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.

Living with Fear and Caution

Fear is such a physical feeling for me — heart palpitations, sweating palms and bottoms of feet, and a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. As I sit in my room where I am the only person, I feel totally scared. It is unsettling to be the only one and it feels like coming face-to-face with my phobias:

What if I hear a crash out of nowhere?

What if I see a snake slithering out from under the cabinets?

What if there is a ghost staring back from inside the mirror in my bathroom?

What if there are insects breeding in the hidden corners of my apartment?

What if a bomb goes off outside? What if there are bad guys just outside my window?

What if the big earthquake happens and no one can help me?

What if there is a locust or a bee/wasp gets inside?

What if spiders or gnats are hiding in my plants?

Typing them out makes me feel a tiny bit better. Naming my fears is the first step to overcoming them. But in the age of pandemic/rising fascism/climate change, isn’t it a little reasonable to be fearful? I do wish I had someone watching over me.

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. ❤️

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. ❤️

Mislabeling sex workers and addressing sexual misconduct between students

Earlier this week, I wrote about sex worker rights and coronavirus and the ensuing racism. Today, I’m continuing to explore those topics.

There is a new article on The Lily that is personal to me. It asks how do we respond to sexual misconduct between students. I’ve thought this as a teacher receiving threats and witnessing threats between students. I have not seen a satisfactory way to deal with it. Schools prefer to pretend that it doesn’t happen altogether. So, I’m very glad this article at least acknowledges the fact that it happens and we don’t know the correct way to resolve it.

A 4th grader was threatened with rape by classmates. She was told to ‘stay away’ from the boys.

When I was teaching 4th grade, there was a lot of bullying between students in my class. Now that I am not working in elementary education, I can talk freely about it:

The discipline policy in schools often punishes good students and rewards bad behavior. (Whether there are “bad students/children” or just “bad behavior” is another topic!)

Full disclosure: As a teacher, I did not know what was the right way to handle threats toward myself or between students. It’s not something I’ve ever been trained on. School administration gives no directions on how teachers should respond when they get threats in the classroom.

To me, it seemed that the school did not want to address that it was happening at all. PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) was about “providing support and preventing unwanted behaviors.” But clearly, unwanted behaviors were already occurring.

The result is a lot of victim blaming and asking “What did you do to provoke them?” It’s no surprise that it’s the same response that victims of sexual misconduct hear in the adult world.

There is no “magic age” that makes kids old enough to take full responsibility for incidents of sexual abuse, said Stone. But for elementary-school aged students, schools should assume kids don’t really understand what they’ve done. When a 5-year-old pulls down his pants on the playground, for example, it’s clearly very different from when a high-schooler does the same thing, said Martin.

I definitely do not wish any child to go into the court system or get sucked into the cycle of recidivism. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem right that boys’ and girls’ harmful actions toward others go unaddressed, even if they’ve experienced it themselves.

The question becomes, how do we teach children what sexual misconduct is and why it’s wrong? After all, adults are supposed to know better and children are counting on us. When we pretend sexual misconduct doesn’t happen in school, we are letting down students who then have to carry the burden of hurt and harassment, as well as students who never learn that sexual misconduct is wrong and go on to do more of it.

‘Conflating Sex Work And Trafficking Is Harmful. We Need To Stop’

There is a really great human rights blog called EachOther. They have a series on sex work, and one article talks about not lumping all sex workers into helpless victims who got into sex work through trafficking.

Human trafficking is a horrific human rights violation that utilises threats, force, abduction, deception and coercion in order to control people and exploit them.

Sex work is a consensual transaction between adults. For many sex workers, this is their only means of survival.

They are different. Sex work, by its nature, happens in the shadows. But there is a world of difference between selling nudes on social media and working in a brothel and being a slave. When prostitution abolitionists talk about sex workers as all the same, it becomes even more harmful to them.

If sex workers feel so persecuted and judged that they don’t even disclose what they do to the most trusted profession in the world, we need to ask ourselves what we’re doing wrong.

Sex trafficking victims are not prostitutes by choice.

Sex workers are not all helpless victims.

If we really want to help victims of sex trafficking, let’s not talk about all sex workers as if they are in the same situation. They are not.

Explainer: Seven ways the coronavirus affects human rights

Coronavirus is a public health concern, but it also demonstrates why human rights are a MUST. It seems strange to have to prove the need for human rights, yet it’s an ongoing struggle in 2020.

Amnesty International talks about how “Human rights violations hinder, rather than facilitate, responses to public health emergencies, and undercut their efficiency.”

  1. Early censorship
  2. The right to health
  3. The censorship continues
  4. Activists harassed and intimidated
  5. Regional crackdown on “fake news”
  6. Discrimination and xenophobia
  7. Border controls and quarantines must be proportionate

We have to continue struggling for human rights, because it is literally a life-or-death situation. Even if my rights are not being violated, the effects are much closer than they appear to be.

Keep struggling and connecting with one another! Building connections and community is how we resist. ✊💛

Periods, online dating, and virus racism

Last week, a few of my interests “appeared” in my life:

  • Mochi Magazine, the publication I write for, ran an article on racism in online dating;
  • the alarm around coronavirus increased and I saw it on Facebook and heard about it in person;
  • I ordered reusable cloth pads from Rabbit+Bear Co and they arrived!

These all happen to be things I have strong feelings about: menstruation, microaggressions, and Asian Americans. (It’s also interesting when what happens online intersects with real life!) I’ve had a weekend to digest it and here are my thoughts.

I was bullied as a child after the SARS outbreak, now it’s happening again with coronavirus

There is so much misinformation around an unknown virus, and when compounded with stereotypes about China, it’s no surprise that it turns into racism and fearmongering.

If this outbreak happened in any other country, there would be hashtags like #PrayforParis or #StayStrongLasVegas right away. However, because it’s China, people react with avoidance rather than sympathy.  On Facebook, I see moms worried about the virus coming to their city, videos of bizarre Chinese street food being shared, and polls of whether Thailand should ban Chinese tourists. All of these are valid concerns, but not more so than the risks we encounter in everyday life. (For one, we could walk around being afraid of white men with guns, but you don’t see us doing that.)

People said I was being too dramatic and overreacting about the fake news and sinophobic articles being shared, yet a man in Sydney has already died from the “yellow peril” rhetoric spread by the media. He collapsed in Sydney’s Chinatown and died of a medical issue unrelated to the virus because people refused to administer CPR  due to a viral video going around of people apparently “collapsing” on the street in China.

There are no vaccines or precautions against negative attitudes toward certain countries or groups of people. To be fair, I see fear from both Asians and non-Asians, and China does need to be more transparent about how it responds to outbreaks. When it comes to viruses, let’s think Us vs. Virus, rather than point fingers and spread unhelpful paranoia.

Meet the Latina Fighting Chicago’s Period Poverty

Ashley Novoa started the Chicago Period Project to gather and give period supplies to homeless and in-need people. This includes pads, tampons, underwear, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and wipes. (Yes, having periods and being female in general, comes with a lot of costs!) Novoa works with the UI Health Pilsen Food Pantry in her old neighborhood to distribute the products.

“People talk about sex but are disgusted to talk about menstruation, even though it is the simplest part of reproductive justice. If people are not talking about periods, they fail to think about the menstrual struggles homeless people face with their periods,” Novoa says.

I love this because it’s a great example of starting where you are and working with your community. Also, it draws attention to the needs of homeless menstruators. Periods are so hidden that it seems as if people are not having periods at all, and among the resources given to the homeless, menstrual products are probably at the bottom of the list.

Support the Chicago Period Project here.

Sexual Racism: The Struggles AAPI Men Face and What We Can Do About It

It’s a fact: Asian men have a harder time getting matches on dating apps than Asian women. It’s uncomfortable to talk about hierarchies within your own race, but this is why it’s so important:

A phenomenon like this runs the risk of turning the female body into a commodity, of creating an arena in which Asian females come across as falsely privileged compared to their male counterparts and in which white women appear to be the ultimate prize. These racist stereotypes can fuel deep-rooted insecurities about Asian men’s masculinity and/or sexual appeal, which can spiral into negative notions about AAPI women.

Asain women’s privilege on dating apps really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and when you start to unpack what it implies — that it’s easier to get some people to date you, that it’s a privilege to date certain people — you see that sexual racism really pits people against each other, and as usual, white supremacy wins.

I don’t want to end on a bleak note, because I am really glad these articles were written. Online dating, period poverty, and viruses are all huge things that one individual can do very little to change, but I believe that microactions can be as helpful as microaggressions are harmful.

Let’s engage in and change the course of conversations about these topics. 🗣💬