Tag Archives: Sexual Behavior Anthology

Feminists or not, the dilemma

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Feminists or not,  the dilemma is long standing full of contradictions, mystery and history.  This is a response toLauren Enriquez who wrote and article  in NY Times 2/27/17 Pro-Life, But Left Out in her experience of the Woman’s March 2017.  I offer my experience to you Lauren and to  other women who don’t identify or feel the feminist or not feminist dilemma.   A long standing dilemma for women since the first feminists came along.

My experience was not of a divided group of women, some “feminists” – some not. In fact, the divisions of race and age, and status and income of all the women who assembled was without boundaries as we mixed and engaged to fill the streets with our support of women’s rights and human rights. First, I need to ask? Is Women’s Rights really all about abortion, and why does abortion create an insurmountable chasm in your experience, Lauren?

Consider this: Roe v Wade made evident and overt the terminating of a pregnancy, explicitly defining for medical professionals their liability not being in assistance to women. in the early years of the 20th Century, women had their babies at home with a midwife and family. The same women who helped women with their labor and delivery, helped them with abortifacients to terminate a pregnancy. Doctors did not participate in births unless there was a dire need for their intervention. In the 1920’s and 30’s, hospitals began marketing to women to come to the hospitals to have their babies according to historian Shannon Withycombe who specializes in the history of women’s health at the University of New Mexico. She says that given hospitals were no more sanitary than at home, and since antibiotics had not entered use in the hospitals, hospitals and at room births combined to make for a high mortality in delivery. 70 women in every 1000 died in labor and delivery, but rarely did the women  see any physician or midwife prior to delivery. What really changed the tide that brought women into hospitals for delivery in the 19th and early 20th century was their marketing the promise of pain-free labor with “twilight sleep.” Until the 1960’s, this combination of morphine and amnesiac was predominantly used in hospitals by doctors. In the 1960’s, the quality of birth for the mother and the child was reconsidered. Natural childbirth-drug free with breathing training then became the potential for childbirth in and out of the hospital.

Abortion has a similar history:  prior to Roe v Wade, women were treated by the midwives for delivery, but also to end early pregnancies in such common practice that it wasn’t directly spoken of.  When Roe v Wade came into law of the land, it was the physicians who  gained legal protection in intervening in a pregnancy, as well as the women.  Margaret Sanger, Founder of Planned Pregnancy center in upstate New York,  kind and compassionate doctors and nurses  were what was available  to women before Roe v Wade in 1973.  But what drove the need for that was the fact that  in 1964,  Civil Rights and birth control pills gave women more power in their lives.  By 1966,  66% of women used birth control.  A huge change was underway in the marriage and family patterns over the next two decades.  Of note is the fact that when Roe v Wade became law of the land, there were already seventeen states that allowed the practice of assisting the termination of unwanted early pregnancies.  Further, as historian Linda Gordon points out”the growing acceptability of sex without marriage made the ban on abortions unacceptable.”  Women achieved “greater safety, lower costs, and greater opportunity in education and employment,”  and as well, they achieved the legal status of purchasing a home and credit as they took on jobs.   Abortion rate from 1972-76 showed that deaths from abortion went from thirty-nine per million to two per million.  Feminism was attributed to Roe v Wade, but its source was actually the legal and medical establishments giving form and legal stand to those who assisted women in their choice of abortion.

Women’s integrity to choose what is right for them does not require group membership, or exclude any woman,  Having your choice and allowing other women to have their choice does not need to come with discrediting, diminishing or holding in contempt those who make different choices.  The Women’s March for me was all about that!   Our concerns, what we marched for was Women’s Rights, Civil Rights and Human Rights and standing together, marching together as women; -some who call themselves feminists, some who don’t.

We are here for each other, for our mothers, for our sisters, for our daughters.  In response to the New Administrations intimidation and threats hurled toward limiting or reducing any aspect of those rights that support the benefit of full inclusion and social equality achieved since the 1960’s, we resist.  We will continue to show up to stand with those in need of support.  That is feminism to most, and you are not excluded.  We are here, Lauren, together we and those who march together will stand with the most vulnerable, and bring ourselves forward together to achieve that.

Peggy Reskin, author of Barefoot Frontrunners: sex, women and power

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2014: Marcos Cochrane “Making women safe”

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Marco Cochrane with his wife Julia Cochrane as interviewer presented this talk at the Innovate Berkeley Social, July 16th, 2014.

Marco quickly goes to the heart of his work and his message, and his life:

“What would it be like in the world if women felt safe and what would it take to have women feel safe?”

Known for his series Truth is Beauty in The Bliss Project of Burning Man, Marco’s  ‘Woman’, is made from mesh a 55 foot essence and form of a woman reaching with every inch of herself toward the sky. She is felt as well as seen;  celebrated at Burning Man’s annual celebration in the desert of Nevada.

Marco is speaking at the Innovate Berkeley event at the Impact Hub Berkeley,  as creative artists, writers, welders, designers and people excited about life and its possibilities,  gather for his presentation.

Marco describes himself as the child of hippie parents raised in Berkeley.  In his early years he was introduced to antiwar and feminism viewpoints.   By age 7 was aware and sensitive to the possibility of the need for radical change.  He was aware, from an early age,  of the insanity of war.   He saw how people treated each other and wondered why,  and what that was about.  His radical question also comes from his attention on women.  Not just attention on the inches and hills and valleys of a woman’s body,  while in the process of sculpting the Truth is Beauty series;  but also noticing the silence, the holding back, the absence of exposure behind the unspoken speaking of the women around him.

Marco’s question “What would it take to have women feel safe?” brings to mind that because of their silence, the withdrawal of their presence, humanity has less to work with.  Marco expresses the value that women feeling safe and free to express themselves, would make their feminine energy available to the world.  He observes that his own ability to speak, to respond,  is easily available to him.  And that is not the case with women.   He observes that men don’t need to have permission to speak.   Men fear other men.  They know they carry  aggression associated with fear for their survival.  They sense it in other men.  Violence against women, rape and abuse, Marco describes as a coping mechanism to keep women silent. The effect is to shut down women.

We need the direction from women that would make the world a different place.”  We have a world where rape and assault, not just in far off worlds, but in our military, in our universities, in our churches, in our schools are constantly being revealed.  The revelations generally are exposed by a woman,  who,  at significant cost to herself,  and often under duress,  speaks.  The different energy that women contribute and the potential of that energy to the world, is what Marco’s words convey.

If women felt safe, their silence would end and the feminine energy of connectedness, transparency, and creative possibilities,  would be available to the world.   Women feeling safe did not come about through the feminist movements or the hippie movements of the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s,  he asserts.  Marcos is intent that the challenge of having women feel safe must being taken up by all.  The implication is that everyone who wants to see the end of violence against women and in the world,  needs to be up for the job.  He suggests we do it because it’s the right thing to do;  because it’s fun, and not out of generosity.

“Its going to take all of us to do it,” Marco says in closing.  In saying all of us,  there is the implication that that means women as well as men.   Women making it safe for women to speak out is the basis for women’s groups and the trust that is built there.  But out here in everyday life,  in the office, in meetings, or social events with our daughters, making it safe for other women is our job as women as well as men.  Women know which women in their lives  make it safe for them and they trust them.

Marco has traveled around countries far and wide to speak to people about Truth is Beauty, his magnificent sculptures celebrating the beauty and spirit of women;  as well as his message about making it safe for women, and what that can contribute to humanity.  The connection is clear.  The job is out there for each of us.  This is what we are left with as we leave the evening at the Innovate Berkeley Dinner presentation.  Amy and Revival has filled us with excellent food, and our minds and hearts are a great deal richer than when we entered because of the opening provided by Marco.  That opening is as high and wide as his 55 foot sculpture and then some.

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Sexual liberation in the 60’s

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HOW IT WAS

Sexual Liberation in the 60’s came to people in all sorts of experiences.  The background of music was one.  “It Ain’t Me Babe” the nasally unfamiliar voice filled my room and filled my psyche.  Everything I thought I knew about love and sex were never to be the same as I absorbed a whole new way of looking at and feeling life around me through Bob Dylan.  It was June, 1969, and I had been deep in despair over the assault on how I had put together what I believed was life.  The disparity between what I thought my life was about and how it was left me devastated.  I had counted on the things I had seen in the movies, read about in books and heard from girlfriends and family.  Life was about getting married, having a family and being a good person.  You needed to be  pretty enough for someone to fall in love with you, be very interested in making out with you , and yet you maintained your virginity(check). Then they would give you an engagement ring (check) and on your wedding night give you that experience you saw in the movies called sex.  Well, that wasn’t what happened exactly.  But close enough, and I luxuriated in the orgasms I didn’t even know were part of the deal.

I had looked every time I babysat through the books of the people for whom I sat.  I looked for books that might tell me what sex was.  We had had the gym instructors show us the diagram of the body parts as we sat stoney and silent in a special gym class.  It was all deadly serious was what I gathered from that introduction to not getting pregnant.  I had heard the priests talk about the denigration of women by men somehow related to sex.  Sex in my family was something mom and dad did we knew but behind closed doors. Occasionally we would hear sounds coming from their room and both my sister and I were totally disdainful and didn’t see how they had sex, since they weren’t gloriously attractive people like in the movies.  We worried we were not going to be attractive enough. We knew there were expectations of girls that had to do with not being sexual, that message was everywhere in catechism, in english class, in the gym but at the same time we were supposed to be “sexy” and that that was of value. We also worried we would somehow give away ourselves in a situation that became sexual and out of control.  I once had a girlfriend who needed to go to the doctor to find out if she was pregnant.  She wasn’t, but she cried all the way home because the doctor she said had her feel so bad about herself.  It was a huge relief to be married and safely out of the range of such disasters.

So the bounty of sex and orgasm I enjoyed with my fighter pilot husband who came home after weeks and/or months to a feast of sexual activity that we both enjoyed a lot was unexpected joy.  There would be breaks.  In the last six weeks of pregnancy and first six weeks after birth, the doctor required you not to have sex.  But that somehow just added to the dance, to the jubilee which followed the birth of the babies.

Then when he came back from Viet Nam, our life blew up and he was gone.  Going back to college was an inspired move and opening my mind to a whole new world.  University of South Florida had a very active anti war movement, and I was exposed to the politics and upheaval of the late 60’s protests.  Mind altering ideas came from funny looking people with slashes of paint on their face like Jerry Rubin.  It was about the war, but then again it was about being free and I wasn’t sure what that meant but it seemed to be related to breaking down racial barriers in attitudes that included people different from ourselves, and also breaking down sexual barriers we’d acquired just by virtue of growing up in the culture of the 50’s.  It all seemed to go together.

I was also deep into my own personal upheaval and trauma with the loss of my marriage and the family I thought we were.  I was in psychotherapy and had moved from recognizing the source of pain unexpressed in my childhood that was not to be denied in the loss of my marriage.  This was all a time of finding the assumptions and beliefs I had challenged by the reality around me.  The door was open suddenly to seeing the world around me and myself in a wholly different way.  Sexuality then was also being challenged.

So if sex wasn’t about being with the  one,  your husband  for your lifetime, till death do you part, and having babies, then what was it to be for me.  I wanted no part of the “gay divorcee” image that I saw in the few examples around me.  Divorce was failure and scandalous.  But I was starting to feel good after my first term in college and managing the kids was working out pretty good.  I certainly lowered my standards in terms of things like reading to the kids every night after baths.  I felt guilty about what they weren’t getting every minute.  I was distracted, worried and absent to them I’m pretty sure even if my body was  there at that time.  I had extreme emotional responses whenever Tom was around.  He would drive his VW into the driveway at times I didn’t expect and leave whenever he did.  It didn’t seem like I had anything to do with what was happening there, and certainly no control over what he did.

I lived in the neighborhood of the faculty of University of South Florida in Tampa, and the friends who had been our friends were all aware and engaged with me and the kids in this big public spectacle our life had become.  The neighborhood was a gift.  It might have been a totally different story without the support and encouragement to keep moving forward from those friends.  But also, one by one, their husbands came to my door.  It was so ironic-the women feeling sorry for me in the daytime, their husbands showing up at my door at night.  It made my blood run cold, and just had me feel fearful and confused as I politely turned them away.  I think the polite was just because I was so scared about what it said about me that they were there.

I was  at a local college hangout-the Collage with my next door neighbors  when I met Bobbye.   Strobe lights were flashing, Bob Dylan was wailing, “How does it feee-el, to be on your own-with no direction home, a complete unknown…”  It was so my inside feeling that hearing Bob Dylan sing that was devastating in that moment.  And then there was Bobbye Generone.   He had wavy black long hair, and a beard, blue jeans and he made me laugh.  The things he said I didn’t quite understand, but it was about freedom, personal freedom-whatever that was.  I invited him to my house on Sunday when I was having my neighbors for dinner.  He came.  We made love.  I had never made love like we made love.  It wasn’t coming from anywhere else other than enjoyment of the moment and fun.  It wasn’t a courtship, it didn’t promise a tomorrow, it didn’t validate yesterday.  It just was.  And it was great.

That’s how come I was listening to Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones the week that followed, playing the records over and over again.  Listening to their words-words that didn’t fall easily into my realm of understanding.  But I just listened.  “It Ain’t me, babe.  No, no, no-it ain’t me, babe.”  It changed my life.  The words and soul of Bob Dylan changed my feelings about what was happening around me, it changed how I saw what was happening.  This tragedy that seemed so personal that I felt so helpless to manage actually wasn’t mine alone, but a human potential.  The edge of truth from a source I never would have encountered had my life continued as it had been before the fall of my life blowing up seemed miraculous.

Suddenly I had compassion for men and saw that the design I put around my desire was a package that I thought life was about.  Betrayed when it turned out as it did, this opening to seeing the predicament men were in a moment of clarity had the  anger and feeling of being a victim to a monster dissipate .  In the process of having my life fall apart, new ground and a new perspective on choices I had as a result were now clear.  I saw that-the hard cold resentment and hot anger of betrayals were no longer  serving me.  I  saw there was something else even if I didn’t have a handle on it, or know how to talk about it yet.

Turned out this perspective allowed for another  good decision as life moved forward,  and provided the basis for the move to  California.
And best of all, Berkeley.

 

 

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1970-new power to choose

 

Women choosing their own sexual lives was the process which engaged the generation of the 60’s produced the dynamic of some women who saw the opening to choose  their roles and behavior in what would be considered a new level of consciousness, a view of feminism and the potential for equality in the bedroom and in their world.  Not all women for sure, and there certainly was a significant difference in how women viewed themselves relative to the culture in which they lived, worked and raised their families.  But the thread of new views on who women were and what the basis for sexuality might be about for women was changing.

Clitoral or vaginal orgasm had been challenged by Freud and Masters and Johnson in their 10,000 research recordings found there was no difference, and in fact measured the fact that women were capable of achieving many orgasms in a sexual encounter.  But for most women this type of information if you got it at all came from your doctor when a problem in fertility was the case.    Most women didn’t even discuss with each other the experience of their sexuality, and there was little available in terms of information for the public about women’s sexuality.  The emotional content of women in their sexual experience was not considered scientific based and was discounted within the realm of study.

All the more reason for the social groundwork conditions which had Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in 1963 become not only a best seller in this country but world wide has changed how women see themselves and their sexuality.  Women began talking with each other,  over the bridge tables, at the teas and church, found a vocabulary, found their voice around the rightness and validity of equality in the bedroom.  They were the choosers and not just the chosen and responsible for the choices they made, not without a few bruises and not without trial and error, but that was how women came through their ownership of their sexuality if that was the course they chose in the late 60’s, early ’70s and change the culture they did.

THE PILL AND THE HITE REPORT

In 1973,  Roe vs Wade offered the choice for women to  take or not take pregnancy to full term.  That same year, unmarried women were officially allowed to get birth control pills from their doctors.  Talk to you grandmother or even your mother, your aunt or any of the women who have lived through the civil rights act to current times.    A woman in the 1930’s in Brooklyn found her way to one of the first Margaret Sanger’s clinic.  Some women went to Juarez, or to a doctor known to be compassionate towards women with unintended pregnancies that they did not want to take to term.  Roe VS Wade like a bridge provided a certainty of choice that never existed before for women, away from being victims to their biology to conscious and responsible choice.  For many women, this would never be a dilemma; for others, the option to terminate would never be what they would consider with or without the religious structure or mandate.   But this did contribute, there’s no question to an increase in the interest in sexuality. There is not mistake to viewing the 70’s-80’s as the time of social and sexual experimentation with new game rules.

A shift of focus then to the new question of value and desire for women:  what pleased them and why.   And Cheryl Hite presented  her woman researched book called The Hite Report in 1976 detailing the practices of women in their daily sexual lives.  Sex for women was no longer perceived as fulfilling the biological function and responsibility for procreation or being a sexual partner to their husbands, the issue of pleasure and orgasm had taken the conversation to a new ground.

The Hite Report in 1976 gave a view of the  intimate experiences of women relative to their reported pleasure and gratification of orgasm and specific sexual activity, including masterbation.  Women began to talk to each other about their experiences, their expectations and their desires.  It stirred up questions women had never before been willing to reveal about their sexual lives.

John Bancroft work at the Kinsey Institute in the 40’s was the tip of the iceberg in bringing up the scientific question of what lay behind the behavior of women relative to their sexuality, as reported by Julia Heiman, current director of the Kinsey Institute.  But it would be the impact of the national conversation among women about their sex lives that was stimulated by the Hite Report that had the topic gain ground among women in the 70’s.  The  ladies bridge club tables in the late 60’s, early ’70’s and other ladies’ gatherings often provided the place and time for those discussions by women about women, the topic of orgasm had come into the conversation.  Not all women identified with the strident voice and emerging presence of the National Organization of Women, in fact NOW seemed remote and alien to many women across the country, but women were talking to each other now more than ever.

SEXOLOGIST EARLY STUDIES

Helen Singer Kaplan, a sexologist in the 70’s developed a study on the physical response of women measuring those responses in the release of serotonin, heart rate, dilation of the eyes and lubrication.  Her findings were that the emotional or cognizant awareness and the physiological response of women did not correspond .  That is, the biological physiological changes in the body that corresponded with desire for sex were apparent but were not detected or reported by the women as they occurred.  It was reported that the “split” -separation of feeling and physical response did not show up for men.  When there was biological physiological change in men, men were aware of the desire that came with those changes.  The obvious conclusion was that the evidence for physical response by men was observable and validated by erection.

But what could have been considered was the different standards about sexuality that are part of the education and experience of men and women as they enter puberty and adulthood.   Men have historically had more approval of overt expression of interest in sexuality than women.  Being aware of one’s own body and its desires for women is as recent as the social and political changes for women in the  past forty years of western society.

When you consider the amount of pressure on women up until the mid to late 1960’s to withhold themselves from sexual activity for a variety of reasons relative to their value and inclusion as “good women,”  their lack of recognition and experience of their sexual response makes sense.  The rules socially adhered to by the majority of men and women didn’t include women coming to know their own bodies, their own desires and responses.   The deal was to withhold their own pleasure and sexual activity until they married plain and simple.   The release of societal standards in the sexual revolution of the 60’s cannot be overstated.  The dramatic change from the mores that discouraged, limited women and even punished women relative to their expression of their sexual interest and appetite to expression to a NEW AGE;  fulfillment, orgasm and birth control ushered in a new age, political, economic and social perception would be transformed.

Around the world today, there are countries and nations that still punish women for any overt expression of their sexuality and  limit the women’s access to responsible care of themselves through the use of birth control.  So for women, it could be said, the late 60’s was the beginning of owning their own sexual lives and choices.  Today, incredulously,  in the halls of congress, there is an attempt to take women back to that societal and legal constraint limiting their choices.

But the evolvement of women to know their own desire and their own bodies is relatively new ground for women that brought on new studies.  Meridith Chivers of Queen’s University of Kingston, Ontario directed her research in 2009 to “Discovering What Ignites Desire for women,” in the Archives of Sexual Behavior Anthology.  Those studies and those of Lisa Diamond, a Sexologist at the University of Utah, also studied women’s desire in her sexuality study.  The Diamond  study revealed that women’s desire is more receptive to and dictated by need for intimacy and emotional connection.  She measured the oxytocin as a factor in asserting that female desire was reliant on estrogen- and the cause of desire for women.

Marta Meana, Professor at University of Nevada, also researched in her study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, and her findings were that it wasn’t the closeness or communication that created the oxytocin that released desire, but  that “being desired is the orgasm.”   Meana attributed that to narcissism.  Her study suggested that  sexual response was a “yearning for self love.”

Major studies would follow relevant to the measure  of how and under what conditions women experiencing their desire.  But what can be seen is that with the advent of the birth control pill, those questions were really new questions and they brought on new options and dilemmas.  That is, in the western world-while many countries continue to keep the conditions such that women are without the choice of birth control and are a victim to their sexuality.

There was considerable concern in the media and in society itself as women’s liberation and the choices to women about their sexuality became more accessible to women.  Life magazine did stories about what if women become just like men sexually, free to choose their sexual roles and desires. Newspaper articles about how women would be just like men if they didn’t have the concerns that had provided constraints on their sexual choices and behavior.  For some women, trying hard to achieve the a priori of what it was to be a successful woman, these choices to determine and manage fertility and sexuality, were considered by some as “unfeminine.”   For the women who did choose to use the new support of birth control, self determination and personal liberty and responsibility was their choice.  These women made their way thru  uncharted grounds in a life that looked entirely different from  their mothers, sometimes in opposition to their sisters, their colleagues and friends.  It was a risk some women took, and an individual one made by the women who led.

Change certainly did come as a result of the independence of women, and 2013 saw for the first time, the majority of women choosing not to marry to have a family.  Marriage,  as was predicted in the 1970’s, was impacted by the changes in sexual behavior.  The majority of Ph.D students are women, and women are primary breadwinners in 40% of the households with children.  It is the new world, and birth control availability seems to be the world women have chosen and will not allow to pass into the rough and tough political attacks on women’s rights that have been a large part of politics since 2011.

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