Consent: What does it look & sound like and why does it matter?

I read a few pieces over the past week that stuck the word consent in my mind:

Buying Myself Back” by Emily Ratajkowski

The model describes her images being sold without her consent. Does releasing one naked picture of yourself give permission to everyone else to sell any / every picture of you?

The Big Questions Book of Sex and Consent” by Donna Freitas

Based on discussions with college students, this book presents big questions about consent and why it isn’t just about avoiding rape allegations or having sex freely. It asks readers why consent is at the very heart of your relational ethics.

Blood Moon” by Lucy Cuthew

The situations here are super relevant: sexting, revenge porn, slut-shaming, social media, and all the horrible “risks” that come with having sex today, especially for young people.

Each of them pose different questions about consent, and all of them show that it is so much more layered than “yes” or “no.” Saying “yes” one time doesn’t mean you agree to have sex with that partner every time; even married couples are allowed to say no to sex, RIGHT?

Freitas also cuts to the fact that consensual sex isn’t always good sex, and unattached sex can be great sex. That complicates the messaging, doesn’t it? But as fun as hookups can be, they are also damaging in some ways or leave people desiring for more. She also points out that consent is NOT about free sex = good, frigid = bad. That’s a reductive way of looking at it that doesn’t leave anyone feeling more liberated.

The three pieces together also made me think about sex work vs. intimacy. Some people believe that since Ratajkowski did pose nude and her job is catering to the male gaze, that she has no right to claim privacy. In other words, she deserves her pictures being taken and sold by anyone. It also remind me of a Twitter thread I saw about an OnlyFans creator whose pictures were taken by her boyfriend — in the replies, many male commenters said they felt bad about her boyfriend. The OP explained the two of them were winning together.

Does being in a relationship mean only your partner gets access to pictures of you? What if your partner IS the one who shared pictures that were only meant for them? I don’t believe the ownership of images is a model problem — it is ultimately a question of trust and the power we hold when we are in an intimate relationship. And if we are being 100% honest with ourselves (and not concerned with being woke), does giving everyone access to look at our partner even feel GOOD?

Personally, I believe that society is not as liberated as sex-positivity makes it out to be. And having free sex is not empowering, at least from my perspective as a woman. My honest, true opinion is that women deserve to enjoy sex, BUT sex positivity still benefits men more than it benefits women. Feminism that pleases the patriarchy, that centers traditional feminity, is not that empowering or inclusive, though I understand it as a backlash against butch feminism.

I’m going to be pondering these big questions for a long time. My wish is that women would make space for each other for the full range of femininity, ways of being a woman, that there are, instead of settling for the binaries that patriarchy imposes on us. Men don’t have the limits of being either a slut or frigid; they get to be any kind of sexual being. (They even get praised for being HIMBOS.) So let’s give ourselves the same space to have sex or not have sex, and to chip away at the binaries. Your body is yours alone and it is a great privilege to be able to keep it to yourself or share it with another; an even greater privilege to be able to change your mind about it. And it is a privilege that many are trying to take away from us. Honor consent.

Weather Reminiscing

The hazy weather oddly reminds me a lot of school. When I was teaching, the transition from the excitement in August to a kind of serious feeling in September is so palpable. It gets windier, kids start bundling up, and I start to feel alarmed.

My first year of teaching at IHCS in Perris, I got in huge trouble around this time of the year. It was when students really started to misbehave, and one student accused me of pinching him. It was then that my life became hellish. My second year at Marguerita in Alhambra, the teachers I was assisting started getting terriorial and things got super chaotic with commuting and substituting around the school.

My third and last year of contract eaching is probably most bittersweet to me. I remember that September so clearly as the time when things started to change: when I was leaving right after the last bell because I was so exhausted, watching the kids at recess (and seeing them on the playground is somehow so memorable to me), and the sense of dread I felt at every staff meeting. I remember asking Shay for help and meeting Irene. Stopping by the pho place in Fullerton on my way back because I was exhausted and feeling like I could not keep going..

The weather also reminds me of living in Menifee by myself, and coming home and being too exhausted to do anything, including cooking and cleaning my apartment. I had felt so overwhelmed at school every single day; at the same time, the feeling that I was embarking on something new and living on my own was so special too — I will never forget the feeling of shopping at Ralph’s for myself, and walking to the mailbox get get my own mail, and simply feeling so indepedent even though miserable at work.

Last year, I started working at MEI-CHA around this time. I feel to be honest, strange about it. Any job I have from now on will feel like a piece of cake compared to what I experienced. This time of the year is strange and alarming to me and brings out the weirdest feelings.

A Prayer

I pray that I survive tough days

That my anxiety doesn’t get the best of me

That I don’t jump at sounds in my room

That I have the wherewithal to stand bugs

That I deal with pests swiftly and don’t let them rattle me

That I feel safe out inside as well as out in the world

That I let go of any guilt about the past and present

That I let myself feel deserving of taking up place

That I can speak openly about my wants and needs

That I am strong enough to survive in a very tough world

My New Normal

This term has been thrown around a bunch of times since the pandemic properly changed daily life in the U.S., but what I wante to talk about here is my new normal as in not living with my parents and not working a job that stresses me out daily.

When I was living with my parents, every day felt very stifling. I felt that I was constantly being watched/monitored, and every action I took brought about a comment. I’m so used to being judged by my parents that even now, when I buy something like a $60 shelf, I can hear my mom saying to me that it is too much, that I am being wasteful. I can see my dad messaging my mom that I am not capable of living on my own, that I will messs up, keep a dirty house, and just fail in some way.

It has been a work in progress trying to silence those voices. Giving myself permission to buy a $60 shelf and putting it in my apartment shouldn’t be the big deal that it is in my mind — I literally have to tell myself that It’s okay. There’s no harm done in buying a shelf, and it’s not bad to fill my space with things I need and like.

Another part of my new normal that has me feeling a little guilty is the fact that I don’t work a stressful job anymore. Especially right now when teachers have so much to deal with in distance learning. I think my norm had been going to work, get abused/disrespected at work, come back home to hear nagging and comments from my parents — I absorbed all of that as normal, even when it was hard on my body and warped my mental state.

So now that those stressors are removed, and I have so much freedom and peace in general, it feels so different and I am not used to it. I often wonder if I’m doing what I’m supposed to do and whether I’m doing good or bad because I’m used to getting validation from employers.

My affirmations to myself:

I’m learning to set my new normal to where I am the boss — if I feel good about it, it really is okay. Even if so-and-so might criticize me for it if they were here. I am doing good and I deserve good things. I don’t have to suffer all the time to earn a space to live on this planet. I can be on this planet to enjoy myself and have a good time, as long as I am not harming others or myself.

Why I Love Plants

I’m new in my plant journey, and two posts back I explained how I moved out. Living alone can indeed be a lonely experience sometimes, and like many others, I picked up the plant hobby. It really is gratifying in a way that meets the needs of so many people today.

1. Loneliness: Plants are literally alive. They add life to any room and just knowing there is a living, breathing thing in here with me, even if it doesn’t speak, makes me feel a little less alone.

2. Care: Plants have different needs: light, humidity, water. You need to constantly monitor them and see how they are doing, and look out for signs of problems like wilting, leaves curling, or my least favorite, PESTS!!!! It honestly reminds me a little bit of children / students.

3. Unique: Every kid has differnet needs and quirks, not to mention different sizes and appearances! Having plants in your charge and keeping them alive is very satisfying.

4. Learning curve: Also like teaching children, there is a huge learning curve to taking care of plants. There are so many problems that I spot for the first time and have to look up what happened. Thankfully, all the places I’ve bought plants from offer plant care support. I’m learning something brand new every day and it’s cool to apply it right away to a concrete object. (Not even object, a living thing!)

5. Acceptance: Even if I take the best care of them, plants are still going to be imperfect, with holes in leaves, yellowing, dead stems, and bugs. That doesn’t mean I did something wrong, it’s just LIFE. It’s life in the biological sense and the figurative sense. You can’t control for every factor, and there are random things that happen, including things I don’t like. My plants will have bad days, weeks or even months. There are times when they won’t respond to me even when I water them. But I have to learn to accept ebb and flow and imperfections of life.

5. Fun: It is fun to collect the different species and pair them! There really is so much variety in plants: color, leaf patterns, texture, sprawling vs. standing, wrinkles, wines, shape… it sounds cheesy but they teach me to embrace differences in humans too, like our skin color, shape, size and texture.

In conclusion, I love plants and finding nooks and crannies for them in m tiny, 360 sq. ft home! I will also write another tribute to why I love living in the home I do now. ❤️

Comfort #OwnVoices reads

It’s been a very tough year and I feel lost every other day. So it’s been nice to read books that are comfortable but still have a challenging and persevering feel. Here are five that I read recently that happen to be #OwnVoices, written by Asian American and Native American authors.

My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail D. Villanueva is a realistic MG story with the Drug War in the background. (See Patron Saints of Nothing for a powerful YA telling of what’s going on in the Philippines.) In it, Sab (short for Sabrina) sees a black butterfly, an omen that she or someone close to her is about to die. She figures she only has one week left to live and decides to find out why her sister has refused to speak to her dad. Despite being a MG novel, My Fate manages to look into colonialism, colorism, politics and free speech. I have a craving for Filipino stories and I’m so glad Villanueva is writing them for a younger audience.

Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan is a translation of a Hans Christian Andersen Award-winning Chinese novel. I read it in 2017 and it was one of the books that started my down the reading journey that I am now on. The background is the Cultural Revolution, which brutalized the lives of artists, intellectuals and the middle-upper class. Sunflower is the daughter of an artist and she gets sort of adopted into Bronze’s family. The story is heartbreaking but so, so good. It is one of my favorites.

I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn is a fluffy, romantic story about a Japanese American girl visiting her grandparents in Japan during spring break. Her quest is to find herself, and she does that along with meeting a cute pre-med boy who dresses up as a mochi mascot. This story is exactly what I needed during a time when we couldn’t travel or feel even very romantic at all. I love how the anime vibes: how clueless Kimi is and how caring and committed Akira is. Read this for a fun getaway!

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell is such a special book. The author passed away before she could complete it, and she gave it to her friend to complete the draft. All the women who helped bring this book to life–author, coauthor, editor, cover illustrator–are Native, even though they are from different tribes. The story is based on the author’s childhood, moving from the Grande Ronde in Oregon to Los Angeles due to tribe termination. It literally forcefully removed their identity, and the Umpqua members became the walking dead. It also occurred during the Civil Rights era, when there was racism toward Black Americans. This book should be paired with I Can Make This Promise. The US government really deleted every aspect of Native American life from this country and it is criminal. I’m so glad Native writers are writing about their families and presenting a more accurate picture of their lives.

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park is about a half-Chinese, half white girl, Hanna, who moves to the frontier with her father. Her mother was a seamstress and passed on the skill of sewing to her. Hanna encounters racism at school in the 1890s, and unfortunately the comments she hears are not all that different from the comments an Asian American girl might hear today. Park wrote Prairie Lotus as an alternative to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, which was racist toward Native Americans. This book made me think of how many untold stories there are, and what kind of images we conjure when we think of an era.

In review, the protagonists in these books faced deep challenges, but I still found it comforting to hear their stories because I am experiencing a deeply challenging time myself. Thank you to #OwnVoices books for making me feel seen.

My current emotions!

This year, needless to say, has been one of the worst globally. In my personal life, I’ve hit some of the lowest lows with my grandma’s passing and me basically escaping from my parents’ house. Moving out during a pandemic has been hard. I am beyond grateful to have a roof over my head, but it is stressful trying to manage everything and not having a partner.

Living alone during this time is a blessing but scary at the same time. I’ve had to confront a lot of my fears — fear of bugs, fear of being alone, and fear of coming home to everything broken and infested. (I have this fear because one of the worst days of my life happened like that.) I feel anxious and wonder if I will mess up and forget something, like leaving the stove on or forgetting to put the cap on something and spilling it. So far, it hasn’t happened. But I always wonder “Did I really close it?”

I have a huge fear of bugs and this highlights how hard it it to live alone — no one is there to kill the bug for me! And if there’s anything I hate more than an alive bug, it is a dead bug’s corpse. Yuck!!!!!! It’s just full of bad feelings. I’m super worried abotu one day coming home to a ton of insects. Realistically, I know that won’t happen. But it is still one of my fears.

Another thing that throws me off is the sense of pure freedom. I really don’t have that much freedom compared to other people, but compared to the life I was living at home (school, full time work, living with my restrictive parents), the life I live now feels like paradise/vacation. It’s hard not to feel guilty or undeserving. I’m so used to things being hard and just having this sense of doom/being watched, that having my own space and being able to breathe and live feels SO DIFFERENT. It’s been almost 2 months and I am still not used to this feeling.

As hard as things are, I will settle into my new place and embrace my new life. ❤️