Archive for February, 2012

The Queer Atmosphere: Sexual/Gender Identities on the Internet, in the 21st Century

Christopher Patterson

Introduction

As I have come of age in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, I have seen a trend which makes me want to be educated further. I am talking about the issues of Gender/Sexual Identity.

Background

             It is hard to think about my upbringing without including an obvious queer narrative into it. You could say (and I often do) that I grew up knowing I was different, that who I was, was not something considered commonplace and “normal”. It was further complicated by my inclusion into a Judeo-Christian atmosphere, which had little, if any, tolerance on things not biblical. This included feminist concepts, queer and transgendered identities. It wasn’t until my 21st birthday that I decided I would not ‘closet’ myself or my feelings; I would actively explore what I wanted, and I would educate myself on topics which I were ignorant about. Such topics I was ignorant about pertained to various identities, which deviated from the ‘traditional’ ideal of heterosexuality, masculinity and femininity.  I only thought in terms of either/or and black/white. Meaning that in terms of gender and sex, I only thought in the heterosexual/homosexual and male/female binaries. This mindset proved to be so un-inclusive and so limited that in retrospect, I have to shake my head at the ignorance. What’s scary is so many people think like I did, and they continue to do so, thinking that’s how the world is and how it should be.

Sex=Gender?

 

Once I began to educate myself, I learned there is a difference between what sex and gender is. Traditionally, the associative factors between sex and gender were as such:

Male=Masculine, Heterosexual, Maleness, Man, Hard, Father.

Female=Feminine, Heterosexual, Femaleness, Woman, Soft, Mother.

 

Knowing I had never felt like I belonged into the Male category, and that I always had or incorporated characteristics from the female category; I took to the Internet.  The Internet; despite the distraction factor it provides, is an invaluable tool in researching this anomaly I saw in myself and in the world around me.  For years, I assumed that both sex and gender were these two “things” that were symbiotic in a way. If you were assigned male at birth, that meant you were born with a penis, assigned male on your birth certificate and you identify as a man per your upbringing and socialization, and you had to be heterosexual. Same as the notion of woman= Vagina-Female-Woman-heterosexual woman. Obviously, I now know that is completely false. What has aided me in my education of all things sex and gender (besides books of course) has been a little social networking site called tumblr. When I joined tumblr I found a wealth of knowledge unlike anywhere else in the world. I began to follow blogs created by people of every ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation. Not only did I become more aware, but also it helped me to discover not only my own gender/sexual identity, but traditional delineations from this binary of sex and gender.

 

Global Sex & Gender Revolutionaries

 

             Dennis Altman briefly touches upon the concept of what would be considered ‘queer’ identities in traditional societies

. He introduces specifically the South Asian Hijra, and the Native American Two-Spirit.

These two identities, in my opinion, fall into what I would call Genderqueer identities. They are mixed gender roles, in which the individual who fits into these identities move through the male/female ‘binary.’ People within the Two-Spirit generally dress in a fashion usually considered for the opposite sex, as well as performing other social expectations. For example, a Two-Spirit who may have been born ‘male’, would wear women’s clothes and perform duties usually reserved for males. Similarly, the Hijra are individuals who were born male but have a gender identity that is feminine. Some members undergo a ritual in which their male genitalia is removed. (nirwaan). The concept of the Hijra seems to lack a discernible western counterpart, however a similar identity is found in Thailand as a Kathoey, or what we know in American and in mainstream pornography as the “Ladyboy”. (Or what’s known as a Transsexual Woman or the pejorative term Shemale/Tranny)

Tumblr & Me

 

            I explained earlier that tumblr had a positive effect on my education in terms of sexual and gender identities, and in my own identity. I feel I should elaborate on that a bit. I had always known that I was not heterosexual and felt that a “Gay” identity didn’t completely fit with how I felt. As I began to learn more I came across the term Genderqueer, a word I used to describe the Two-Spirit people. I found out that Genderqueer is a catch-all term for people who may identify as both male/female, neither male nor female, as a whole separate gender (Third Gender). I began identifying as Genderqueer because I acknowledged that I exhibited both characteristics common to males and females. As I began to feel comfortable with my gender identity, I sought out

websites/blogs on tumblr to supplement my queer education. I found it refreshing that I could read information on queer issues written by people across the globe; bringing to the table diverse experiences and perceptions.

What Does This Have to do with Global Sex?

 

                 I chose this particular topic as an overarching theme from the book because not only does there need to be more exposure and education about topics such as these, but because Altman writes from the perspective of an LGBTQ activist [?] point of view, and I felt had someone who was not a advocate or LGBTQ identifying individual wrote this book, it would have come out differently. I think that it is important to recognize one’s own identity in terms of gender and sexuality because whether or not we can see it; it does have an effect on how we view the world and how we view other individuals, governments, nations and organizations.

 

 

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The GOP’s War on Choice.

Posted: February 23, 2012 by Carly Bea in Uncategorized

Requiring that pregnant people undergo pre-abortion ultrasounds, cutting funding for family planning services, and even “personhood laws” that grant a fetus the same rights as a human… do these concepts seem illogical and even perhaps absurd? It’s not so for Rick Santorum and quite a few others involved in politics today. The plethora of “anti-choice” bills that have been put on the table, and in some places, passed, is disconcerting to many who consider themselves to be pro-choice. Some go as far as to call the recent culmination of incidences a war on women, mainly citing the GOP as the driving force behind the recent cuts to reproductive healthcare.

Dennis Altman begins to touch on some of these issues in his discussion of the globalization of women’s bodies.  He emphasizes that in the past, many societies have “sought to limit women’s sexuality by defining it in terms of their reproductive role” (61). Societies do this by creating laws that restrict sexual expression, especially when it may be deemed as threatening to the “control of male reproduction” (61). Altman also argues that “the idea that governments should seek to regulate population through a mixture of persuasion and coercion” is largely a modern one (62).

Globalization has encouraged the nearly worldwide spread of ideas. In places where individuals have access to the internet, information about what is going on in another country is very easy to access. This dispersion of ideas and discourse can have both positive and negative results. It can encourage members of a group who identify similarly or have related concerns to join efforts, collaborate with each other, and generate new ideas and solutions. Contrarily, the internet can be used to perpetuate untrue information, and can allow governments to engage in “international programming,” making it easier for them to gain control over the population – usually women. (62).

Of course, the internet is not the only way that ideas are being spread more rapidly across nations. As representatives from various countries come together in conferences, opinions are exchanged regarding reproductive health, some of which result in “deep cultural clashes,” especially when abortion and contraception are mentioned (62).  When leaders with drastically different religious and cultural backgrounds come together, opinions will no doubt differ, and arguments are bound to arise.

So, what does this mean today? Altman’s book was written only eleven years ago, and the effects of globalization have only increased in this short span of time. In the past year, attacks on reproductive health care have become so frequent and unreasonable that they have become known by some as the “War on Women” (or, more accurately, war on people with a uterus).

Who is behind this “War on Women,” and what exactly is taking place? Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the people suggesting that reproductive healthcare be restricted – or even terminated – are groups of white men.   Over the past two years, Republicans have voted to “slash family planning funds for low income women,” attempted to prevent people from purchasing insurance plans that would cover abortions, and even introduced a bill that would allow hospitals to refuse to carry out emergency abortions needed to save the pregnant person’s life.  A group that is not widely known is largely behind these propositions – the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.  After the 2009 health care debate, in which they advocated for the bringing down the healthcare reform bill because it did not prevent insurance companies from covering abortion, they became one of the most powerful advocates in the anti-abortion disputes. Members of the Conference of Catholic bishops spoke to priests around the country, asking them to encourage their individual congregations to oppose the entirety of the healthcare reform bill if it were to include abortion.  Now, the Conference of Catholic Bishops claims that President Obama is not seeking common ground with religious groups, and say they are being discriminated against on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Meanwhile, a host of laws that restrict choice and/or limit the availability of adequate reproductive health care are being passed all across the country.  One such bill was recently passed in Oklahoma, where senators decided that life begins at conception.  So, if the individual carrying the fetus were to die during childbirth, could the baby be charged with murder? Seriously, though, this is a huge problem: doctors are afraid that the bill will jeopardize reproductive medicine, including a few types of birth control.” The bill is now headed to the House, where it is expected to pass.  If it does, it will give a fetus all of the privileges and rights of a person.

If that isn’t scary enough, in Virginia, a bill presumed to pass the legislature this week would require doctors to carry out an invasive procedure that could constitute a sex crime. Essentially, an individual who wished to undergo an abortion in the first trimester would have to first go through a “vaginally invasive procedure,” after which they would be offered images of the fetus. The image would then remain in their medical file for seven years. Now, Democrats are attempting to dissuade Republicans from allowing the bill to pass by arguing that the bill would criminalize doctors under a local statute known as object sexual penetration (OSP), which carries a five-year jail sentence. According to a recent poll, most Virginians oppose the measure and feel that it is “emotional blackmail” – making individuals who are pregnant feel bad about their choice to get an abortion.

In Texas, where Rick Perry has cut Medicaid funding to hundreds of thousands of people, Republican legislators often refer to family planning clinics as “abortion clinics,” even though none of the 71 family planning clinics that receive government funding provides abortions. Perry is not the only presidential hopeful that is so adamantly opposed to choice; Santorum is even against contraception, staying that states should have the power to outlaw birth control.

These are just a few of the bills that have been passed, or at least discussed, in recent months. There are, unfortunately, many more. Supporters of such bills claim that they are “pro-life,” but in a world where 47,000 people die from complications arising from an unsafe abortion worldwide each year, how pro-life is their stance? To me, it seems clear that those in power do not truly care about the “unborn” – instead, they wish to maintain control over those capable of getting pregnant. Jon Stewart sums it up well: “You’ve confused a war on religion with not getting what you want.”

Thanks for reading!

The social construction of the ideas of “normalcy” and the hierarchy of white male dominance manifests itself in every facet of our globalized world. Arguably hit the hardest by the pressure to be “normal” is the realm dealing with sex and sexualities. How much should you like sex? What sex practices are considered normal? Who should be having sex? These questions become a part of the daily struggle inside a globally sexual world.

Sprung from this push for “normalcy” comes the creation of the “Other.”

The Other refers to any sexual identity or practice that divulges from what a patriarchal white male dominated society (cough America… cough) deems as normal. Dennis Altman hits on this subject many times throughout his book Global Sex, paying special consideration to draw attention to the times in which Othering happens.

To me, this is a double edge sword of globalization. On one hand, as Altman suggests, the result of globalization has been to bring different cultures and areas of the world together—resulting in a growth of shared interests and sexual identities, practices, etc. What also ends up happening is a sort of shift to “inevitably mirror the dominant ideological strength of rich countries,” (Altman, 63-4) further reinforcing the idea that the “Other” is sub standard.

An interesting take Altman explored on this subject was in chapter 9 of his book—Squaring the Circle: The Battle for “Traditional” Morality. This chapter reflects on major extremes cultures have gone to in order to maintain a traditional approach to the subject of sex and sexuality in a modern world.

There seems to be a remarkably widespread belief that we are living through a period of collapsing moral values (Ibid. 140).

This belief stemmed in part from the necessity of open conversation about sex practices to accommodate a rapidly globalizing world. To understand how and why certain diseases were transmitted from person to person and to treat said illnesses as touched on in chapter 5.

As a way of dealing with the painful realization that: SHOCKER! People have sex! Some people even have sex in their sleep!(validity pending). Some people don’t have sex at all, and some never want to! & That is perfectly okay.

Some traditionalist members of societies around the world react to this in harmful ways.

For Altman, writing in 1998-2001 this manifested in “redneck” reactions to hippies, Klu Klux Klan admittedly racist and sexist policies and the stereotyping of AIDS as a “foreign disease,” to name a few.

This unfortunate reaction is still very much a reality today. Take for example the practice of corrective rape of lesbians living in South Africa.

This practice is a horrific attempt by men in certain cities and villages to control what they see as a threat to their traditional way of life. Corrective Rape is a criminal practice where men rape lesbians as a means of “curing” the woman of her sexual orientation.

The most publicized instance of corrective rape in South Africa was in 2009 when Eudy Simelane, the former star of South Africa’s acclaimed Banyana Banyana national female football squad was found dead in a creek outside of Johannesburg. She had been “…gang-raped and brutally beaten before being stabbed 25 times in the face, chest and legs.” She was the target of this crime for being openly gay and an activist for equal rights in Kwa-Thema, a black township outside of Johannesburg. This case was ruled as an act of “corrective rape” in an attempt for men to “cure” her of her sexual orientation (source).

*The following video is graphic, watch with viewer discretion*

This same sentiment has been relevant in the United States with remarks following the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

On a conservative news site called The Daily Caller, Joe Rehyansky–a Tennessee Judge, advocated for corrective rape to be used in the Military. His exact quote is as follows:

Lesbians should be allowed to serve [because] it would get the distaff part of our homosexual population off our collective ‘Broke Back,’ thus giving straight male GIs a fair shot at converting lesbians and bringing them into the mainstream

This man is so threatened by… well… let’s go with a “threat to his traditional approaches” that he feels it is necessary to advocate rape. ADVOCATE RAPE. All while perched from his white male dominant spot as a part of the American legal system.

In every instance cited throughout chapter 9 those that took a stand or were on the opposing end of the politics involved in sexual regulation were flagged as “Others” or outsiders to the culture and marred.

While it is easier to focus on the injustices presented in a global world with the use of “Othering” and traditional pushes towards submission, it is important to also understand the shift in the norm that has been a result of global movements, making a return to what some would view as “tradition” intangible.

Altman summarizes this point:

..it is gradually becoming apparent that international capitalism is both capable of unsettling almost all areas of life and of generating huge movements of resistance, the most potent of which are likely to appeal to a yearning to return to an imagine past in which the ‘traditional’ sex/gender order symbolized a society in which the social order was widely understood and slow to change (Ibid. 138).

The threat of the “Other” on traditional approaches to sex and sexuality can fuel incredibly hateful attacks on human rights and historically have done just that. Opening the dialogue of sex and sexuality to a global scale is a before-mentioned double edged sword. It can create an atmosphere of community and acceptance transnationally yet can also contribute to ethnocentrism and greater fear of the “Other.”

So, my question for you readers is this–why is sexuality so damn threatening? What is it about sexual practices and identities that makes for such uneasy feelings? It seems if a person doesn’t fit within the cookie cutter mold of “ideal” (white, male, dominant) practice they are marked as “Other” and therefore carry all of the negative connotation that comes with being considered outside of a culture. What do you think?

Thanks for reading,

Chelsie

Perception of Virginity

Posted: February 21, 2012 by lildanadoo in Uncategorized

Throughout history, the female Virgin has been depicted in different forms of media as the pinnacle of femininity. She is idealized and sought after yet have you ever wondered why so much value is placed on female virginity? Why are women expected to maintain their virginity and abstain from sexual desires to remain respectable? There are no easy answers to these questions. At the same time, especially in western culture, men are made to feel embarrassed if they remain a virgin for “too long.” Transnationally female sexuality is perceived differently, however virginity is almost always held up to a high esteem.

                     VS                    

Western culture has a slew of depictions of men’s perception of virginity as a conquest. For example, the movie Cruel Intentions shows that virginity is held to such high esteem that a man would be willing to lie about his entire life in order to sleep with a female virgin. Yet men are not depicted the same way. It is assumed that men who are virgins past their teenage years are “un-cool” or somehow not good enough. The movie The 40-yr Old Virgin is a good example of this concept. The main character is shown to be a nerd unable to “seal the deal.” In Dennis Altman’s Global Sex he discusses this phenomenon as result of: “female honor and male nobility” (Altman 5). For many cultures women are taught not to show signs of being interested in sexual desires, while men are not given this same message. Altman describes this as: “…the very common practice of defining sexual desires as something ‘nice women’ do not experience, and the construction of women as either madonnas or whores, no matter that the reality is almost always more complex” (Ibid 5). This notion is not something new; it can be traced throughout history. Female virginity was held to be so important that at one time women were expected to show proof of their virginity with blood stained sheets. In Shakespeare’s play Othello depicts this tradition: “Thy bed, lust-stained, shall with lust’s blood be spotted” (VI 35-37). In some cultures the sheets were hung outside of a window for public display. This tradition is just an example of the stress put on women in order to be viewed as respectable.

Religion has a major effect on the perspective of sexuality and gender: “…it may well be that the primary social function of religion is to control sexualities and gender in the interests of hegemonic masculinity” (Altman 6). The majority of religions view female purity as a central aspect to the religion. An unmarried woman must retain her purity in order to be viewed as respectable. It is astonishing to discover that this transnational theme is communally globally consistent. Altman explores this concept: “Often national and religious identities are linked to a particular view of women, who are both venerated as the defenders of moral purity and feared for their sexuality, which risks escaping total male control” (Ibid 140). By taking on this perspective it is easy to make the connections between patriarchal societies, which use religion as a means of policing women’s sexualities and the fear of women’s reproductive abilities. Religion is often used as a method of preventing and condemning the use of contraceptives or abortion. These practices place major constraints on women‘s sexuality.

 The scrutiny of female sexuality leaks over into the perception of the criminalization of prostitution. Sex workers are transnationally denied basic civil rights. Especially in the United States sex workers who have been raped are ignored because of victim blaming. Sex work is an occupation which is looked down upon, women involved are viewed as “un-rape-able.” Since sex work is an extremely prevalent, many women are being forced into the occupation through circumstances or sex slavery. Yet not much is being done to protect women from this phenomenon. In Manila, the mayor closed down the brothels “he succeeded only in pushing the trade into adjoining cities- or farther underground. The criminalization of prostitution- and the denial of basic civil rights to sex workers- is a significant factor in the perpetuation of a whole set practices which amount to sex slavery” (Ibid 114). As a result of the scrutiny of female sexuality, sex workers are viewed as undeserving of protection.

As a result of female virginity being regarded in such high esteem, if a woman is raped she is deemed to be corrupted and impure. “Indeed in some societies a girl who has been raped is treated as ‘dishonored’ and hence unfit for marriage, even though she was powerless to preserve her virginity” (Altman 4). This demonstrates the importance placed on virginity, which results in the objectification of women. In this situation a woman is treated as a piece of property, as though she is somehow devalued by an act she had no control over.

As a result of  idealizing virginity, in certain cultures it is believed that virginity has the power to cure HIV/AIDS. This has been defined as: the rape myth. This is the belief that if a man contracts HIV/AIDS, it can be cured by raping a virgin. In the CNN article “Child Rape Survivors Saves ‘Virgin Myth’ Victims” the continuation of this practice is examined: “This so-called virgin myth, perpetuated by Zimbabwe’s traditional healers, has led to the rape of hundreds of girls, according to UNICEF. Some of those victims are too young to walk, much less protect themselves.” Consequently thousands of girls are contracting HIV/AIDS as a result of the rape myth.

It is strange how much of an effect female virginity has. The understanding of female purity influences how women are treated socially and culturally. Has your exposure to this subject been different? Why do you think that male virginity isn’t held to such a high standard? Is it because only women can have “proof” when they lose their virginity? Again there are no easy answers to these questions. However, it is interesting that in a transnational setting, female virginity is almost always held to a higher standard.

My, The Times Have Changed: A Brief thought on Planned Parenthood

Posted: February 9, 2012 by globalsexandsexuality in Uncategorized

“My, The Times Have Changed: A Brief Thought on Planned Parenthood”

I remember when I first heard of Planned Parenthood. The connotation was that it presumably was a baby killing factory; sinister and evil. It did not help that the closest Planned Parenthood was just a stone’s throw away from my local church, as well as another ‘women’s’ service facility.  I didn’t know much about what Planned Parenthood or what services they had to offer, but at the time my age and religious background prohibited me from inquiring. What I found was not only insightful and helpful, but it also answered my questions as to why this particular organization was so controversial and why it received media attention.

Brief History

The origins of Planned Parenthood have an interesting history. I found that the start of this organization was a conceptual idea by the American activist Margaret Sanger. Sanger was an activist and nurse based in New York City, a diverse community in which she found herself among many lower class women who did not have access to information related to birth control and conception due to the Comstock laws. (For more info on the Comstock laws, see http://womenshistory.about.com/od/laws/a/comstock_law.htm) Inspired by what she saw as a social injustice, and the demise of her own mother due to the 22 births she had, Sanger herself began publishing articles about female sexual health for a socialist newspaper in 1911.

Sanger began her activism on sexual health and birth control in 1913 where she worked as a nurse in mostly working class areas of New York City. With these experiences, she began writing journals with the aim of education on birth control (a phrase she invented), menstruation and adolescent sexuality. She opened her first birth control clinic in 1916 after visiting several countries in Europe that had less strict birth control and decency laws.  This led to the creation to the American Birth Control League, the precursor to the modern Planned Parenthood.  Sanger also created several other birth control organizations that predate Planned Parenthood, such as the Clinical Research Bureau, a medical bureau created to exploit a loophole in order to provide information for birth control for it’s medical aspect.

This bureau evolved into the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau in 1928 that Sanger spearheaded. She also created the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control in 1929, designed to overturn contraception restriction.  The formation of this organization’s efforts led to a 1936 legal victory which overturned the Comstock laws which banned the use of birth control.  This victory led Sanger to become a part of another Birth Control organization designed to merge both the American Birth Control League and the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau. The Merger of both of these organizations led to the creation of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Planned Parenthood in the 21st Century

Planned Parenthood as we know it, is an organization that is dedicated to many aspects of health apart from providing birth control and access to safe abortions.  Planned Parenthood’s mission statement is as follows:

“Planned Parenthood believes in the fundamental right of each individual, throughout the world, to manage his or her fertility, regardless of the individual’s income, marital status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, or residence. We believe that respect and value for diversity in all aspects of our organization are essential to our well being. We believe that reproductive self-determination must be voluntary and preserve the individual’s right to privacy. We further believe that such self-determination will contribute to an enhancement of the quality of life and strong family relationships.”

[http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/vision-4837.htm]

As you can see the goals of Planned Parenthood have broadened to not only provide birth control for women but for men also, and not only sexual health but to health in general. According to their website, this organization also advocates for policies that support access to the services they provide as well as promoting scientific research for issues pertinent to the organization’s goals. This organization also receives large amounts of criticism from the aspects of the government and the media.  Some of the criticisms Planned Parenthood has faced involved the obvious focus on birth control and their status as the largest abortion provider.  This organization has been the target of much violence and malice by anti-abortionists.  Still they have persevered and continue to provide services to people around the globe. According to Planned Parenthood, they provide services to 5 million people every year around the world, and they boast 6 million activists on their behalf.

Global Sex and Sexuality?

How has Planned Parenthood played into the concept of sex and Sexuality around the globe you may ask? Well, as an organization that provides reproductive services, it could be argued that Planned Parenthood has the largest influence when it comes to family planning and birth control.  The international sector of Planned Parenthood began in 1971 under the name of Family Planning International Assistance, with the goal of improving reproductive information worldwide. [http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/planned-parenthood-launches-planned-parenthood-global-38099.htm] I would say that this organization brings reproductive health and issues into the global arena, as birth control is not only an issue in the US or the most developed countries; it is an issue in many “third world” countries. Assumedly it can be argued that the role of Planned Parenthood is nothing short of a eugenical platform to eradicate the potential offspring by lower class and poorer populations, as their services are more widely used by poorer people. For example, it is argued that African American women specifically in the US receive abortions three times the rate of Caucasian women.

Conclusion

Planned Parenthood is a large and influential organization in the realm of reproductive rights and sexual health for men and women around the world. Despite negative connotations of what this organization may have, it is an arguably beneficial one, in it’s stance of more liberal viewpoints on the issues of abortion, birth control, women’s sexual health, sex education, men’s sexual health and the like.

Every 16 seconds another person dies from AIDS.

Posted: February 9, 2012 by chelsiehinck in Uncategorized

AIDS.ORG: Information|Education|Action

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is a result of the development of an HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) positive person developing a further “AIDS indicator” illness. This is defined by the CDC AIDS Case Definition that can be found here. Not every person that is diagnosed with HIV develops AIDS, but an AIDS diagnosis cannot be reached without first contracting the HIV virus.

Why does this matter?

More than 30 million people have died of AIDS since it was first identified in 1981. 1.9 million people died in 2010 alone as a result of this pandemic.

HIV can be transmitted from one person to another in only a few ways:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Vaginal secretions
  • Breast Milk

The activities that put someone at risk for contracting HIV are:

  • Unprotected sexual contact
  • Direct blood contact through: injection with needles, blood transfusions, accidents in health care or certain blood products
  • Mother to baby (before or during birth, through breast milk)

Education on this subject in the past years has been the number one problem for people living with HIV/AIDS. Misconceptions about how the virus is spread creates a stigma and makes living with the virus a taboo subject. This stigma has been assigned to certain groups of people including people that identify inside of the LGBTQ community and people who live in impoverished conditions.

How does this relate to sex or sexualities?

Unprotected sex is the leading cause of the spread of HIV in the world. When individuals feel as if they will be judged because of their HIV-positive status they are less likely to share with potential sexual partners the risks involved in engaging in sex, simply because they are afraid of rejection. The stigma associated with this virus makes it impossible for people infected to feel as if they can lead a normal life–which is entirely possible with treatment. If treated correctly people with HIV can display very little symptoms and live a completely normal life, never developing AIDS. They can also live a normal sex life by practicing safe sex (using a barrier: condoms, etc.) and never pass the virus onto their partner.

The biggest problem facing people that contract HIV is the stigma attached. Common stigma associated with HIV/AIDS include:

  • That they have had many sexual partners
  • That they will infect someone by touch or kiss
  • That they somehow brought this upon themselves

The cause of all of the fear and connotation with HIV/AIDS is lack of education– fueling the misconceptions about this illness. This leads to higher levels of HIV being spread simply because people are unaware and afraid of being honest with any person they may have sex with out of fear of being ostracized.

Beyond that, in the early stages of the understanding of HIV/AIDS the virus was labeled as something that only affected those in the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community. If a person was open about their HIV status it was immediately assumed (in some cases, with the general population) that they identified inside of that realm. This made daily life for any person already struggling with an illness increasingly difficult. Not only because of the assumptions placed on their life but the judgements and blame associated on a blameless sickness.

That’s where organizations like aids.org come in.

AIDS.ORG

The mission statement on AIDS.ORG website is as follows:

The mission of AIDS.ORG is to help prevent HIV infections and to improve the lives of those affected by HIV and AIDS by providing education and facilitating the free and open exchange of knowledge at an easy-to-find centralized website.

The organization works as a huge source of information for any person seeking more information about HIV and AIDS and creates an online community in which people with HIV or AIDS can feel safe and accepted.

Using the medium of the internet to spread information has become one of the leading ways to connect people around the world. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is a global issue, affecting millions of people world-wide. While smaller organizations work on a grass roots level to bring education, medicine and protection to individuals; this website allows for any person with access to a computer and the internet to have a plethora of information at their finger tips.

This website is an important resource especially in underdeveloped areas of the world because it makes access to health care information obtainable. While assuming that the internet and computers are readily available in underdeveloped areas the use of this website is free so it would only require a trip to a place with internet access– much less costly than a trip to a clinic.

In developed areas this resource is still useful as it stays up to date on the latest news and drug information regarding HIV/AIDS as shown below on the “news” portion of the website.

Allowing for quick and easy access to dozens of other websites containing information pertinent to HIV/AIDS patients or just someone interested in knowing more.

AIDS.org is google’s number one resource for information on HIV/AIDS and in 2010 the organization provided more than 4 million people with basic information about this illness. Of those 4 million 2.4 million were under the age of 25–catering to a younger generation of sexually active people gaining awareness on this sensitive topic.

Overall, I think this organization does a great job of spreading information. The website is easy to navigate, which is great for someone like me with little technology abilities. This great nonprofit organization works to spread information on a personable easily accessible place and I think they have achieved that wonderfully.

Working to spread education on HIV/AIDS is critical to the understanding of this illness. It will help end the stigma associated with it and hopefully slow the rapid rate at which this virus is spread. While other organizations that work to make medicine and forms of protection readily available are incredibly useful, without the knowledge required on these topics the distribution would mean little to nothing.

Thanks for reading,

Chelsie

            As a result of the rape culture which has lead to victim blaming and excused assaults on women, SlutWalk was created to reclaim the word, slut, so that it can no longer be used against women. Police officer Michael Sanguinetti “thought he was offering the key to rape prevention. ‘I’m not supposed to say this,’ he told a group of students at an Osgoode Hall Law School safety forum on January 24, but to prevent being sexually assaulted, ‘Avoid dressing like sluts’” (www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/20/slutwalk-united-states-city_n_851725.html). This statement made shock waves and was the driving force behind the SlutWalk Toronto, which has inspired a transnational movement.

 Initially the name of the movement, SlutWalk, can be jarring, especially since that word has been used to police women’s actions and behaviors. But after learning the motivation behind the movement it is inspiring that such an important issue is gaining international attention. Victim blaming is a major problem when investigating rape. In too many instances after a woman has been raped she is asked what she was wearing, as though her physical appearance somehow excuses the brutal act she has survived. Elizabeth Webb, the organizer of SlutWalk Dallas, made the statement: “If someone breaks into a house, do you blame the owner for having a house that looks appetizing?” (www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/20/slutwalk-united-states-city_n_851725.html). This statement really gets to the heart of the absurdity around victim blaming.

There is a resistance against the SlutWalk movement. Many people have complained that having the risqué clothing and the name Slut in the name of the movement further objectifies women. But are they missing the point?  The movement reclaims the word in order to display how sexual violence is engrained in our culture, and how calling a woman a slut is one way of policing her behavior. But I am not dismissing those who are resistant to accept the concept. The English language has many different variations of the word slut: loose, whore, ceiling eyes, cum dumpster, floozy etc. These words are always used against women, especially as a way of judging her sexual endeavors. Yet there are no words to describe a man in the same way, the only words close to this are: gigolo, pimp or player. All of these words that describe men have to do with having power over women, and these words are not viewed as insults when applied to men but are something to be proud of. To continue with that logic, reclaiming the word ‘slut’ will take away the power that it has over women. The SlutWalks do not require people to dress in a particular way, but many people dress in lingerie, thigh-highs and high-heeled shoes to be a part of the Walks. There has also been a lot of resistance to dressing in what is considered to be “slutty clothing.” On many blogs and cites people complain that embracing this word and dressing in this fashion is further objectifying women. However, the movement is meant to draw attention and gain a reaction to invoke a response: “We planned to demand accountability, not apologies. We wanted to make sure that the issue was kept fresh in people’s minds…” (www.slutwalktoronto.com).

Through the use of the internet, mainly Facebook, the SlutWalks have taken place across Canada, Us, Europe, Asia and Australia. The three demands the organization are working towards being achieved are:

                            1: Restructure police training and education (training for staff and outreach education for community) within the next 2 years to include non-discriminatory language, increased understanding of experiences of marginalization and oppression, and practices and protocols that support victims and survivors of sexual assault.

                         2: Using existing third party reviews and recommendations of police training/education for police.

                        3: Increased outreach and educational programs for the public in the next 2 years around sexual assault and informed consent, focusing on ‘rape myths’ and stereotypes (around perceived understandings of how assault/rape happens)  (www.slutwalktoronto.com).

These demands are not outlandish or unattainable, these are the basic expectation that we have as a society for our law enforcement. However, it is those who are in power and have control that are negatively shaping the way rape culture is formed. By effecting these demands the blame will be reassigned onto the assailants and allow women to be viewed as human being, who are entitled to being treated as such.

           

Yet this movement has sparked conversation, and even if people are uncomfortable with the name, at least they are talking about victim blaming and the rape culture that has been created. SlutWalk has been successful in drawing attention to the fact that this instance of telling women to “avoid dressing like sluts” is not an isolated issue but is an international phenomenon. Through this movement the subject of women’s sexualities is being discussed and explored. A woman has a right to be a sexual creature, without having to accused of being sexually deviant and deserving of sexual violence.

The SlutWalk movement gives people a way to participate. Many times when people discuss these issues they do not know what to do with the information they have. By being a transnational movement, all people can actively be involved in the movement. One does not have to consider themselves to be a sexual person to be a part of the movement, but just needs to be in support of the ideas behind the movement. This movement is not only intended for women, but all people can be a part of the movement. It is intended to change mindsets, not to exclude people from being a part of the conversations or movements.

No matter if you agree or disagree with the manner in which the movement is executed, ultimately challenging the source of these ideas and to change how women are perceived. The slogan that goes with the SlutWalk movement is “BECAUSE WE’VE HAD ENOUGH” but do you feel as though this movement is further turning women into objects rather than subjects? Are the women who participate in the walks assuming an internalization of their abuse? Or do you feel that this will encourage a discussion around the way that women’s sexuality is perceived and hopefully be able to change that perception?

-Dana Prebis