I’m sure many high school/university aged girls have had/will have a similar experience at some point in their lives. You’re messaging a cute guy and things are going well- you have a lot in common and you’re really hitting it off and enjoying the conversation. Then all of a sudden, he says it. “Send nudes”. What do you do? Maybe you send them, maybe you don’t.
Whatever you choose to do in this situation is fully up to your discretion. And this is good. Because whatever your views on sending nude pictures, in this particular situation, you have been asked permission. You have made a decision. And you have given (or not given) consent.
For many people, when they think of sexual assault, the biggest issue with these kinds of situations all cycles back to the issue of consent. Did you give permission? Did you make your intentions known? Did you ask for it? Not with your clothes, body language, alcohol intake or behaviour, but with your words (and most certainly not with your lack of them). Consent is one of the most important and imperative actions within a relationship of a sexual nature. Without it, the entire integrity of the interaction as well as the people involved is compromised. And it all goes back to a simple “yes” or “no”.
The issue with consent is that when people think of consent, they only think of it pertaining to acts of a physically sexual nature. However, people need to realize that consent deals with ALL actions of a sexual nature, not just the physical act of intercourse itself. This extends far and beyond the confines of the bedroom. Groping someone in a sexually charged way, catcalling, and distributing nude pictures all have two things in common. They all have underlying sexual tones, and they can all be done without a person’s consent. And in the case of one of these situations being done without consent, can be extended to an act of sexual assault.
Leaking nude pictures or whistling at someone on the street may not seem like sexual assault and that is because we have not been taught that it is. We have been taught that an assault is only an assault on someone’s physical body but it is so much more than that. It is doing harm to someone’s character and violating their integrity. To make them feel violated in their own skin.
Let me just make one thing clear. This is not an issue of “boys will be boys”. This is not a feminist issue. Assault is a most common occurrence for women at the hands of men, but this does not dispute that men are assaulted at the hands of women, women are assaulted at the hands of women, and men are assaulted at the hands of men. Assault is truly something that can happen to anyone at the hands of anyone. This is a human rights issue, as assault is a clear violation of people’s ability to feel safe. People who associate the issue of sexual assault with feminism are immediately distancing themselves from the problem. Feminism is an entirely different subject matter and whether you agree with feminist views or not is another topic of discussion. But as to whether you agree if sexual assault is wrong or not is an issue that is definitely less contentious.
In fall of 2014, a hacker leaked nude photographs of many well-known female celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, who was outspoken about the fact that this action constituted a sex crime. While there may not be any apt way to deal with this kind of action as the law sees fit, the notion of this being a sex crime still holds some weight. This was by no means a consensual act.
It it not a women’s fault for having nude photos of themselves. This is a personal decision, as is the decision to show another person these photos. This is by no means asking for it. Criticizing someone for having nude photos of themselves falls in the same vein as criticizing a person for what they are wearing, how drunk they are, or any non-verbal cues they are giving off. And we all know that slut-shaming is not okay.
A couple days ago, I happened to come across a tweet that declared that a person didn’t know that “groping was equal to third-degree murder”. This is upsetting for two reasons. One: there is no actual crime known as “third-degree murder” meaning this person is sadly misinformed about the way the legal system works. Two: this particular tweet was in response to a series of events that had taken place on facebook where an individual was called out for groping someone as they walked through the hallway. If this tweet was supposed to be a joke, it wasn’t funny. Here is an individual trying to start an important conversation about what we define as sexual assault, and it is immediately being shot down. It almost seems that as a society, we are more comfortable placing blame where we feel it is due and then immediately washing our hands of the entire sexual assault conversation.
I’ll be the first to admit, the conversation about sexual assault is not an easy one to have- it is uncomfortable at best, downright painful at worst. But it is a conversation that needs to be had. I know I am not alone in thinking that we need to redefine the way sexual assault and consent are perceived in our society, but I cannot start this conversation alone. Whatever your opinions on sexual assault are, I want to hear them. Disagree with what I have to say? Even better. Present your thoughts and please comment on this post. Share this blog post as much as you can and start a conversation with your friends. Because they only way to start figuring out a solution, is to first talk about the problem.
Periods suck. There’s no denying it. Literally everything about them sucks, from cycling through a week’s worth of emotions in a day, to bloating too much to fit in skinny jeans, to going to bed and then waking up in the middle of a Japanese flag (except that you’re not pregnant!! Unless you were trying to get pregnant in which case it sucks even more).
Being a woman has its perquisites, but also has its drawbacks, and having a period is definitely one of those things. But it’s something that all women go through, all 51% of the population, meaning that more people on Earth are having periods than not having periods. If this is the case, then why is period shaming even a thing?
Let’s start with outside of North America, where more arcane forms of period shaming take place. Many societies, such as the Dogon in Mali or the Huaulu in Indonesia , see it that women are “unclean” when they are having their periods. This has resulted in women being confined to “menstrual huts” for the duration of their period where they are isolated from their families, friends, and the rest of their society. Many of these societies also hold the belief that having sex with a menstruating women will weaken a man, leading to allegations that having a wife in a menstruation hut is the best way to ensure that she is not cheating on him.
So that’s the emotional stuff. And as isolating as it can be, period shaming also has further implications, both health and even education-wise. In poorer countries, for many women, their only form of period protection is a resuable cloth pad that must be rewashed and worn as many times as possible. Because of the shame women on their period feel, many of them will wash out their pads quickly and quietly and hide them in undetectable areas to dry. This results in insufficient drying, as well as attracting bugs and fungi which can lead to infection.
When I was in Kenya working with a school in a rural community, one of the things that was mentioned to me on a tour was that the school was very proud of being able to install gender-separated toilets. While this is something that we in the West take for granted, these toilets actually made it possible for more girls to attend school, as they didn’t have to endure the shame of dealing with their period in co-ed washrooms. Before this, many girls simply would not go to school during this time, and as I’m sure many a university student can attest to, missing an average of 5-7 days of class every single month will definitely set you back.
While we certainly don’t experience these kinds of period problems at home, I’m sure everyone can say that they’ve been embarrassed to have their period on more than one occasion, whether it be buying supplies at the drugstore or opening up a pad or tampon in a public washroom. If this wasn’t the case, Tampax would not be making products with a new packaging for more “discrete, worry-free disposal”.
Let’s be clear: disposal is good. Everyone is encouraging you to properly dispose of your feminine hygiene products, as it will ensure a more sanitary environment for everyone. But should you be embarrassed about the fact that you’re on your period? No. While I’m not denying that it sucks, and by no means I am telling anyone to go yell from the rooftops when they have their period (although if this is what you choose to do, all the power to you), I am saying that there is no need to feel ashamed or uncomfortable if you’re on your period. It’s almost the same thing as being embarrassed about being a girl, as periods are synonymous with being female, and this is definitely something you should, under no circumstances, be ashamed of.
It is time to put an end to the period shaming. Over half the population experiences it. All girls you know have, and will experience it at regular intervals, and we have reached the point where we should be able to (and encourage people to) have a mature conversation about the topic, because not doing so will continue to set women back emotionally, mentally, and physically. And if you’re not prepared to do that, then you need to grow up, period. (Not to mention that periods are nothing to ovary-act at….the period shaming can stop but the puns never will!!!)
The friend zone. A dark, cold, unforgiving place, that I’ve once heard described as “the seventh level of hell”. It’s a term thats we use generously, an idea that has permanently embedded itself into society. There’s even a Wikipedia article about it.
Sure, the idea of the friend zone is all fun and games, until you really break down its origin and what the idea of the friend zone represents. The idea of the friend zone is the idea that a male figure essentially does nice things for his female companion, only to be shot down when his romantic and/or sexual pursuits are subsequently shot down. As one Urban Dictionary user puts it, it’s like “having all of the responsibilities of a boyfriend with none of the benefits”. It goes without saying, in this case, that the term benefits strictly implies actions of a romantic, and moreover, sexual nature. Never mind that being someone’s boyfriend also carries a number of benefits like companionship, trust, and mutual respect.
Proponents of the friend zone like to argue that it is unfair for guys to always be nice and not get anything in return. As if a girl owes a guy romantic/sexual favours because he did the right thing. This depiction of the relationship is a harmful idea to uphold, as it teaches men that the only reason they should be nice to a girl is so they might be able to have sex or start a relationship with them afterwards when all is said and done. Men will always claim that “nice guys finish last”, but are you really, truly a nice guy when the prospect of being nice is only appealing if you can reap a reward? A female friend serves as a companion, just as any other male friend would, and this should be the reward in and of itself. She does not owe you anything, other than her friendship, loyalty, and respect, which is conversely what you owe her as well. A woman’s duty is not to pay you in sexual favours if thats what you desire, and it is, dare I say it, mysogynistic, to expect her to do so.
Now while the idea of the friend zone does its fair share of disrespecting women, the men in this case should feel just as equally disrespected. It’s insulting to the general male population that this idea has caused them to be depicted as only focused on this one prospect. Not all men are like this. Not everyone expects this kind of relationship to grow out of a male-female friendship. But by associating yourself with the friend zone, you associate yourself with the kinds of men that do. If you are a man with female friends, you do not deserve to be depicted this way, and it is wrong of society to keep perpetrating this idea. You are not at fault, but the woman certainly isn’t either. Not to mention that the friend zone upholds traditional gender roles, and with a society that is moving towards greater equality and understanding for the LGBTQ community, the friend zone really has no reason to stick around.
When it comes to friendships, it’s a hard expectation to make that the dynamic shouldn’t change based on the gender of those involved, but it is fair. The friend zone should not be a place of expectations, blaming, and shaming. Instead, put all of your good friends in the friend zone and make it a place of understanding, respect, loyalty, trust, and companionship. Then it can become a place people actually want to be.
For more perspectives on the friend zone, watch this incredible poem by Dylan Garity.