The notoriously shallow, fairly bro-focused site College Humour has produced a viral video entitled ‘Sexually Enlightened R&B song’ featuring a black heterosexual couple, both stereotypically attractive, in which the man serenades the woman with a standard-composition 90’s R&B tune about having a fair and equal sexual encounter with her that evening. At face value, this content should not be at all humorous, but I found myself laughing out loud, not at the ideas being shared, but at the ridiculous thought that a mainstream cultural product would ever seriously espouse such blatantly feminist values from the mouth of a man.
I liked it and laughed despite the basing of the piece upon clearly heteronormative, liberal feminist views (not the radical queer intersectional feminist approach I try to take. As I commented to my friend, hard feminist porn producer Nikki Swarm, it’s important for the singer to clarify that although his woman is experienced, she is not a ho, because it would be going too far to — gasp — humanise sex workers! and they are getting married, so clearly she can’t be a ho! I disagree with versions of feminism where some women do not receive feminist protection, where those who have made ‘bad choices’ about themselves and their bodies, including sex work, casual sex and abortions are demonised, and the line between good and bad girls is tightly upheld. Instead, I believe that everyone has the agency to make their own choices under structural systems in which the options for oppressed people (in this case, make money from sex work, be in debt and unemployed, or work shit jobs and make peanuts for hard, stressful labour) are all problematic.
Nevertheless, despite all this, the feminist principles articulated in the song were still far enough from the androcentric social norm around heteroromantic, sexual and intimate relationships to be highly unusual, and worthy of attention. The ideas it introduces, such as sexual reciprocity (‘I’ll go down on you / You’ll go down on me) and a woman having a healthy human sexuality (In my opinion / your sexual liberation / is healthy and normal / and makes you human), as simple and pedestrian as they should be, are presented as alien to the misogynistic norm, so far-fetched and impossible as to be funny. Continue reading →
I wrote this letter to my aunt and sent it by email in January of last year. I think her husband deleted it because she never replied. I may one day try sending it again but right now I am not ready. So, with the aim of continuing my healing process, I am posting it here and sharing it with you, my beloved readers. Thank you for holding space for me. – dia
My dearest aunt,
I never imagined I would be writing you this letter. It has taken me years to simply acknowledge and accept that what I am going to tell you is true. It scares me to tell you, but in this case I must face my fears because I believe wholeheartedly that this is the right thing to do.
There is no way to put this that will make it easier to take, so I will say it as clearly as I can. Your husband sexually molested me each summer I was in the Philippines since I was 13. When I was 13, when you and he and I would fall asleep on the couch, I would wake up because he was touching my body and putting his tongue in my ear. I would run upstairs to get away from him. When I came back at age 17, he encouraged me to drink alcohol and when I was drunk he took advantage of me. After that, he would try to touch or kiss me every time we were alone, which was a lot because he was expected to look after me while everyone was at work. His behavior continued until I was 21 and I never told anyone. I blocked out these memories for a long time but they have come back to me now and I think it is important to tell you, because you deserve to know.
The thing that scares me most about telling you is that you, he, or other family members might blame me for what happened. But I know what happened to me was not my fault. I did not ask for, invite, or court his attention. I was young and vulnerable; I thought he was my friend. He was in a trusted position as a caretaker and he took advantage of that position. He was the adult in the situation and he violated the trust that all of us placed in him, yours, mine, and our whole family’s.
I told my mom a few years ago and she decided, without asking me, to tell her sisters. Although this was not my choice and I am not responsible for this, I want to apologise on their behalf that they have kept this information from you for so long. I do not think this is right but I know they thought it best not to say anything, in order to keep the peace.
Today, I am not interested in keeping the peace. I would rather tell the truth. And so here it is, for you to do with it what you will. Your husband groomed and molested me when I was a teenage girl, and he has gotten away with it for a long time. But not anymore.
I am willing and open to talking to you more about this if you would like. I would also be open to talking to your daughter – now, if you want her to know, or in the future if you would prefer that I wait till she is older. However, I do not want to talk to anyone else about it as I think it is important to work things out between just us for now.
If you want to talk, I am here. You can write me by email, or I can call you on the phone. If you don’t want to talk, and just take some time to process this hard and sad news, that is ok with me too. Let me know what you prefer.
I want to add – although I personally do not want to talk to anyone else besides you, I hope that you would feel free to talk to, and get support from, whomever you choose. This information is yours now, it is not a secret, and you can do with it what you think and feel it is right to do.