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Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Walk of Shame























     



Congratulations ladies!

For the low low price of $34.99 you can walk home from a night of potentially fabulous sex without anyone knowing! I can't tell you enough how things like this just drive me up the wall. I know on the surface it might look like a great idea, but this stuff is more detrimental than you might think.

Here's how I look at it, and of course I welcome any discussion around the topic. Why is it called a walk of shame? Why is it shameful to look like you just had sex? Why don't men get a walk of shame kit?

I'm just sick of this notion that we should be ashamed of our sexuality. There shouldn't be anything wrong with walking home with your hair a mess, makeup not super tidy, and in a party dress that is clearly from the night before. Rather than shaming women for having sex celebrate it, or better yet don't make a big deal of it at all. I've seen this concept time and time again, this idea that's it's ok to make fun of a woman for having slept with someone.

 Have you seen that 90s movie, Sorority Boys? Here's a clip from a scene where after a night of partying a girl leaves this guy's dorm room after having spent the night with him. All the frat brothers line up down the hall, and chant to shame her. Why is this ok?



The point of the matter is, women are shamed no matter what they do, it's the Madonna-whore complex. First coined by Freud, it's the concept that men can only marry the virgin. But if she chooses to remain a virgin till marriage, she's the woman who's cold in bed and unlovable. He may lust after the women he sleeps with,  the woman who decides to have pre-marital sex, but he can never marry her because she's too easy. He might conflate love with lust but he would never stoop so low as to marry the whore. Women can only be one or the other, and they're shamed either way.

Part of what I've learned in my time as a support worker is a concept called Sex-Positivity. Be proud of your sexuality, no matter what it is, and accept others for theirs. I think waiting till marriage is a great idea, if that's what you want. Wanna have sex prior to marriage? Go for it! Be safe, be open in your communication about likes, dislikes and make sure you discuss boundaries and STIs and testing and there you go. In fact I'd apply this to anyone having sex, pre marital or otherwise.

Women don't have to be the Madonna or the whore, they can be both if they so choose. Slut shaming is a concept we need to re-think in this society and I hope this post helped to provide a little insight.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Disabilities and Sexuality

 
  This is an article my wife Sandy forwarded, which was published yesterday by The Canadian Press and appeared on the CP24 website in Toronto. The link is here, Leila and I make no claim to ownership of this material.
 
 
File Photo (AP Photo/David Goldman)

  People with disabilities face any number of challenges, but perhaps the most insidious is society's unspoken belief that they are somehow asexual beings -- neither wanting nor able to express that most universal of human needs.

  It is a notion decidedly debunked by the film "The Sessions," based on the true story of a man paralyzed by childhood polio and mostly confined to an iron lung, who at age 38 longs to experience sexual intimacy for the first time in his life.

  The poignant story of writer-poet Mark O'Brien, played by John Hawkes, and his carnal awakening under the tutelage of a sex surrogate portrayed by Helen Hunt, should go a long way to dispelling the myths surrounding physical intimacy and people with disabilities, advocates say.

  "The big one is this idea that people with disabilities are not sexual -- not only that they literally cannot have sex, but also that they're not sexually desirable and that they don't desire sex," says Cory Silverberg, a Canadian sexuality educator working in New York City.

  Silverberg says the tendency is to view sex as two people sweeping each other off their feet, "and certainly not between two people where one person might actually have to lift somebody onto the bed, because that's not seen as sexy."

  Unfortunately, he says, such stereotypical thinking gets absorbed by those whose physical abilities may be limited, sometimes severely, by any of a range of conditions, among them spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis.

  "Often people with disabilities will say 'I'm not going to come to your workshop because I've never had sex, I'm not sexual.' And of course, that's not true. That's just a result of a lifetime of being told, but not explicitly.

  "The trap is you begin to think that it's just you."

  Surrounded by images of leggy models and A-list celebrities that shape society's definition of sexual attractiveness, it's no wonder people with disabilities struggle with body image and are sometimes reticent about physical intimacy, says Sandra Mills, a patient and family educator at Toronto Rehab's Lyndhurst Centre for spinal cord injury.

  "When stereotypes and prejudices exist already and then you try to connect that with a disability, it makes it challenging for a person who acquires a disability to re-engage in a physical world, in a world of dating and socializing," she says.

  Rich Vanderwal, 41, says his self-image took a severe blow after a motorcycle crash 20 years ago left him paralyzed below his armpits. He has mobility in his arms and hands but is reliant on a wheelchair to get around.

  A ski and snowboard instructor during winter and a lifeguard in summer before his accident, Vanderwal admits much of his identity had been built around his athletic ability and once-buff physique.

  "I was known as the guy who took my shirt off and I had abs. I was proud of them because to me that was a sign of fitness and, of course, sexuality and all those things."

  Despite his life-changing injury, Vanderwal has continued to embrace sports, playing high-level wheelchair tennis, downhill ski racing and rowing. Last year, he competed in an Ironman half-triathlon using special equipment.

  He also put himself out there in the dating world.

  Vanderwal says he always had a lot of female friends "and as luck and circumstance would have it, I started to become more intimate with these people who were already close in my social circle."

  "That gave me a chance to kind of investigate what might be possible and my new comfort levels and how my new body was going to handle different situations."

  Then he met Carole Chebaro, at the time a volunteer at Lyndhurst, where Vanderwal works part-time. They started off as friends, then began dating. Six years ago, Vanderwal and Chebaro married.
Early on in their relationship, Vanderwal says he worried about whether he was meeting all of Chebaro's needs. "But it's very clear that I could meet some of the important ones."

  The couple hopes to soon start a family.

  Vanderwal says he has tried medications like Viagra and can have intercourse "to a certain quality," but for the most part orgasm is not through intercourse and is "modified and different now."

  "There's no actual physical sensation, but all the chemical changes within the body still go on. I still get the flushing of the face, there's that euphoric feeling and certain relaxations."

  One welcome reaction is a quieting down of persistent muscle spasms, a common repercussion of spinal cord damage. "A lot of my spasticity, which is there 24-7 -- literally my spasticity is firing off every 15 seconds all day and all night -- after orgasm that's gone for a good hour. I'm completely relaxed," he says.

  The ability to move or feel sensations below the site of a spinal cord injury may be lost or disrupted, depending on the extent of damage, explains Mills.

  Even so, people with such injuries can "absolutely" experience sexual intimacy, she says.

  "A lot of times, the person will develop new erogenous zones above the level of injury. So people will report that their ears and the back of their necks or their nipples are so sensitive, like crazy off-the-scale sensitive, that it sends them into an erotic tailspin.

  "It actually can trigger an orgasm in a different sense. Orgasms are half mental. So the orgasm comes from these erogenous zones, but happens in the brain."

  Gratification also often comes from satisfying the partner without a disability, adds Mills. "It's in seeing the joy and the relief and the orgasm in their partner that really brings out a whole new sense of meaning to that intimate act."

  For Anita Kaiser and her husband Bobby, sexuality is all about intimacy, not intercourse.

  In 1996 at age 24, Kaiser suffered a spinal cord injury in a car crash that left her a quadriplegic with some arm movement. The Richmond Hill, Ont., couple had been dating for about six years and married three years after her accident.

  Sex raised a number of difficulties: Kaiser has what's called autonomic dysreflexia, a response by the body to stimulus below the injury site that can cause dangerously high blood pressure, a slowed heart rate, even seizures.

  As well, her husband was hesitant about sexual intimacy because of her loss of sensation and movement. "It felt weird to him. He felt almost in a sense that he was taking advantage of me. It's like, 'I feel it and therefore I'm getting pleasure, but if you don't feel it, you're not.'

  "We just chose not to be sexually active in that sense and our activity was more focused on intimacy -- just more the closeness and the cuddling and affection and that sort of thing."

  Many people, Kaiser suggests, are surprised that an able-bodied person would even consider being in a relationship and physically intimate with a partner who has a disability. "In some cases, they think people with disabilities would only be with other people with disabilities.

  "And that's another big misconception: people don't realize that people with disabilities can actually get pregnant and have kids and be parents, and be very successful and capable parents," says Kaiser, whose four-year-old daughter Olivia was conceived through insemination with her husband's sperm.

  Vanderwal says while the body may change with a spinal injury or as the result of a disabling disease, one's likes, dislikes, interests and desires remain intact.

  "It doesn't matter what body you're in. Your mind and your thoughts, it's a natural process to have attraction and want to share that sexual energy with somebody else.

  "So it's perfectly normal and it should be expected from everybody, not just the healthy, good-looking Hollywood-type people that are in our society."

Sunday, 18 November 2012

A Greater Understanding- Tears (Part 2 , Supporting Others)







Leila's experience:  


  Crying, it's interesting all the different ways we have to express ourselves. As you learned in Barry's post, crying can mean a wide variety of things. Tears have various chemicals to determine that. But what do you do when someone's crying? How do you react? What do you say?
 
  I thought I'd share some of my experiences and support work training to bring a different angle of insight into tears and crying. Have you ever handed someone a tissue when they're crying? Seems pretty standard right?  When someone cries, a lot of the time we as supporters have a natural inclination to hand them a tissue, out of that need to comfort. Well according to feminst support work philosophies, you don't necessarily have to. It seems many people don't always want a tissue, for some it means you want them to stop crying when they still feel they have more to release. So what do you do instead? It's about open communication, asking them what they would like. "I want you to know it's safe to cry here" "It's ok to cry" "Do you need anything from me?". For one person it might be a hand to hold, for another, they might need a hot cup of tea to relax.
 
  One of the most important things I've learned from being a support worker is that, not only is it about keeping that person seeking support  feeling safe but making sure to keep yourself in check as well.

  I remember the first time I supported someone face to face, he told me the story of how he was sexually assaulted and he started to cry, blaming himself. All I wanted to do was cry with him but I kept myself in check and remembered that it wasn't about that. So I asked him what he needed, and he just held my hand as I explained to him that nothing he did could have made that incident his fault. Same thing for all others I've supported. I make sure to create a space that's safe for a person to let go and I do my best to ensure them that the self-blame they're facing isn't unique and that they're not alone in their experiences.

  When it's all said and done with, there are times when I've had myself a little cry as well. I give myself love, and I take care of myself and these emotions. I know that I love what I do and I wouldn't change it for the world, and crying is and always will be a very basic characteristic of human nature.

Friday, 16 November 2012

A Greater Understanding- Tears

  

I wrote this post on my last blog as part of the "Greater Understanding" series.  Leila and I will be continuing this series on different topics, if you have any suggestions we'd love to hear them. ~ Barry


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  Crying. We all do it, for many reasons and through all stages of our lives. But it's not something we seem to talk about much is it? I did a little reading into the reasons behind tears; what I found was pretty interesting and I thought you guys might think so too.  So here we are (I skipped over the twenty-five letter chemical and hormonal names to keep it from sounding too dry).

  Okay.

  There are three basic types of tears. Basal tears help keep the cornea wet and nourished. Some of the substances in this fluid fight against bacteria. Reflex tears result from irritation of the eye by foreign particles, or by reaction to irritating substances such as onion vapours or direct sunlight. They attempt to wash out any irritants that come in contact with the surface. In the 1980s Dr. William Fey (a researcher at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis) determined that reflex tears are composed mainly of water (98%), where emotional tears also contain the stress hormone prolactin. Pretty straightforward so far right?

  The third kind, Emotional (weeping) tears, are what I was most curious about. This type of crying is generally brought on by strong emotional stress, mourning, physical pain or suffering. As most of us know it can also be brought on by extreme happiness. It's a necessary biological reaction triggered by the body to release toxins. In addition it evokes that "feel good" factor we need after a good cry. Emotional tears contain more protein-based hormones, including a natural pain-killer, than basal or reflex tears.  Among these are endorphins, the same hormones that are released during intense physical exercise or sex.  Which explains why some people cry after experiencing orgasm.

  The sight of someone crying triggers protective instincts, drawing us to them to help and provide comfort. Therapist Marisa Peer said, "Our need for and ability to offer protection, sympathy and empathy play a crucial role in crying." Crying is an attention-grabber, as babies know all too well.

  This dates back to the early days of the human race, when men would go off hunting and leave their women and children behind. Since they were on their own, the women required a natural "signal" if they needed help (some say this may explain why most men aren't as open about expressing emotion and are generally less comfortable crying in public than women). This is something that's been biologically ingrained in the sexes over thousands of years.

  People generally feel better, usually more relaxed, after a good cry. Even though it's often done under stressful or traumatic circumstances, crying is a significant way to release stress and is an essential reaction for our emotional health.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Bullying


  

We realize this is a long post but it's a subject we both feel strongly about. 


Barry: 

  Bullying has become somewhat of a hot topic in the news lately. I have mixed feelings about this only because of the events that have brought it to the forefront, most notably the death of Amanda Todd, the fifteen year old girl who took her life after being repeatedly harassed by "friends" and classmates. It's sad it takes extreme situations like this to bring bullying to the public eye, and there have been too many people like her who saw no other way out. But it has opened dialogue, which I think can only be a good thing. 

  Growing up I faced several bullies. I never went looking for these people. In early grade school there was a kid in my neighbourhood whom I referred to as my 'enemy', I can't remember much about him but he was intimidating and I often felt I had to look over my shoulder. Bullying was never talked about back then, I don't think the term even existed the way it applies to kids today. Although it was upsetting at times, in my mind it was something everyone just goes through. When I was in my early teens my family moved to a new neighbourhood, before we were even unpacked I met two more boys who decided to intimidate the new kid. I had a problem with them in the beginning but it didn't seem to last long. The school I went to at that time was Catholic with a French school on the same grounds (having two next to each other is only asking for trouble). One of the kids from the French school began picking on me and it was at this time I began fighting back, we had a few scraps and I got the better of him. I figured that was the end of it until the following day when he showed up with another kid as his 'bodyguard'. They both harassed me on and off for the rest of the year.  

  In high school, once more I had run-ins with another bully. Joe was just an angry kid and seemed happiest when he was throwing his weight around with some of the students. We had a few shoving matches in the hall, it never developed into a fistfight but it did dampen my enthusiasm for school. It all came to a head in Chemistry class one day when he began spitting rolled up bits of paper at me through a straw. I gave him a few looks but he kept doing it. Finally I jumped up and yelled, "Fuck off Joe!!" as loud as I could. My teacher told me to settle down and I remember saying to her, "If you won't do anything about it I will".

   Fast forward thirty years.

   After running my blog for some time I began getting bold comments, all seemingly from the same anonymous person. Initially I laughed them off, I have a high tolerance for anything crude or sexual and found them funny at first. But when this person began making references to my wife the tone changed and it was clear their intent was to harass. My first reaction was to call them on it but I knew it would only make the situation worse. Instead I changed my comments to moderated and said nothing, either in response to them or by post. Eventually the comments stopped.  

  What I've experienced in my life is nothing compared to what many children face. It's hard enough being harassed by one or more people, but when kids don't have the support of adults in their lives who are supposed to look out for them it only adds to their feeling of desperation. I don't think there's one easy solution to the problem, but I believe it starts with awareness. Bullying is either more common these days or we're just hearing about it more, either way it's not something that "just happens" and we can't simply accept it as "kids being kids". Bullying is a form of mental, physical and/or emotional abuse and it's devastating to people of all ages who endure it, especially youth in their formative years whose self-perception is based largely on acceptance from their peers.  

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Leila:
     
  I think one of our biggest problems is that basic assumption that if we ignore it, it'll go away. Amanda Todd tried to do this, she tried to run away from it, start over but with the advent of Social Media like Facebook, she couldn't ignore it, she couldn't run away. One of the things that saddens me the most is that what she experienced is no different than what a good chunk of teens face in high school. If this was a workplace the bullying would be called harassment. So why does it become simplified into nothing more than a childhood experience that everyone must go through when it involves the exact same behaviours, (if not worse) on school grounds. 

  What bothers me the most I think, is that no one does anything till people die. I was going to say, till people get hurt, but seeing as bullying is inherently violent people are hurt by it every day. I think that at the end of the day it's not about some grand gesture or the government creating legislations, it's about learning to talk to youth about what it means to treat other people with respect. Parents need to be communicative with their children, praise them when they've done something positive for another person and not only reprimand them but talk to them when they've harmed (either verbally or physically) another person. Schools need to have strong anti-bullying policies that are reinforced by the teachers. One of the hardest things to face as a school aged youth, is going to an authority figure who's supposed to help you and does nothing. 

  I remember going to my guidance counsellor to tell her that this boy in the locker beside me wouldn't let me into mine between classes. She literally said she found that shocking "Brandon is such a nice young man though!" So I took it upon myself to move lockers when she wouldn't let me. The bullying didn't stop there, I was called fat and ugly every single day of my life until around grade 10 and I still believe many of those words today. The teachers would see this and literally do nothing. So rather than ignoring the bullying that happens directly under their noses they need to have school programs that talk about the long term effects of bullying. That again has both reward and punishment systems to promote good behaviours.
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  We were hoping to post this anti-bullying flash mob video at the top but there were issues embedding it, so here's a link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhYyAa0VnyY   Definitely worth watching!