Tag Archives: women’s sexuality

Kamala Harris: Violence against Women stops here

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How effective is The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 is the question of 2014? As the layers of sexism become exposed, there are valid questions and more exposure to the fact that the 1994 law was only the beginning of a shift in how women are perceived in sexual assault and what that means.   Statistics show that there has been a decrease is sexual abuse since the law was instated.   But it seems than likely as in the sports world, in the military and in the university reports of assault and rape become known, that it is the reports of sexual assault that have decreased relative to their incidence, and not the number of incidences of assault.

 

The cost of a woman confronting the incidence of her assault is costly, personal and denigrating in many cases if they are even given credence at all once  reported. In the NY magazine Winter 2014, there is a story on student who carries her mattress around campus because her report of being assaulted on campus by a student did not result even in his being expelled from the University.  Only if there are headlines and large figures in the world of professional athletes, the best universities, or the top brass of the military do we find the public awareness pressing in on what might be the current evidence that violence against women has not been fully addressed even with the 1994 law.

 

In recent months NFL football players Ray Rice of Baltimore and Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers assaulted their mates within weeks of each other, and now the world is watching.  There is a demand to change the policies within the sports world to condemn the behavior of these sports athletes, and any others that might follow. There is talk of dire consequences and dismissal from their multi million dollar careers should these athletes fail to meet those standards of not hitting women.  Trained most of the time since high school, these athletes of age early twenties to late twenties are trained to hurl their bodies without mercy onto the fields and the players with different jerseys.   Brutality is an asset; quick moves automatic without consideration for bodily harm-theirs or the player across from them is the game.  A football is the focus, reaching and grasping stretching and extending the body and mind to whatever it takes to get to cross the line to the goal.  Like the ancient gladiators, their spent bodies are of no concern to the sports fans, the producers of the league or the team owners.  Head trauma, broken knees, arms, hips and pelvises that result for these young bodies and minds are being given some attention these days.  Concussions are now being recognized not only for the immediate destructive consequence, but the long range potential consequences of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s as well as the documented link to the conditions of alcohol and prescription drug abuse.  There is the dawning recognition of the cost to young athletes who pay for a lifetime of injury to their physical and psychological damages for the violent use of their bodies in football, and other sports.

For the young athletes who suddenly have huge sums of money offered to them, and fame-they are the winners in the lottery of life. They have little training in how to manage their extraordinary lives.  They are perceived as heroes, and are paid extremely well once professional football players or baseball or basketball.

For the general public the headlines report their car accidents, their fights with other players and their mates, just like other celebrities in the entertainment business.   Just like other celebrities they are public property from which the excitement about them, their lifestyles and their traumatic losses sell newspapers, keep the sports radio shows going, and add to the drama and ticket sales on the football field or sports arena.  For those on the sideline, the justification of the use and exploitation of these young men is that they are paid six figure salaries or more, they drive great cars, and the plays they make on the field are the thrill of their performances.

 

And it is the video of Ray Rice that even brings the conversation to the level of public awareness, and uproar. Men hitting women and the demand for a consequence began with the suffragettes who closed the bars because of wife beating in what they called “bloody Saturday nights.”  In the 1920’s, men lost a good part of their paychecks and then many came home and beat their wives.  The response by the Temperance Union to close the bars was motivated by the safety of women from the drunken assaults. (Suffragettes History)

Since the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, there is the report of a 64% reduction in violence against women.  However, that reduction cannot include what wasn’t reported; women getting hit and not reporting it.  Nor does it include the casual and frequent response of police when called with their position of blaming both parties in an assault by a man situation.  The woman’s state of being, sober or having ingested alcohol, what she was wearing, her history are all weighed, and she is often considered to have conspired with the outcome of assault or even the cause. That was what happened with the police in the case of Ray Rice and his wife.  This video stirred up the recognition that more needs to be done to train those in power to respond with absolute unequivocal effective action.  For the coaches, for the police, for the public the no tolerance for assault to a woman is being called for.  In the realm of testosterone laden football athletes, the demand for managing themselves is being revealed as not an option but a demand that needs to be met by the players, by the coaches and by the commissioners and their responses to assaults by players. In the heat of the video and the embarrassment of Commissioner Roger Goodell, there was that talk. There was also talk of starting to train young men about themselves and their aggression on and off the field in high school – which made the most sense of everything discussed. Will the attention and intention to encourage the punishment of sexual assault be the answer?

President Obama asked Kamala Harris, Attorney General in California to present to congress that 1 in 5 undergraduates are sexually assaulted, and women who do not attend college have even a higher rate of assault in the age group of 18-24. Sexual assault she mentions is an emotional trauma that maybe a lifelong difficulty and men as well as women are sexually assaulted. To address the underreporting by assault victims, Harris identifies that even with the glare of public light brought on by the Ray Rice Case, in the Universities and military, there are the limiting conditions that reside in the issue of sexual assault. (SF Chronicle 1/26/14) Of concern to Harris are the myths that continue to serve as limitations to women coming forward when sexually assaulted.

“It should go without saying that victims are not, and should not be, on trial, that they bear no burden to prove their own innocence and that our criminal justice system was not created only to serve and protect the metaphorical Snow White.” Women on trial for their sexuality shows up in many forms, and Kamala Harris is directly addressing the residual sexism in qualifying the victim’s complaint of sexual assault by addressing her personal history, her use of alcohol, and burden to prove her innocence. “There does not have to be a perfect victim for a crime to have been committed,” Attorney General Harris commented. The pervasive attitudes of women being sexual beings and attacks on their sexuality persist in the form of questioning her virtue and history. Harris comments on the fact that trauma has the effect of having memory distortions, but women are considered unreliable witnesses often to their own assault because of inconsistencies that are a part of the impact of trauma.

The business of professional sports, the halls of great Universities like Berkeley, the top brass in the military have all been headlined as wanting in terms of addressing the claims of assault with the appropriate gravity that it is due in reference to sexual violence. Women, and men coming forward and reporting sexual violence as the crime that it is will more likely report if they are not attacked, and become the victim of sexual bias.

 

“We must do better” Kamala Harris states, and yes we must. It is decades past women being the choosers in their sexual activity with the ability to assume responsibility for their sexuality. Aggressive campus sexual assault laws are a good start as Attorney General Harris states, but we have a distance to go in making it safe enough for women and men to expose themselves knowing they will be heard and not attacked, second guessed or have their attack minimalized in this, “the most underreported crime of all.”

 

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The History of desire: What do women want?

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The history of desire begins with the new question that emerged after the sexual liberation of 1960’s:  What do women want?

Women having desire, and focus on what women wanted in their sexual lives was a new problem, a new question coming from the place of women choosing their own participation and choices in sexuality.  Masters and Johnson began as a result of fertility studies, the role of women prior to the sexual revolution was to be the carrier of life, producing babies in families.  It was a new perspective and a new area of concern to have as a focus: what women want sexually.  Worthy to the barefoot frontrunners, the focus to of  the studies  focused on female pleasure  illuminated choices and integrity around the subject of female sexuality. The value of women had been related to their productivity as child bearers, and mates to their partners.  The new day was about a realm of satisfaction around sexuality expressed in the choices available to women today. 

David Buss, Ph.D and Cindy M. Meston, Ph.D, Head of the Sexual Psychological Lab at the University of Texas at Austin in 2010 developed  through their work and offered a further perspective on “Why Women Want Sex Today?”  Forty years after the feminist movement, what we know is, women do not need to marry to have a family.  Adoption is available to single parents;  partnerless conception is a medically sound alternative to becoming a partnered biological parent. The structure of family has shifted over the years to accommodate these changes.  The need for the contract of marriage for  women has also responded to these changes; women marry and birth children later in their lives,  and do not require marriage to have a family.  They have their own 401K’s, Affordable Healthcare Insurance availability which they can acquire on their own.  A majority of the college graduates are women and they represent the highest number of Ph.D’s in recent years.  So for the  Meston-Buss study,the question was a significant one.  Why do women want sex and how do they experience their sexual roles today.   The Buss-Meston research reported that 32% of women 18-24 years of age, single and married reported little interest in sex.  33% of the women of all ages single and married reported little interest in sex.  37% of the 50-60 year old women reported little interest in sex.

Irony prevails when women born before the 1970’s had little power over their sexual choices that sex or the lack of it suggests that freedom to be sexual also allows not to be.  The lack of sex was not a problem  for the couples that they studied.  They reported that the decline in sexual activity was a loss to their relationship.  Rather than the lack of interest and activity in sex being a negative, the couples reported satisfaction in their lives with each other.

To that point , A study by Erik Jassen at the Kinsey Institute  in 2010 added in his study that if one side of the couple is not in agreement with the other in terms of sexual desire, that does have a negative impact on the relationship.  There was a time when sex was only allowed if you were married to the opposite sex; if your partner was not interested or was absent from you, you did without sex.  Jassen’s study suggests negotiation by women around their sexuality is another new advance resulting from the sexual liberation of the past fifty years.

Practice of sex a positive

Why is this subject important?  Barefoot Frontrunners takes the position that once women were free to choose how to express their sexuality and with whom, sex falls into a response by women to honoring their own desire, not obligation or compensation or qualification for being a woman or being in a relationship.  Sex has its place, and coming from a place of want and desire, authentic expression is the agenda.  In fact, the role of women around sex also changed the measure of sex for men as we discuss.   Dr. Oz and most authorities on the subject of the importance of sex in relationship express that sexual activity is healthy throughout all ages of life, and increases vitality and longevity.   Choice may be the mark of a culture demonstrating the level of  how free women feel to express their sexuality on their own terms.

True liberation could be measured in the freedom women have to express their desire around sexuality as part of the process of identity honoring their own choices of the conditions and content of their sexual expression, and personal power to determine their roles in or out of the family structure, and in the world they encounter through their participation.  It could be said that  modern feminism is seen in the choices available to them.

There are  women in many places in the world where the criteria for sexuality falls within the realm of no choice:  from entitlement to sex by their partners, to obligation due to social perceptions of the role of women, to the woman’s  value being attached to procreation and availability of sex for their husbands.

For these women, choices are made for them at birth or at age ten about the use of their bodies and  sexuality around gratification and pleasure is not on the table of awareness or practice.  In an Indian village last week, NPR had  a story about a town council that punished a woman who wanted to marry outside her social level by having the whole tribe of men rape her.  These stories are painful to hear but a reminder that women and their ability to choose their lives, sexually and otherwise, is a recent fifty year old consequence of those who worked hard for change in rights and privileges for women.

Recognizing how recent the developments have been that  allow women to choose their destiny, their paths as sexual beings as well as every other significant choice is important.   It’s good to be reminded that harsh judgement and punishment,-including stoning, bride burning  are sanctioned by both men and women in some  cultures.  There are many parts of the world where women are enslaved by their sexuality.

The new day, the new context of who women are began in the early feminist movements e will discuss, but sexual liberation in the 70’s provided the practice and  conversation about choice and gratification, dignity and respect for women.   Female sexuality is a fresh opening of discovery and self knowledge at all ages that are recognized as a source of well being and self expression that is the new order of the new day for women.

 

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