Friday, November 20, 2009

Twilght - glorifying emotional abuse?

The new Twilight movie opened this weekend. Which has me thinking. I've only read the first book, and it disturbed me deeply.

This fall, I gave in and downloaded Twilight (the first book in the Twilight series)onto my Kindle (as far as inventions go - the Kindle is up there with sliced bread). I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I was ready for an easy read and a bit of escapism.

Instead, I was horrified.

Twilight is a modern book, written for young adults, in which a controlling, borderline abusive relationship is played up as a great love story. Oh, and throw in a little pedophilia as well (how the hell old is Edward [112 according to a friendly twihard]? and Bella's what - 17?). But I'm probably being oversensitive about Edward's real age. I know - he looks 18. I'll let that go. And the abstinence message? You're not going to hear me complain about encouraging kids to postpone first intercourse. I have opinions about how that should be done, but I'm not against the concept.

I am against controlling, manipulative behavior.

Edward tells Bella that they can't be together. Not because he doesn't want to be with her, but because he knows what's best for her. Then he tells her he can't stay away. After all, they've known each other for two days and are deeply in star crossed love. She follows eagerly along as he pulls the strings.

He watches her 24/7. He doesn't need to sleep, so the fact that he spends all night staring at her in her bedroom is fine right? Um, no. That's called stalking. Doesn't he have something else to do?

She says she doesn't want a party or presents for her birthday. He surprises her with a party and expensive presents.

She asks him to drive more slowly because she's frightened. He ignores her.

He's rich and buys her things. She's middle class and can't reciprocate. Besides, 112 year old rich men have everything they'd ever need.

She wants him to turn her into a vampire. He tells her that will never happen and interferes when she tries to see if someone else will turn her (I would add that here, he may have a point - 17 is simply too young to make decisions that are irreversible by centuries).

Throughout the entire book he contradicts her, he tells her what to do, he treats her like a very stupid but appealing toddler.

She rarely objects to this treatment. After all, he's the hot, unattainable bad boy, and she's the awkward young woman who's new in town, has a distant relationship with her father and has been abandoned by her mother. But when she does fail to listen, people get hurt. Which reinforces her total dependence on him.

The power differential between them is huge. That happens in real relationships. And it's difficult to manage well. Here was a chance to model managing it well (while still being very dramatic star crossed lovers).

Not once in the book is the structure of their relationship challenged or questioned by the author in any meaningful way.

I recognize that when Stephanie Myers wrote these books, she had no clue that they were going to be the cultural phenomenon they have become. But, when you are writing for a young adult market you have some responsibilities. One of those is to not set up an abusive controlling relationship as a positive, sexy relationship model.

I've been in an abusive relationship. They aren't sexy. But, I learned alot. One thing that I learned is that you can not tolerate the least inkling of controlling behavior. Because it's a quick and slippery slope.

People who abuse other people aren't necessarily bad people. In fact they're often lovely individuals with unaddressed issues. That's part of what makes tolerating their behavior so easy. There are always multiple ways to rationalize it. "He's a vampire, he knows best, he's just trying to protect me" When the truth is, he's (intentionally or not) choosing to be with someone who has less power than he does. Rather than looking for ways to balance the power differential, he's choosing to use his power to control her every move. Abuse, especially emotional abuse can sneak in subtly. "Isn't it sweet that he wants to watch me sleep?" turns into, "he needs to know what I'm doing every minute of the day". Which becomes, "I don't do anything without his permission". At the end it's "I don't do anything that wasn't his idea, because the other options create too much pain".

Finding your way out of abuse as either an abuser or abusee is a difficult and painful journey. On the way a lot can happen, including both people finding a way to be healthy. But books like this? They don't help.

It's a lot easier to stop a relationship from becoming abusive than it is to fix it later. And this book sets up a relationship based on power and control as a fairy tale delight.

Teenagers are especially vulnerable to abuse in intimate relationships. One in 10 teenagers experiences physical abuse in a dating relationship. 2-3 in 10 report verbal or psychological abuse. Our teens should be taught the warning signs of this kind of behavior. Not have it glorified as the fictional teen romance of the decade.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Job Opening at Sugar

We've got a (very) part time job opening at Sugar!

If you're interested, read on.

Seeking mission driven Sex Educators to work at Sugar, a lesbian owned, women and trans operated sex toy store in Hampden, Baltimore. The hours available are: Friday evenings (4 - 9 pm) and occasional Tuesday evenings (5 - 9 pm).T

If you are interested in working at Sugar, please send a cover letter and resume to jacq at by Friday, November 20th. The cover letter should discuss:
1. why your experience is relevant to working at Sugar
2. why you want to work at Sugar.

**Please make sure that your cover letter includes both of the above**
**No calls please**
**Please send in your resume by Friday. November 20th**

Sex Educators are responsible for answering customers' questions and providing customers with the information they need to make the purchases that are best for them. In addition, SEs run the cash register, stock the store, and ensure that the store is clean and tidy at all times and perform other duties as assigned. These dutes may include: store decoration, workshop instruction and fulfillment of customers orders for shipping.

Required skills:
Computer literacy
Excellent customer service
Able to accurately work with money
Able to lift 50 pounds
Able to work evenings and weekends
Comfort with and acceptance of diverse sexualities
Cultural competency with diverse communities
Knowledge and understanding of queer and gender issues
Commitment to a team environment
A mind that is open to new things and ways of solving problems

Previous experience in sexuality education, counseling and/or retail.

Sugar will provide Sex Educators with:
$11.50 an hour - eligible for $00.50 increase after two successful months
A commitment to a systems oriented work place.
A work place that is respectful and supportive.
A work place that is damn fun!

Sugar is a lesbian owned, women and trans operated, for profit mission driven sex toy store. By providing education and toys in a shame free, sex positive, fun environment we help people of all genders and orientations experience their own unique sexuality with shameless joy and passion.

Friday, November 6, 2009

cheating and...

One of my favorite shows, This American Life, did a show last week on cheating, almost cheating, infidelity and the way those choices play out in people's lives.

It's really good. Check it out.

And, if you're thinking about cheating, think about ending the relationship, or transitioning to an open relationship first. Lying sucks. And ends up hurting everyone.

For more info about open relationships, check out Tristan Taormino's book, Opening Up. Or the Practical Polyamory blog.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My day so far (or my super sexy life)

Last night I was at Midori's super awesome hands on rope bondage class when I saw my phone ringing. In between watching a hot rope bondage demo and learning about different ropes, I ducked down behind the cunt wrap and checked my message. It was G, my friend and the person who walks the dogs when I work late. She wanted to know where the diarrhea medicine was. This is never a good message. And I happened to know that we were out of doggie diarrhea medicine. So I turned back to class and learned how to make a soft and comfy spreader bar out of 25 feet of rope. Brilliant.

I got home to find a note. Two of the three doglets were a little runny. Bella was farting in her kennel. Ok. Nothing I can't handle. In short order, the other two dogs demonstrated that their GI tracts were ok and we all went to bed.

I only had to get up three times in the night to take Bella out. Poor thing.

By morning it was clear that she was going to have to go to work with me, or I was going to have to stay home. There was no way she would be able to make it for more than three hours without a potty break.

So we went to work.

She quickly had an accident in the store. Lovely. But understandable. The store has a (polished) concrete floor. Bella spent three months living in an animal shelter and has yet to be convinced that the store is not, in fact, a large kennel. She doesn't work at the store often because she's still learning her manners, is easily freaked out by things that strangers wouldn't think were scary and responds to this by acting out inappropriately. And she's a pit bull. Which makes the inappropriate acting out scarier for customers than if she was, say, a Pomeranian. But it's Wednesday. The store isn't terribly busy on Wednesdays. And I didn't have any other good options.

In between bouts of diarrhea and deciding that the only place she felt comfortable was on my lap, she growled at a customer. Which meant that she was relegated to the back room as soon as anyone walked in the door. At around 5 a customer walked in and she got stiff. Which is dog for "I'm scared and trying to decide if I need to fight or run".

One of the things I've learned is important when you're working with a dog with issues is to listen to your gut. And my gut was telling me that I was putting a sick dog with emotional issues in a situation that she couldn't handle.

So I closed the store and took the girl home.

Yep, I closed the store because my dog's sick. I wouldn't have done it on a Saturday, or during our busy seasons, but today, I did. And it was the right thing to do. Because when she came home almost a year ago, I promised her I'd do my best. Besides, I'm responsible for everything she puts in her mouth. So it's likely that my choices have something to do with her current discomfort.

She's now cuddled in a ball in her kennel and ready for another dose of doggy homeopathic pepto bismol.

And I've been cuddled in a ball getting a ton of work done.

By the way - I'd suggest NOT feeding your dog a ton of treats that involve dehydrated chicken heart bits (even if it seems like a healthy tasty way to balance out the massive amount of treating involved in reactive dog training), on a day when they also demolish an "edible" beef flavored bone and you suddenly decide it's ok to let the dog eat a bunch of ends from the carrots you're chopping up for the carrot soup you're making. No matter how happy she seems doing all of the above. It may result in an unhappy dog later. And you may lose some sleep

Just sayin...