Feministing Consent

Intelligent. Funny. Bold.

Or perhaps-

Brave. Transformative. Youth-oriented.

Well unfortunately I can’t find a three-word sequence that can adequately capture the success of Feminsiting. It’s no easy task; Feministing has been a cornerstone in politics, media, social change, and furthermore has unified them all together in an extraordinary way. Plus, like consent, they have been making their impact one word at a time.  So perhaps the three-best words to describe them would be: positive social change.

I had the honor of having a word with some of Feministing’s members about the connections between the media and sexuality as well as their personal outlooks on intimacy. The honor continues as I get to share those words with you today.

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The Consensual Project: How are current events shaping the way people communicate about sex? And, if possible, once you’ve connected the current event to consent/sexual communication, would you provide a way of approaching the topic during intimacy?

Samhita Mukhopadhyay, Executive Editor (pictured left): When it comes to sex, the mainstream media determines everything. If the initial question covered in rape cases is whether it was rape because she was drunk or was dressed like a slut, young people internalize the message that if they engage in certain behaviors they don’t deserve consensual sex, but instead deserve to get raped. It sounds horrible when you spell it out like that, but if you listen to the average person talk about sex it is laced with these horrifying assumptions about consent and sexual assault.

For example, when Ben Rothlisberger was accused of sexual assault, fans came to his defense with the usual lines about how women accuse powerful men of rape because they want money or that one of his victims bragged about the sexual encounter. By turning a blind eye to the relationship between power and consent, they are ignoring the very different ways women respond to sexual assault. The story people want to believe is that our heroes don’t fumble (for lack of a better term) and would rather accuse the accusers to be guilty of lying. It was later found out that he was a total creep with very questionable intentions with women and someone who probably doesn’t know consent from his asshole (sorry).

Chloe Angyal, Editor (pictured center): The recommendation from the Institute of Medicine that birth control be covered, with no co-pay, by insurance companies, may well change the conversation around birth control in a number of major ways. First of all, I think you can expect a major challenge from conservatives and anti-choicers, those in elected office and those who aren’t. “Free birth control” doesn’t usually go down too well with those folks, and I’m anticipating a loud, slut-shamey national conversation around the issue. But on an interpersonal level, if the recommendations are followed and birth control is suddenly more affordable, I think it’s going to change the proportion of straight women who are on birth control, and the way that they talk about that with their partners. Personally, I like to split the cost of birth control with my partner, partly for financial reasons and partly for political ones, and I know I’m not the only one – so I’m curious to see if the lowered cost of BC is going to cause a shift in people’s sexual relationships.

goddessjaz, Contributor (pictured right): I was just reading this news story about Amber Rose and her personal nude photos that were  leaked. She had some nude photos of her masturbating on her laptop, and  one of her former assistants leaked them causing her to lose some of her modeling gigs and endorsements. People were saying that she leaked them for attention, were calling her a slut, etc. But she came out saying that she is a mom, and that losing these endorsements affects her livelihood and ability to take care of her family. Clearly, she wouldn’t have done that on purpose knowing the  potential professional problems it could cause. What also bothers me is that the people dismissing her as a slut were  the same folks looking at and admiring her photos…but she made them for her personal use with her man. I know she is not the only woman to  have done this. She (especially as a former exotic dancer) knows that nude photos are viewed differently than masturbation shots in the arbitrary continuum of “acceptable” sexual expression. It is another example of slut shaming and the hypocrisy/confusion around sexuality in our society. People want to consume this material but at the same time they denigrate the woman who is sharing her body. It communicates shame around bodies, sexuality and sexual expression. This is just one of many examples of this happening to female pop culture figures (Rihanna, Vanessa Hudgens, etc.).

I think this also highlights the importance of trust and communication with your partner. The rules are different now especially for young people with sexting, social media and Youtube. If a woman and her partner are going to take sexually explicit  photos/videos, then they must have open communication about what type of usage is acceptable and who can see or access them. It’s important to  have these conversations in this digital age whether or not you’re famous.

TCP: To explore your personal experiences with consent and sexual communication- what was the sexiest thing ever said to you?

Samhita: It’s hard to say the sexiest thing ever said to me, since I’m not really one for one-liners and there is a good chance that if a guy tried a line to get in my pants, I found it profoundly unsexy. The sexiest things ever said to me by potential sex partners have more to do with their political ideas about gender and sexuality–which to me has always laid the groundwork, well, to get laid. I guess the sexiest thing ever said to me is, “oh yeah, Feministing is my favorite blog.” Just kidding. OK, not really kidding.

Chloe: I’m going to cheat on this question a little bit, because it wasn’t actually said to me. When I was in college, I was part of the Eating Concerns Advisers, and we ran a campaign where we made a “beauty board.” We went around the school asking people to answer fill in note cards with the phrase “Beautiful is…” written on them, and then posted all the cards on a bulletin board in the student center. One of them was so good that I stole it off the board at the end of the semester and kept it, and it’s now stuck up on my wall above my desk. It reads, “Beautiful is…. When a smart girl makes a knockout comment in class.” I love it because it reminds me of the incredible feeling of coming across someone who makes you think about something in a totally new light, and who challenges your beliefs, not in a confrontational way, but in a way that adds to your understanding of an issue. Someone who makes you feel smarter simply for having had a conversation with them. When you have brain chemistry like that with another person it can be such a turn on. And it totally contradicts the idea that smart girls aren’t sexy, or that guys are intimidated and turned off when women reveal themselves to be intelligent. Brain boners for everyone!

goddessjaz: I guess I look more at actions than just words, and it depends on who it’s coming from and the context. It’s also changed over the years…where now I appreciate intimate conversations with a partner over raunchy sexual banter with lovers. I would say the sexiest thing said to me most recently was (and I’m paraphrasing): “I want to learn more about/understand what’s going in your brilliant mind.” Swoon. I’m an Aquarius. It’s also not just about the words but the sincerity of what’s said. As someone who often expresses through body movement, I can appreciate someone really wanting to get to know my mind: all of the light, shadow, and in between.

On a broader level, as a burlesque dancer, it’s sexy as hell when someone truly compliments and respects my art and expression. It’s not just because it appeals to the ego (though it does, let’s be real) but the idea that my vulnerability on-stage stirred up someone’s emotion or passion makes me want to create and share even more. Performing burlesque has been one of the most sex positive experiences because although I’m naked and being “tantalizing” and often cheeky; I’m also telling a story, not with words but with movement. Most people really get that and don’t step to me with some ignorant pick-up lines or
foolishness. The best is to hear women tell me that I have inspired them to want to creatively express their sexuality, whether through burlesque or other avenues. Empowering each other to be free is sexy!

Please visit feminsting.com to find out more on sexuality, politics, feminism, and more!

Written by Ben Privot on August 15, 2011