe you like your eyes because they're aesthetically beautiful, or your legs because they get you where you need to go. If you need extra help when it comes to appearances, instead of comparing yourself to fashion mags, get some pictures of your relatives, as far back as you can go, if they're available to you. In them, you're going to find your arms, your hair, your face -- you can discover where a lot of you came from and see yourself a bit differently when you're looking at you in someone else.

Some studies or philosophies have put forth that young people, especially young women, who are sexually active suffer from low self-esteem in ways those who are not do not. The usual assumption made about that premise is that sex, especially sex when you're young, must be bad for you, but I'd posit that that isn't so. Instead, what I've seen a lot of over the years is young people who seek out sex or sexual partnership to try and fill a void in terms of self-esteem or positive body image reinforcement that already exists before they seek out the sex, and then most of them discover -- alas -- that the sex or boyfriend/girlfriend doesn't fill that void and get even more depressed and self-hating, thinking something must be wrong with them.

It's not, I promise. We're all going to spend decent parts of our lives on our own, without sexual partners or spouses, living by ourselves, being by ourselves. And when we ARE in relationships, for them to be healthy, we need to be sharing, not just doing all the taking or all the giving. So, it's important that we really can stand alone; that we can love and accept our bodies whether or not anyone else shows attraction to them at any given time. That we can love and accept ourselves, even on the days, weeks or months when no one says anything good about us, even when we get negative feedback instead. To be able to do that, we need to have value in ourselves when we're not in relationships or sexual partnerships; things we enjoy doing be they work or hobbies, a sense of body love that isn't just about how our bodies look or how perfect they are, but about how they feel and what they enable us to do with our lives each day.

Honor your feelings

Sometimes, it takes a lot of tries before we meet someone whose needs and wants are the same as ours. Because of that, it's tempting to try and compromise things we really shouldn't compromise, like limits and boundaries, relationship models we know we don't want or can't deal with, or sexual velocity that is just too fast.

Sure, part of any relationship is compromise, but we should not and cannot compromise our essential character or nature, nor what we know we need in a relationship to participate in one healthily and happily. If we find we're sticking in a relationship where we know our partner wants things we can't or don't want to give, for instance, we're likely not honoring our feelings, perhaps because we don't want to hurt them, or because we're afraid of being without a partner, or because we just don't want to make a huge mistake. But, you know, in relationships that are right for everyone, we can safely voice our feelings and work with them, and we need to be able to do that to be in good relationships. Most of us adults have been in relationships where we've voiced deeper feelings than our partner felt, or asked for more than they could give, and that's resulted in a split we didn't want. Or, we've had to tell a partner they were asking for more than we had available and either pull away from the relationship or take it back a few paces. While at the time, none of that is ever fun, in hindsight, we'll all know that was best for everyone. As well, most of us have happier tales of honoring our feelings that brought about far better outcomes than we would have had had we not voiced our true feelings. Sometimes, when you love someone deeply and tell them, they tell you -- and mean it -- that they love you just as much back.

Keep a couple running lists of wants and needs when it comes to what you can give yourself, and wants and needs in relationships (and don't make the latter list when you've just started a new relationship -- you'll end up tailoring it to fit the person you're currently with without even meaning to). Divide the essential needs from the nonessential, but desired, wants, so you can get a good idea of what you can and cannot compromise. If you hit a sticking point with yourself or someone else, pull out the lists and take a look -- you can then get a good, objective look to help you honor your feelings, even when it's hard to do.

A big part of honoring your feelings is being able to first look at them and recognize them yourself. So, take a good look at them, even if they're not so realistic. If you have a good idea of what they are, in a given situation or in general, you're ion a better place to honor them, to see how they may or may not be creating obstacles, to get a good idea of what you really want and need so you'll be able to recognize when those needs can be met and when they can't.

And while we're at it, don't talk yourself into a situation that isn't really right for you, especially when it comes to casual sex. That isn't to say that casual sex can't be okay for some people sometimes, because it can. But much of the time here at the Scarleteen community, we see people clearly talking themselves into believing they're okay with no-strings-attached or friends-with-benefits scenarios when they truly want more than that, but have convinced themselves to settle for less because they feel it's better than nothing, or think that sex with someone casually will make that other person develop romantic feelings after all. Bzzzt. What you don't want isn't better than waiting for what you do want, and sex can't change anyone's real feelings. To boot, saying you're okay with casual sex to a partner suggesting it when you know you aren't in your gut makes YOU the bad guy for being manipulative and dishonest, not them for wanting less than you do.

Don't try and use sexual identity as your whole identity

Part of our development in our teens and twenties is seeking out and discovering our self-identity. It's why it's not uncommon for teens to be very enthusiastic about something one month that's completely forgotten the next. A little embarrassing when we have to backpedal sometimes, but it's all normal, and we've all been through it (some of us way more times than we'd care to admit).

So, it's also not unusual to do the same with sexual identity.

Sexual identity, is, by it's nature, fairly fluid. While some portions of our sexuality are at least somewhat fixed, like our sexual orientation (whether we're attracted to men, women or both/all gender), parts of our gender identity as well as some of our preferences, many aspects of our sexual identity will develop and shift all through our lives. So, while your sexual identity is an integral part of who you are, there's never any hurry to claim or label it, nor is it a good idea to make your current sexual identity your whole identity -- because when it shifts and evolves -- and it always will -- you may find yourself feeling utterly lost in terms of knowing who you are. As well, sex is only part of our lives. If every part of us is completely wrapped up in it, we're likely to miss out on other equally enriching and fulfilling parts of our lives.

Who are you, besides so-and-so's girlfriend/boyfriend or Jane or John, queer or straight person? Jot it down, and make note of what accompanying activities you engage in to support all those other aspects of your identity. Are you a musician? If so, how much time are you getting to play and practice? Are you a good friend? Spent much time with yours lately? Are there aspects of your identity that keep getting shoved on the back shelf, even if you would really like to explore them? Look at your time during the week, and carve out some for those parts. Sex is great, and having a partner equally great, but if we aren't more than our sex lives or sexual identity, not only are those aspects of our lives going to peter out fast, the rest of our lives are going to seriously suffer for that.

Become a sexpert!

Obviously, no one needed a book to figure out how to put Tab A into Slot B when it came to sex. If they had, none of us would be here today, because our eldest ancestors certainly didn't have The Joy of Sex hidden under a straw pallet in the back of the cave. So, while there are some things we don't need books or media for -- and some it's best we learn on our own anyway, like discovering what a partner finds pleasure in -- there are others we do. We live in a different world than our hunting and gathering forebears. We have longer lifespans, different and more complex health issues, we choose not to procreate, we have factors in our lives and culture that make our relationships more complex. As well, we simply know things now we didn't back when that really can benefit us, like understanding how our reproductive cycles really work, how disease or infection may be spread, like that our sexual or gender identity doesn't have to be what is prescribed for us.

So, dig in and educate yourself! Hit the library or the net and read up on your body, the body of your partner if they're opposite sex, on safer sex practices and disease and infection news, on birth control options. Fill your mind with material to help you start to evaluate things like orientation and gender identity, the quality of your relationships, and your own wants and needs when it comes to sex and sexual partnership.

Get yourself one good sexuality or sexual health book as a primer from your local bookstore. Chances are, it'll cost you less than a CD or two, and it'll be a lot more valuable. Some good basics to have on hand include The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex by Anne Semans and Cathy Winks, Our Bodies, Ourselves by The Boston Women's Health Collective, The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex by June M. Reinisch, The Whole Lesbian Sex Book by Felice Newman, The Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein and Felice Picano, Deal With It! by Esther Drill, or Scarleteen's amazing and fully inclusive sexuality guide, S.E.X.

Do yourself a favor, though, and be selective with that media. Look for sources that offer you real information, not salacious tips on how to bring someone else to orgasm or how to achieve firmer breasts. On websites and with books, look for mentions or endorsements by credible organizations or resources in sexuality and sexual health. We get enough garbage and misinformation on sex from television, movies and popular magazines as it is -- none of us needs any more of that gump.

It truly is best to educate yourself about sex and sexuality BEFORE you leap in headlong, especially with a partner or partners. All too often, people only start educating themselves during or after a crisis (such as a pregnancy scare, an acquired STI, or being physically or emotionally hurt during sex), and while late is always better than never, in advance is always better than after the fact.

Most of all...

... don't forget that sex and sexuality are supposed to be pleasurable and bring you joy and richness. So many of the messages sent out to young people are about the dangers of sex or dating, are about saying no to sex based on very general and arbitrary ethics that may not be your own, and make sex out to be the Big Bad, when really, it doesn't have to be. If you aren't ready for sexual partnership, then no, sexual partnership isn't going to be right for you right now. But even if you try something out and discover it isn't, it's unlikely to cause you lifelong trauma. We all err sometimes; we learn, we move on. We're an adaptable species like that.

Your sexuality is yours to have, explore and enjoy even all by yourself, and yours to share with partners, when and if you're ready and willing to do that. When you respect it and you, it's a wonderful part of who you are, one that has the power to enrich your life and make you feel physically and emotionally great. And it can be great responsibly and healthfully: a lot of the time, we plop sex and adventure into the same pile, and assume that for sex to feel great, it has to be risky or we have to feel "naughty" doing it, and that just isn't the case. In fact, it's reasonable to say that if our culture could ditch a lot of the taboo and shameful attitudes it has about sex, the whole lot of us would be a much healthier people, physically and emotionally.

So, if you're engaged in sex in any way that makes you feel bad, stop and look at that. Sometimes, sex can be disappointing, either alone or with partners, that happens the same way any aspect of life can be disappointing or just plain lame. But if that's the case continually, it's time for a change, be that by splitting from a partner, pulling back on something you're doing or asking for things you want but aren't getting, taking better care of your sexual health or spending more time getting to know your own body, reevaluating your sexual identity or taking a break from sex altogether for a while. If you can't feel or experience the joy of sex, then it's just not worth doing. And when you can? Let yourself enjoy it. That's what it's there for.

To sum up?

1. Be your own your first partner, before anyone else.
2. Learn to talk openly about sex.
3. Be honest. For real.
4. Ditch the drama.
5. Use your best judgment.
6. Respect your body and yourself.
7. Honor your feelings, even when it sucks.
8. Be your whole self, not just your sexual self.
9. Further your sexual education.
10. Enjoy yourself and your sexuality.

 (Source website for the above: *here*)

THE OTHER FACTS OF LIFE, by Radical Feminist Pearl Cleage: the violence and sex talk your parents never had with you

[image is from here]

I have hoped for years that what follows would one day be online, available for all to read, inspiring all who do to read much more of Pearl's wisdom. Finally, I have found it @ **. And it is copied below, so one version of it will live here as well. It's taken me too long to bring in Pearl Cleage's words of wisdom to this blog. I've referenced her a few times, noting especially that she has provided me with the best definition of sexism I've ever read. And one day I'll type and put it up! For now, listen up, please. Sister Pearl is about to address you. She tells it as it is, and she tells us what we need to know in a society in which men can and do commit violent acts against women and girls, including rape.

For me, her guidance is in the category of "watch your drink closely when at a bar" or "don't walk outside alone at night if you can help it". This doesn't blame women for what happens to an unguarded drink or a late night stroll. What men do is men's responsibility, 100%, no excuses. And no woman is ever responsible for a man's actions. And, given that we live in a world in which men behave in predatory ways, in disrespectful and harmful ways to girls and women, it is sometimes necessary to offer counsel on how best to steer clear of situations men often take advantage of to employ coercion and force to obtain physical access. Such a list of situations can never be complete. Men find too many routes of violating access to girls' and women's bodies, in ways known and unknown to those violated. But this is one talk I wish my parents had had with me when I was eleven. It would likely have saved me from being sexually assaulted, had I really taken it to heart as something very serious I need to know.

This is Sister Pearl's Wisdom. This is 'the talk'. It's not the only one needed, but it's a damn good one, imo. It is a portion of Pearl Cleage's book Deals With the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot Ballantine (1987), Reprint edition (July 1994)


by Pearl Cleage

These are the other facts of life. The ones your mother probably didn't tell you because she didn't want to scare you. What she didn't realize was that being scared isn't the most terrible thing that can happen. Being unprepared is much worse.


In America, they admit that five women a day are killed by their husbands, boyfriends, ex-husbands, ex-boyfriends or lovers. That doesn't count the women killed during random rapes, murders, robberies and kidnappings.

In America, the main reason women are ever hospitalized is because they've been beaten and tortured by men. More than for childbirth. More than for cancer care. More than from heart attacks.

In America, thousands of women a day are raped and/or tortured and abused by men in as many ways as you can think of, and probably a whole lot more you haven't thought of, and don't want to, including beating, shooting, scalding, stabbing, slapping, shaking and starving.

The facts indicate that we are under siege, incredibly vulnerable, totally unprepared and too busy denying the truth to collectively figure out what to do about it. Men beat and torment and rape women because they can. They're usually bigger and physically stronger and they've structured a culture that condones absolutely the possession and control of women by any means necessary.

All this puts us at a tremendous disadvantage, especially since our group is usually fragmented and disorganized. We can't depend on each other for protection yet, and won't be able to until we admit to the problem and then learn something about self-defense. Until that happens, individual knowledge of how to recognize and get out of dangerous situations is crucial to our survival.

All men are capable of abusing women, no matter what they tell you or what they call it, so don't kid yourself about this one or that one being different. It takes years of love, work, and trust to eliminate the probability of violence in relationships between men and women. Don't think you can rush the process because you wish you could.

Don't trust any male strangers. They are guilty until proven innocent. Don't accept rides, favors, gifts, free advice, or compliments from men you don't know. Strangers are always dangerous and friends can be, too, when they are angry, frustrated, confused or crazed by a sexist desire for possession and control of you. (The section on Basic Training has a working definition of the word "sexist" if you don't already have one.)

Learn to recognize these ten early warning signals as a way of anticipating violence in order to avoid it if at all possible:

1. shouting, hollering, excessive cursing, name calling, sarcasm;
2. finger pointing or fist waving, especially in and around your face;
3. arm or wrist grabbing or twisting;
4. throwing or breaking things;
5. hitting his head or his fist against walls, tables, steering wheel, etc., or reckless fast driving;
6. threatening to do violent things to himself, you, your family, your friends, your children;
7. indicating that he has a gun or other weapon;
8. bringing up past arguments or wrongdoing for which he holds you responsible;
9. following you, spying on you, questioning you, your whereabouts or your friends, male or female;
10. locking doors so you are trapped in a car or house and can't leave whenever you want to leave.

If any of these signals occur, stay focused and alert. Do whatever you can to defuse the situation (short of having a sexual exchange, which is rape) and leave by yourself as soon as possible. Always have cab fare/bus fare/train fare and change for the telephone in your purse. Your life may depend on it.

If this happens in your own house, you should still leave until you can be safe there. Take your children if you can. Go to a friend or a relative. Go to the police station. Go to a fire station (there will always be someone there awake and on duty). Go to a hotel and call for help from the lobby. Tell somebody you need help until you get it.

Violence is never justified. It should never be forgiven. Apologies and pleas for forgiveness should fall on deaf ears. If a man beats you/hits you/shoves you/slaps you/torments you once, he will do it again. Cut him loose.


Review the facts at the start of the last section on violence. Let yourself think about them and feel what they really mean to each of us. Keep them in mind while you think about rape.

Rape is a crime of womanhating and violence. It is not a crime of passion or a sex crime.

The victim of rape is never, never, never responsible, no matter what she was wearing, where she was walking, what she was doing or who she went out with, had a drink with, married, kissed, flirted with or lied to. Bad judgment and carelessness are not punishable by rape.

No rape is ever justified and no rapist has an acceptable reason or excuse. Ever.

To protect yourself against being raped by strangers:
1. Secure the place you live with your choice of burglar bars, alarms, dogs, alert neighbors, good lighting and/or a gun you are licensed and trained to use.
2. Always lock your car doors and be alert to men on the street when you stop at intersections.
3. Learn to change a tire quickly. Practice doing it in the dark. Don't run out of gas.
4. Try to wait for the bus with a friend or neighbor or coworker especially at night. Avoid waiting or getting off at places where groups of men gather. (Bars, labor pools, shelters, liquor stores, basketball courts, pool halls, etc.)
5. Try not to walk alone at night, but if you have to, walk in the middle of the street so you are in the light and away from the buses and alleys. Keep your hands free and carry Mace.
6. Check for men lurking in underground parking lots, empty buildings and vacant lots.
7. Don't ever accept rides with strangers or men you don't know well enough to trust absolutely.
8. Be conscious of the kinds of clothes that men say make them think we want to be raped by them. These include tight pants and sweaters, very high heeled shoes, short skirts, halter tops, see-through clothes, etc.
9. Stay in shape so you can run if you need to run.
10. Practice hollering as loud as you can so you can make a big noise if you are attacked.

To protect yourself from being raped by men you know:
1. Never be alone with a man you don't know well and trust absolutely. This takes time. Trust your instincts. Take responsibility for setting the pace and structure of the relationship. Remember the violence warning signals.
2. Don't park or drive in isolated places with men you don't know well and trust absolutely. Whenever possible, take your own car on first dates and drive it yourself.
3. Don't flirt or accept flirting behavior if you're not interested in having sex within the next few hours.
4. Don't go to apartments, houses or hotels with men you don't know well and trust absolutely.
5. Scream and fight back when the first unwelcome sexual approach is made and you realize what is happening. Trust your instincts. If you think it's happening, it is happening. Don't wait to protest. Holler. Loud. A "friend" or "date" is less likely to want your noise to draw neighbors, family, friends, police, etc.
6. Don't go out alone with groups of men that you don't know well and trust absolutely. Evaluate each member of the group individually. The men you know well should always outnumber the men you don't know well. Ask yourself why there are no other women there. Ask them the same question.
7. Don't watch highly sexual movies, read sexually exciting books or magazines, or talk and tease about sexual things with a man you don't intend to have sex with in the next few hours.
8. Don't kiss and hug and fondle a man you don't intend to have sex with in the next few hours.
9. Don't drink, get high or fall asleep around men you don't know well and trust absolutely.
10. Don't allow any physical contact that you do not initiate, appreciate and fully endorse.

If you are as careful as you can be and you are still attacked and/or raped, don't panic. Stay alert. Focus on staying alive and unhurt. Try to remember everything you can about the rapist, the location, the circumstances. As soon as you can, get to safety. Call the police. Call a woman friend to come and be with you. Call your doctor. Call the rape crisis center.

Remember that you are the victim and don't take any shit from anybody.


Sex is a powerful and basic drive meant to insure the survival of the species. In order to help insure that we Do It, sex can also be pleasurable when it is a voluntary exchange between equals. But sex is not exempt from the madness that is everywhere between men and women. In fact, sex is usually the most volatile and misunderstood battleground of all.

Remember when you think about sex that men often use it to express power, control, womanhating and violence. Phrases like I knocked the bottom out of it, and I fucked her brains out are the norm, not the exception. Even worse, sex and female sexuality have been tainted, consciously or unconsciously, by male misinterpretation.

Don't be fooled into imitating what you see in the movies, on TV or read in the books that crowd the bestseller lists. Trust yourself. Learn your body. Listen to it. Touch it. Figure out what feels good and what doesn't. Don't confuse pain and pleasure. If it's hurting you, it shouldn't be pleasing him.

Take complete responsibility for birth control. Of course, in the best of all possible worlds, men would share equal responsibility for birth control, but, realistically speaking, they won't take it as seriously as we do. They can't get pregnant.

Take complete responsibility for safe sex. Protect yourself against AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases by always carrying and using your own condoms.

Don't fake pleasure, excitement or orgasms. There is no excuse for it, no end to it, and no way to justify it. Whenever you find yourself considering "faking it," ask yourself why and who benefits from such bullshit?

Most of the ways people get together sexually fall into three categories: mating, making love and having sex.

is the conscious coupling of two people with the agreed upon intention of having a child. It is the only kind of sexual exchange that can only occur between heterosexuals. "Agreed upon" is the key phrase here. If both people don't agree, the energy won't be in sync and the kid will suffer for it. Also, tricking somebody into bearing or fathering a child when they haven't agreed to it is low down and unfair.

Making Love is communicating sexually on a high physical, mental, emotional and spiritual plane with someone you know, respect, love, trust and desire passionately. Hold out for this kind of sex if you can. Although it is almost impossible to achieve in the midst of the current crisis, it is worth the wait.

Having sex is the catchall description of all the other sexual exchanges that occur and it has several subcategories:
1. Lustful sex--this is a purely physical response to another person. Nothing wrong with it. Be careful about safe sex and birth control. Lust cares nothing for public health questions so plan ahead and come prepared. Lust also gets careless about safety, so review the sections on Rape and Violence.
2. Sympathy sex--nothing wrong with this either, except it is often misinterpreted. If the person is so depressed or distraught or disillusioned that sex is the only way you can think of to cheer him/her up (this is your idea, right?) then this person is probably in serious need of an anchor, an angel, a savior. What was meant to be simple sympathy sex often ends up with messy misunderstandings on both sides. Avoid it if possible and take your friend out for a cup of cappuccino instead.
3. Angry sex--a commonly made mistake, especially in long-term relationships where there isn't enough breathing and pacing room. Don't do it. This kind of sex encourages you to use your sexuality in a way that ultimately denies you pleasure and twists your spirit. This kind of sex may also trigger male violence and female depression. Don't do it.
4. Friendship sex--this can be all right, but it must be controlled by you absolutely. There is a tendency for men who like you to become possessive and controlling once you begin to have friendship sex. Don't act like it's cute when it happens and don't indulge or reward it with more sex. If you value the friendship and you see this happening, stop all sexual activity immediately. Explain why and be unshakable in your decision not to resume sexual relations. Good friends are hard to find.