“Captivating” Review: 150-169, “Arousing Adam”

adam and eve

I’m skipping a chapter because it’s titled “Beauty to Unveil,” and I’m not critiquing what they have to say about beauty again. I’ve already spent Three. Bloody. Posts. on it. I’m done talking about it, and how I wish they were done talking about it, too. When I was talking to Handsome about Wild at Heart, he mentioned that John’s book is also completely obsessed with beauty, as one of the things that is apparently essential to John’s version of Manning Manliness Manhood is “pursuing beauty.”

The reason why this is going up today instead of yesterday when I normally post my Captivating reviews is that I threw the book across the room three times and I couldn’t make it all the way through the chapter. I really just wanted to burn it. So, today’s post might be just a touch … fractured, as I’m really just trying to get through it in one, non-furious piece.

The chapter starts off in a decent place: you can’t get your fulfillment from other people, even your romantic partners. I agree with that. I don’t necessarily agree that personal fulfillment can only come from God, but I still think it’s an important point to make that you can’t rely on your partners for your sense of identity and well-being. We’re supposed to love and support each other, but we can’t be the end-all-be-all of our partner’s happiness.

However, the chapter slides into a disaster immediately after they make that clear, because they spend the entire time telling women that the core parts of what being a woman is– softness, tenderness, vulnerability, beauty– are all there in for the express (and only!) purpose to “arouse Adam,” to inspire men, to be their Muse.

The question before us is, how does a woman best love a man? The answer is simple: Entice him. Inspire him. Allure him.

Through the rest of the chapter, Stasi and John demonize any women they think aren’t alluring enough to men, or who don’t try to be alluring, or who don’t think that being alluring to men is important. We’re a bunch of emasculators who “make their husbands pee sitting down” (161).

But what made me want to burn this book (sigh … again) was the section when she’s using Enchanted April as an illustration to talk about a “desolate” character named Lottie:

She is not harsh– just shut down from years of living with a selfish, domineering pig of a man. She looks like a whipped puppy, rushing to please him in any way, not out of love but out of fear and some weird idea of submission. She is depressed . . .

Desolate women don’t seem at first pass to be all that emasculating. They don’t attack or dominate. But neither do they allure … The lights are off; they have dimmed their radiance. A man in her presence feels uninvited. Unwanted. It’s a form of rejection, emasculation to be sure.

Burn everything. Burn all the things.

I’ve never seen Enchanted April, but what’s described here sounds like an abusive relationship . . . that’s caused by Lottie being a desolate woman who is emasculating her husband, thereby making him feel unwanted– according to Stasi.

That section is followed by this:

There are men out there who are not safe and good men. Some of you are married to men like this … How do you love them? With great wisdom and cunning.

Uhm … no No NO NO NO. You divorce him.

The next two pages are Stasi sounding exactly like Helen Andelin (“It was a brilliant trap, well set,” because women should “cunningly” ensnare their husbands with manipulative traps), and then she relates a story about “Betsy” who was married to a “verbally abusive man” who was an elder, “mean,” who “villainized her to their children, their church.” But what did Betsy do– and what all women in her situation should do? She “didn’t seek divorce”; instead she:

invited him to feel the weight of his consequences … She fasted and prayed … She gave him many tastes of what life could be like together …

ARGH GABLARG.

50 Ways to be a Person

red heels

So Caitlin Leggett wrote a piece titled “50 Ways to be a Woman.” Here’s my reaction. Warning: there is a lot of swearing.

1. Practice whatever grooming habits that feels right to you and keeps you feeling good and healthy. Sensitive skin? Don’t fucking care about shaving? Whatevs! Being a person isn’t about conforming to what American culture says about the state of our pits, crotch, and legs.

2. Dress however you want. Horizontal stripes? Rock ‘em. Booty shorts and cropped tops? Leather mini skirts and fishnets? If you feel good, wear it! Being a person means that you get to choose what clothes you wear. You can pay attention to social context, jeans at the opera and a bikini to a job interview might not be the most appropriate thing to wear for that, but you do what you want.

3. There’s no such thing as “timeless fashion staples.” Buy the clothes you like, and if they’re not “in style,” well, “fashion” is nothing more than a cultural construct, and you can change that.

4. If someone did something nice for you, say thank you. Being a person means being polite when the occasion calls for it. If you’re the kind of person that likes saying “thank you” through the mail, do that. Text and e-mail work, too.

5. Being a decent person means trying to do something good for your world. Have a mental illness or physical condition that means you can’t leave your house? No worries! Every little bit counts, including simply loving the people in your life.

6. Sadly, being a person means that we’re going to have to spend money. Learning how to keep track of it …. might not be a bad idea.

7. Give a giant fuck-you to the people who want to shut you up.

8. Have a stance on something but you encounter someone that says that your stance is hurting them? Take the time to re-examine it. Be flexible, but honest.

9. Want an education? Awesome! Want to go to college? Just as awesome! Think that college is a complete waste of time or you don’t like the idea of a $100,000 debt or simply couldn’t afford it? That is awesome, too.

10. Like drinking and getting wasted with your friends and don’t give a shit about the judgy people who think you shouldn’t drink? More power to you. Being a person means you get to decide what you do in your own damn time.

11. Wear whatever fucking shoes you want. Walk in them however you fucking want.

12. Know how you want to be treated, and don’t tolerate people who’d treat you like shit. If you want doors held open for you? That’s great. Tell the person you’d like to do that for you, and see what they think. Don’t like the idea of having your chair held out for you? Who cares? Oh, right. Judgy people.

13. Do what you have to in order to take care of yourself. Trust is a worthy risk, but if you trust someone and they hurt you? Not your fault. They’re the dick. You’re the decent person who trusted someone not to be a dick.

14. Handle confrontation however you need to in order to remain healthy. Need to rant and rage because there are some seriously fucked up things in your life? Go right ahead.

15. Use social media however you fucking want. Your bosses (or future bosses) might be super-judgy people, so there’s that.

16. People need help sometimes.

17. Talk on the phone however you and the person you’re talking to would like.

18. People should be nice.

19. Your faith journey is your own. It can be shaken, and doubt is ok.

20. Blatantly defy gender norms for sport. Because that shit is fucking awesome.

21. People should be good losers when the defeat is justified. If you’re being beaten down by an oppressor, don’t put up with that shit.

22. Be whoever you want to be. If you’re being honest with yourself about who you are, it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks about it. Unless you’re an ass. Don’t be an ass.

23. Know what you’d like in a partner, or if you even want one.

24. You’re awesome.

25. Sit however you fucking want.

26. Have whatever standards you want. If they need to be adjusted, adjust them.

27. Do what you want with your time. What you like to do will probably change over time.

28. Follow the laws of your country. Break other rules if you feel like it.

29. Don’t lie about people, and try to be nice. People should be nice.

30. Being a person is enough for you and anyone else.

31. If you think college might be a good place to find your partner and you’d like a partner, do it. Also think about getting an education while you’re spending all that money.

32. Outwardly reject society’s conventions of your gender if they differ from your personal convictions and identity. 

33. People are going to say things about you. If it’s shit, ignore it. 

34. Laugh if you want to. Don’t feel like it? Don’t do it.

35. Find beauty if you can. If it’s not something you have the strength to force yourself to do today, then don’t.

36. Try to be happy if can, and fuck anyone who thinks being ‘attractive’ matters.

37. Take care of yourself.

38. You get to decide what you want to do with your life based on your opportunities and abilities, because reality is a bitch sometimes.

39. Ditto.

40. Respect your fellow people. 

41. Do not feel ashamed of your gender identity. Present your gender however you fucking want.

42. Do things for yourself when you can. Don’t be ashamed to not know how to do something.

43. Money, is sadly, hugely important in America. Pay attention to it.

44. Do not be afraid to say no. Or yes.

45. Do not blame yourself if you are manipulated by someone. They’re the asshole who manipulated you. Now you know they’ll do that to you.

46. Become an advocate for other people, including women, trans people, LGB people, disabled, and people of color.

47. If someone makes you feel inferior, they’re an ass. Don’t be ashamed for feeling put-down. You are entitled to your feelings.

48. Be a decent human being.

49. Things change.

50. Respect yourself, whatever that looks like. If it means ignoring this list, then that’s what you need to do.

pro-life fictions: Frank Peretti’s “Prophet”

prophet

Today’s book review is from a guest writer, who has asked for his name to be withheld because his family is still staunchly pro-life.

In 1992, Peretti published Prophet, a novel about a mostly-agnostic news anchor who receives prophetic powers passed on from his fundamentalist religious father. The novel attempts to address a dizzying host of the usual conservative evangelical issues, such as environmentalism, gay rights, liberal media bias, consumerism, public education, medical malpractice, academic dishonesty, and even rock music. It’s also subtly racist. But the primary focus of the book is an assault on women’s rights in general, particularly abortion.

The protagonist, John Barrett, is a successful lead news anchor whose father embarrassingly insists on holding public protests against abortion. The story centers around the re-election campaign of pro-choice, pro-environmentalism, pro-education, pro-gay governor Hiram Slater, whose secret corruption and ties to unsavory characters make it clear that he is The Bad Guy. Following his father’s murder by the governor’s hencemen, Barrett receives his father’s prophetic gift and begins seeing visions and hearing voices.

As the story unfolds, it is revealed that multiple teenage girls have died from botched abortions at an “assembly-line” abortion clinic, and that numerous individuals are complicit in a wide cover-up. Barrett’s liberal supervisor tries to keep the story from breaking, but the truth comes out: Governor Slater’s own daughter Hillary was killed by the abortion clinic.

Gay rights advocates deface and vandalize a Catholic church, then hold a protest of the Church’s position on condom use the next day. The liberal media refuses to cover the vandalism, but happily covers the protest. The protesters are presumably “shown up” when Barrett receives a prophetic revelation that the leader of the gay rights group has hundreds of sexual partners and doesn’t use a condom… which apparently means that all criticisms of the Catholic position are baseless. It’s an appalling strawman of gay rights that fits very well with the extreme fundamentalism view: gay men are sex-obsessed, hypocritical, and willing to engage in violence in order to punish those who disapprove of their life choices.

The book constantly also goes to great lengths in trying to paint the media as corrupt, biased, and misleading. Inexplicably, Peretti devotes several large sections to arguing that basic broadcasting techniques like scripted questions, green screens, planned establishing shots, and talking into a teleprompter are somehow “liberal” and dishonest. Nearly every chapter contains a detailed description of one of Governor Slater’s re-election ads, painting liberal campaign advertising as manipulative and controlling. The television station receives revenue from the campaign ads and therefore skews its reporting in favor of Slater. It’s heavily implied that journalistic neutrality is impossible: that journalists are either “on the side of the truth” or otherwise liberal and biased and complicit in fraud.

But most egregious of all is the book’s portrayal of women’s health services. Pro-choice advocates are consistently shown taking every sort of immoral, unethical, and illegal steps in defense of their ideology. They pay off, intimidate, and threaten witnesses, provide tip offs to give other advocates the chance to destroy medical records, badger parents, obtain interviews under false pretenses, falsify records, start fights in order to smear pro-life protesters, and even hire hit men. They manipulate the facts and stonewall investigations. People searching for the truth are arrested, maligned, fired, and attacked. It is implied that women who have had abortions either find “forgiveness” and become fiercely pro-life, or they are consumed with guilt and shame and will go to any lengths to defend abortion from criticism.

The abortion clinics themselves are painted as dark, foreboding, unsavory places focused only on fast profit. Early in the story, a clinic worker lies to a patient and tells her that her pregnancy test came back positive in order to pressure her into having an abortion. Girls are badgered into signing consent forms they haven’t read and pushed through the process against their protests. Everyone who talks about the clinics mentions the screaming of terrified girls and the shouting of impatient doctors. It is stated repeatedly that the clinics try to do as many off-books abortions as possible to evade taxation and reporting requirements. Anyone who has had an abortion talks about how pressured they felt, how angry and bitter the staff seemed, and how much pain the procedure left them in. Clinic staff members are portrayed as uninformed, uncompassionate zealots who are only concerned with completing as many procedures as possible.

The following quotation, given by the “expert” Doctor Matthews who performed the autopsy on the governor’s daughter Hillary, very clearly demonstrates the book’s overall portrayal of abortion clinics.

You have to realize, abortion clinics aren’t like your typical family practice. They’re under tremendous pressure from two sources: money and fear.

On the one hand, abortions are lucrative; you can bring in a lot of money in a short time with minimum effort. The more abortions you do, the more money you make, so the natural inclination is to do them as quickly as possible and cut corners if you can. You get the procedure down to just a few minutes, you get an assembly line going, and you don’t hire RNs to help in the back rooms because they get too pick about procedure, sterilizing the equipment, sanitation. All that stuff takes time, and you can have some thirty girls waiting in line …

On the other hand, you’ve got the intense political pressure over this whole issue, which makes you circle the wagons all the tighter to protect yourself from intrusion, discovery, regulation, standardization. If you slip up, the last thing you want is for anyone to know about it, least of all your peers. There’s also an unwritten code out there: you don’t snitch—you don’t make trouble.

That’s the pro-life view of abortion clinics, of abortion doctors, of women’s health workers, and of women who get abortions.

I first read Prophet several years ago, and I believed all of this.

It’s easy to understand why rank-and-file members of the pro-life movement are so opposed to abortions when these fictions are taught and accepted as fact. Re-reading now, and recognizing what I’ve learned about women’s health in the past few years, I was incredibly appalled. More than that, I was saddened. All these lies provide the foundation for “conservative values” in the evangelical community. The amount of misinformation is staggering. It’s just a shame.

Like this novel.

hormonal therapy: medical treatment and birth control

Close-up of birth control pills in two plastic tablet dispenser cases

On Monday, Rachel Held Evans ran “Why I Use Birth Control,” which featured my story with ten other women. What I wrote for her focused on the fact that I use the NuvaRing to manage my PCOS/endo and painful periods. I focused on that part of my story for a few reasons; first, it’s the only reason I’ve really had to use the NuvaRing up until recently, and second because the time in my life when I couldn’t afford it and had a cyst rupture was extremely relevant to what’s happening with the Hobby Lobby decision.

However, I’ve been married for a year and a half, and both I and my husband would prefer not to use condoms, especially since I’m allergic to latex and the non-latex options tend to be more expensive. We don’t have to, fortunately, because I have hormonal contraception that I tolerate fairly well. This reason is also important to talk about, because I don’t want to have children right now. I’m not even sure I want to have children at all, and I figure as long as we feel that way it’s probably a good idea to wait.

Handsome and I are in the position where having a child would be fine if I unexpectedly became pregnant. It would interrupt a lot of our plans and I wouldn’t be happy having a baby so far away from our families (I grew up away from my extended family, and I don’t want that for my children), but unlike Darlene Cunha, having a baby wouldn’t send us spiraling into poverty. But … we really don’t want kids right now, and we’re lucky that our health insurance covers the NuvaRing.

Jessica Valenti argued in The Guardian that “women like sex” and asked us to “stop making ‘health’ excuses for why we use birth control,” and she has a point. I want to have sex and I don’t want to have a baby: hormonal contraception is the perfect option for me, and I shouldn’t pretend that’s not at least half of the reason why I use it, and why I would continue using it if my PCOS/endo miraculously disappeared. The fact that most of the women who shared their stories on RHE’s blog focused on taking hormone therapy for medical reasons instead of as contraception also received some criticism, and I believe that is valid. If I could write my section again, I’d include “not wanting to have a baby” as one of the reasons why.

Conservatives, especially conservative Christians, the Religious Right, and the Christian fundamentalism that is so deeply integrated into the culture that Hobby Lobby is a significant financial supporter of are completely horrified at the idea that women might have sex without “consequences”– because that’s all a baby really is to them, a consequence and a punishment for a woman enjoying her sexuality outside of male control. They have no right whatsoever to assert their patriarchal system onto me and make my sexual choices for me, but oh do they ever desperately want to. For that reason, I believe that Valenti is right– saying “oh, but virginal, good women need BCPs for medical reasons!” isn’t going to do much when the conservatives and social regressives are obsessed with controlling what a woman does with her body.

However.

I don’t think we need to stop talking about the legitimate medical reasons why a woman or trans man might need to use hormonal therapy. It’s not a “health excuse”– it was the only thing that allowed me to function for the bulk of my life. And, personally, I am horrified that so many “Christian corporations” (I’m still in shock there is such a thing now, the whole idea is so essentially anti-Christ) are willing to sacrifice the health care of their female employees because of a completely unfounded belief about how hormonal contraception functions. That so many women desperately need hormonal therapy doesn’t affect them. Conservative Christian culture could not care less about women, and this proves it.

Conservative Christians want to make sure that women are punished, controlled, and enslaved by their uteri, and they are willing to sacrifice the health of every single woman who needs hormonal therapy to do it. They do not care about me, about the millions of other women like me. My pain, my suffering, means nothing to them when compared with their “deeply held religious belief.”

That’s why I think we need to talk bout both. Women deserve to think about if and when they want to have children, and they also are people with a specific medical need that deserves treatment options. That conservative Christians want to refuse us both says more about what their priorities are more than anything else– and loving Jesus and his children isn’t among them.

Update 7-17-14: Some have asked what I’m referring to when I say “conservative Christian.” Here on my blog I have chosen to use the terms “traditional theology” or “Protestant orthodoxy” to refer to theological conservatism, and distinguish between that and the theology of fundamentalism and evangelicalism. “Conservative Christian,” in the context that I have chosen to use it, refers to religiously-motivated social conservatism, as typically defined by socially conservative (and usually evangelical) Christians. If you identify yourself as a conservative Christian but you do not agree with those who would deny women necessary medical treatments and procedures, than the statements I’ve made here do not apply to you; feel free to disregard.

“Captivating” Review: 113-129, “Romanced”

romance

We’re halfway through the book! Also, Handsome is in the middle of reading Wild at Heart, and he’s putting his thoughts on it into a post, which I am pretty excited about. I read through some of his marginalia, and I think you all are going to enjoy what he has to say.

On today’s chapter, I think it would have gone a lot better for Stasi if she wasn’t so dismissive of feminism and if gender essentialism weren’t buried so deeply into all of her assumptions. There was a lot I enjoyed about this chapter, however; this is probably the chapter that I enjoyed reading the most because there was a lot in it that I think people need to hear more often. Basically anytime that someone dedicates an entire chapter of their book to how much God loves us, I’m going to be at least somewhat happy with that.

She does say a few things that I think deserve to be highlighted, though.

A woman becomes beautiful when she knows she’s loved … Cut off from love, rejected, no one pursuing her, something in a woman wilts like a flower no one waters anymore. She withers into resignation, duty, and shame.

Honest moment: that Handsome tells me, almost on a daily basis, that I’m beautiful hasn’t exactly hurt my ability to see myself as beautiful when I look in the mirror.

However, I am insulted that Stasi apparently thinks that I was ugly before I met him. She rushes to assure us that we don’t need to “wait for a man” to be beautiful– that God loves us, so that can make us beautiful, too!

Just … ugh.

The interesting thing about this section is that she pulls from pop culture– movies, like she usually does– to make her point, and one of the examples she chooses is Tulah from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. That’s one of my all-time favorite movies, so I was amused when Stasi got it so epically wrong. She says that Tulah’s beauty was “released” by the “power of romance,” except… that’s not what happened at all. She got sick of her life going nowhere, living under her patriarchal father’s roof, and decided to educate herself. She starts going to college, changes her job, and that’s when she starts seeing something different in the mirror. She owns herself and who she is and what she wants, and she goes after it.

But nope. Not according to Stasi. It was totes falling in love that did it.

What would it be like to experience for yourself that the truest thing about [God's] heart toward yours is not disappointment or disapproval, but deep, fiery, passionate love? This is, after all, what a woman was made for.

Ok, so I see where Stasi was going with this: God made us so he could love us. It’s a pretty typical evangelical thing to say, and it’s a somewhat pretty idea. However, I disagree with this point of view because of what it says about God, because it turns him into Pygmalion. For example, there is the possibility for me to become pregnant, and I would be “making” another person, after a fashion. If the only reason I had a baby was so that I could have something to love, that’d be … well, in my opinion, that would be supremely selfish. But, that’s frequently something evangelicals say about why God made us.

Later, Stasi draws on the story of Mary and Martha, where Jesus says that “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” Stasi argues that the “one thing” Jesus is talking about– the one thing Mary chose– is a “captivated, adoring heart, a heart that responds to the extravagant love of God with worship.” I feel that Stasi is doing a little bit of eisegesis here, since it’s incredibly convenient for her if that’s what Jesus meant– however, in verse 39 of Luke 10, the passage says that what Mary was doing was hearing his word. What’s notable about that was that Jesus welcomed a woman to hear his teaching, which was unusual, not that Mary was “captivating.”

The last problem I had with this chapter stems from Stasi’s inability to see how our Christian culture functions because she dismisses sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny. At one point in the chapter she is encouraging women that they matter because “women minister something to the heart of God that men do not,” and while that’s more gender essentialism, the real problem I have with this is that Stasi has to fall back on patriarchal gendered stereotypes in order to tell women that they matter while simultaneously denying the way that conservative Christian culture has utterly subjugated women.

I don’t matter to God because of my ability to fit into gender roles. I matter to God because I’m a person.

She closes out the chapter with this paragraph:

The culture of women in the church today is crippled by some very pervasive lies. “To be spiritual is to be busy. To be spiritual is to be disciplined. To be spiritual is to be dutiful.” No, to be spiritual is to be in a Romance with God. The desire to be romanced lies deep in the heart of every woman. It is for such that you were made. And you are romanced, and ever will be.

And while, yes, those are lies I’ve heard preached from a lot of pulpits, to separate those lies from the context they belong in means that you’re not going to be fixing the actual problem. Women are told that they need to be busy, disciplined, and dutiful because they are women, and are told that deviating from these things means that you can’t be a “true, godly, feminine women.”

I am sure that many men are told that traits like “discipline” are how one demonstrates spirituality– I’ve seen it happen. However, Stasi is divorcing these lies from how they are delivered to women, and women only.

Women are told to be ‘busy’ by being a “keeper at home” and occupying herself with homemaking and child-rearing. Women are told to be ‘disciplined’ so that she can maintain her youthful vigor and looks, to not “let herself go.” Women are told to be dutiful by “submitting in all things” to the “priest and king of her home.” Stasi is ignoring how these lies take shape in the life of Christian women because she can’t afford to– because admitting to that could eventually lead to her realizing that gender essentialism is inherently damaging.

And the next chapter is . . .

“Beauty to Unveil.”

Sigh. Again.

Buffy, Xander, and consent

buffy xander

So I’ve been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the first time, and I’ve made it most of the way through season two. Yesterday I got to “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” and I have thoughts.

Quick summary:

Xander wants revenge on his ex-girlfriend for dumping him at the Valentine’s Day dance, so he blackmails a witch into making a love potion so he can reject her. The love spell backfires, and every single woman on the show becomes completely obsessed with him to the point of violence, including Buffy. When Buffy comes on to him, Xander says this:

It’s not that I don’t want to. Sometimes the remote impossible possibility that you might like me was all that sustained me. But not now. Not like this. This isn’t real to you. You’re only here because of a spell. I mean, if I thought you had one clue what it would mean to me . . . But you don’t. So I can’t.

At the end of the episode, Buffy thanks Xander for not taking advantage of her, and the implication of the whole conversation is that Xander is a really, really great guy.

Ok, so . . . problems.

Marti Noxon– who has written for Mad Men, Prison Break, Grey’s Anatomy, and Glee– wrote an episode structured completely around the idea of consent. And while I appreciate what she was trying to do, I think the episode failed mostly because of this particular line of dialog. Xander ultimately rebuffs Buffy not because it’s the right thing to do because he knows she would never do this willingly and she’s incapable of giving consent, but because it’s not what he wants– because she “doesn’t know what it would mean to him.”

Essentially, the episode is one gigantic metaphor for drunk sex, and Marti is arguing not good, don’t do it. But the reason why she says it’s not a good idea isn’t because you’d be a rapist for using alcohol to overrule consent, but because don’t you want someone to want you for you?

Which, ok, that is a valid question. I’ve asked it here. It’s one of the ideas behind getting enthusiastic consent– the sex you should want is sex where they want you. But the reason why having “sex” with someone incapable of giving consent is wrong isn’t that oh, they’re not really into it, but because it’s rape. If Xander hadn’t said no, he wouldn’t have been “taking advantage” of her, he would have been raping her, and I don’t think the episode showed that– at all.

Marti, the directer, and Joss Whedon all had a fantastic opportunity with this episode. They could have brought in the idea of bystander intervention with Giles, they could have shown how rapists aren’t the mysterious monsters hiding in dark corners and that ordinary, likable people like Xander are capable of rape.

Instead, they spent the entire episode focusing on how all of this made Xander feel. It recenters a conversation that should have been about consent and rape back onto how does this make the man feel, when the focus should have been look, see, this is how you don’t rape people.

Update 7-13-14: I would like to add that my thoughts about this episode do not only stem from Xander’s comment in the quoted portion– as some have noted, that Xander is an immature jackass is not new territory for the show. What makes this episode so poorly handled (in my opinion) isn’t only Xander’s behavior, but the way the writers chose to have the other characters respond.

At the end of the episode, Cordelia is flattered that Xander wanted to overrule her consent– she thought it was sweet and romantic. One could argue that this is in character for Cordelia, and I would agree. However, simply because these behaviors are consistent with the way a character has been written does not mean they are not open to critique and analysis. That Cordelia’s character has been written in such a way to be flattered by an action that is, essentially, an act of violence and sexual aggression is part of a larger cultural narrative, and we see it in other places– Gale from The Hunger Games, Edward from Twilight, Noah from The Notebook, and Four from Divergent are all thought of as “sweet” and “romantic,” even though some (or many) of the actions they take are coercive or abusive. Women are told on a daily basis that aggressive, manipulative, consent-violating actions are to be interpreted as “sweet” instead of the gender-coded micro-aggressions that they are.

Also, Buffy’s reaction at the end of the episode is to thank Xander for not taking advantage of her– the implication of the entire exchange is that Xander is just an incredibly awesome gentleman, and he is so wonderful and deserves all of the cookies. The problem with this is that Xander does not deserve any cookies at all. He wanted to take away a woman’s ability to consent and remove her free will. He also does not get a cookie for not doing something illegal. He does not deserve to be rewarded– which, he ultimately is by “winning Cordelia”– for not raping Buffy. The fact that the writer structured the “thank you” this way implies that if Xander had, in fact, raped Buffy, it wouldn’t have been thought of, or portrayed, as rape. He just would have been “taking advantage” of her.

what is virginity?

My new video is up!

I wanted to thank everyone who donated to the GoFundMe– because of you, I was able to improve the sound quality for this video. I looked at my Nikon D3100 and saw an AV jack, and assumed that it would work as a mic imput. Turns out … nope. So I looked at recording the audio separately, but there was no way to do that without at least quadrupling the time it took me to edit (or shelling out for semi-professional video editing software, which WOW is a lot of money). So, because of your generosity, I was able to buy a Canon camcorder that can shoot in HD AND HAS A MIC INPUT WHICH IS ACTUALLY DIFFICULT TO FIND.

I might have gotten a little frustrated during that process. Possibly.

Also, thanks to you, I was able to buy a whole bunch of purity culture books, including Dannah Gresh’s And the Bride Wore White, which apparently is where the “vaginal tearing and bleeding is a sign of the marriage covenant!” idea was popularized. And, when I started researching “virginity” I realized it was a lot more complicated than I thought– and I already knew it was complicated. So I was able to just boop download Virgin: The Untouched History, which I highlighted the crap out of because so many interesting factoids! … that ended up not going into the video, but they were fun to learn.

In short, I am having a blast doing these videos.

Any feedback is much appreciated, and, like always, nothing I do could be successful without your help. If you use social media, any share would be very much appreciated.