Monthly Archives: March 2011

Okay, seriously?

My body is mine. That means it’s not fucking yours, okay? That means don’t touch it; I can do whatever the hell I want with it; you can’t. That’s it. Done. The end.

I will get tattoos if I want. I will have an abortion if I feel like it’s necessary (and I won’t be sorry about it). I will star in pornography. I will cut myself. I will roll dice in the back alley at all hours of the night. I will take bets for illegal street car racing. I will get into fist fights after work and then get up and go to work the next day.

Just because I do what I want on my own time with my own godsdamned body doesn’t mean you have any right to say anything about it at all. Just because I look like a nice girl who’s patient and kind and generous doesn’t mean I’ll be any of those things with you.

I smile with my friends because I like them. I smile at work because I get paid to be cheerful. I’m not going to smile for you just because you think you have the right to whistle at me across the street and then call me a bitch when I ignore you. I am not a monkey trained to do tricks. At least not any tricks you‘d like, I’m sure. I can make it hurt, and with you, I want it to be as painful as possible.

Don’t call me “beautiful” or “honey” or “sweetheart” or “sugar” or “sweetcheeks” or “baby” or anything else you think might be endearing—especially when I already look angry. I am not in the mood for your misogyny. I am not the good girl you seem to think I am. I’ve done things I’m not proud of, but I have done them, and I own that. I’m not going to lie if a friend asks in all seriousness if I worked in pornography. But I don’t owe you anything. Actually, I owe you less than nothing.

I don’t need your permission. I don’t want it, either. And I sure as hell don’t need or want your approval. Who the fuck cares what you think? I don’t, and I never will.

I have never forced anyone to do anything truly not of their own choosing. All I ask in return is the same courtesy. If you don’t like what I’m doing, just look the other way. I’m not hurting anyone but my own self.

I’m so fucking tired of being the nice girl. I want to buy a motorcycle and have my entire body covered in tattoos and have visible scars so that you will finally see that I am not in the mood. My patience wears thin.

You are not allowed. No one is allowed. My default answer is always going to be “No”. And if you fuck with me, I will put your face into a car hood. (Seriously, do you not know the meaning of “Fuck off”?)

The Past Week via Twitter: 2011-03-27

  • no work for two days! but a lot of stuff to do, and two classes tomorrow. opening the store on Wed. yaaaaaay… I REFUSE TO THINK ABOUT IT. #
  • first class tomorrow canceled! w00t. sleep time now. and I'm NOT setting me alarm (a rare thing, these days) #
  • writing a post about a subject that's… difficult. it's taking more outta me than I imagined. but now: sleep; I open the store tomorrow. #
  • jesus. writing about difficult subjects is… well, difficult. #
  • now to write a paper; due Fri. @ noon—it's actually due at 9 AM that day for me because I have a class starting at 9 that ends after noon. #
  • finished my paper & it's almost 1500 words over. lol, at least the prof. said, "and may be longer, if you wish", right? ^_^;; #
  • crash time now for sure. #
  • "The hardest part of ending is starting again…" #

Billy Collins at APU

Billy Collins (wide)NOTE: This is barely a review; it’s more like a recap.

On March 1, I headed down to Azusa Pacific University by bus to see Billy Collins read some of his poetry. My mother, who works at APU, bought us both dinner ahead of time and we went together. (She said afterward that she was relieved to do something on campus that didn’t involve her own department.)

After an introduction by the head of the English department and the man after whom the James L. Hedges Distinguished Series (“celebrating the written word”) is named, Collins got up and charmed the audience with his wit and poetry. I’ve included a list of the poems he read with notes as I wrote them.

Monday, about the habits of poets
The Sandhill Cranes of Nebraska, inspired by a former poet laureate Howard Nemerov
Drinking Alone, after Li Po
Grave, from the forthcoming collection Horoscopes for the Dead
What She Said, in the voice of a young American woman (school age)
Oh My God, just nine lines long
The Dog, on his Master, in the voice of a young dog
Greek and Roman Statuary
Hippos on Holiday, see note below
The Lanyard, (for my mother)
Building with its Face Blown Off, inspired by a photograph
Creatures, mention of Hamlet
Sunday Morning with The Sensational Nightingales
The Four-Moon Planet, after Robert Frost‘s journals in which he wrote, “I have always envied the four-moon planet.”
Stenius, noted Yeats‘s poem “The Wild Swans at Coole”
I chopped some parsley while listening to Art Blakey‘s version of “The Three Blind Mice”
You are the bread in the knife, wherein he took another poem’s first two lines and rewrote it (“It’s obviously improved,” he said.)
On Turning Ten

Billy Collins (long)Mom said she probably liked “Oh My God” the most—so much that she had me find it online when we got home so that she could read it to my father. I rather liked “Hangover” (“Or you can call it ‘Migraine’ if you’re not a drinker, as this school—of course—is dry,” he said, and got a lot of chuckles from the audience. APU is a Christian university, so “no alcohol” is kind of a school rule—yeah, right).

Collins said that he wrote “Hippos on Holiday” one day when he felt like he had nothing to say. In cases when he had nothing to say, he writes a phrase on the top of the page and then commit himself to writing something underneath it.

After his reading, Collins allowed a few questions:
“Are your poems just funny because they’re funny, or are they disguises over sadness?”
Basically, both.

“What is your writing process?”
Everyone’s process is different.

“Why were you worried about explaining your poems?”
Some people think that art/poetry/music should speak for itself, so explaining a poem just uses more words to say the same thing.

“What is the difference between poetry and prose? And, why do you write poetry?”
Poetry is superior. In poetry, the words enjoy themselves.

“Is there a lot of technical knowledge needed to write poetry?”
Poetry requires reading. Read all the poets. To write poetry, you must pretend to care about poetry more than you care about yourself.

“How useful is it knowing other languages?”
Knowing Latin is the most useful. Knowing the meaning/history of words is important.

Thoughts on Rape

Thoughts on Rape

Recently, I posted two journal entries that may seem to conflict with one another: “Penny Arcade” addendum and “Incubus Master” pt.1 review. The former is a declaration that rape is one of my Great Evils. (I said that rape was my Second Great Evil; my First Great Evil is drinking alcohol. Which, now that I think about it, are actually intertwined. But I digress…) Though said declaration was actually a byproduct of what I was trying to say and not meant to be the point of the whole thing, it’s sort of been what readers have focused on when responding to the two posts right after one another, perhaps because the other post also heavily involves it.

The latter, while giving a trigger warning on a piece of fiction I was reviewing, basically overlooked the fact that I gave the story a (mostly) positive review anyway, despite said story being about a boy who was abducted and kept for over a year as a sex slave before being freed. The story mentioned and depicted rape: the boy didn’t want to have sex, and his captors forced it on him anyway. The first part of Incubus Master, in fact, includes a graphic, detailed depiction of rape—something written to arouse the reader and which works as a hook for reading the rest of the plot. The narrator even tells us near the beginning of the story: “He [Jinady, the main character] picked the incubi over the succubi, but it was a choice of being raped over being killed. Each night a different demon took him to bed.” It’s hard to get any clearer than that.

Let me be as plain and to-the-point as possible. When someone doesn’t want to have sex and you force them to have sex anyway, that’s rape. If you do that, you are a rapist. Touching someone against her or his will is assault, and touching that person sexually against her or his will is sexual assault. Just because she didn’t fight back or he had a physical reaction to it doesn’t make it okay. No means no, true, but that doesn’t mean saying nothing means yes. Only yes means yes. (This idea is called enthusiastic consent.) There is no “rape-rape”, there’s only (1) sex with consent and (2) rape. That’s it. Either you have consent, or you don’t. If you don’t, it’s rape. End of story. Done. No argument.

We live in a rape culture. That is, rape culture is “a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent.” (See the great book Transforming a Rape Culture by Emilie Buchwald.) Don’t believe that we live in a rape culture? Consider this: there is no woman—no person, even—who has ever asked to be raped. There is no “she was asking for it” by the way she dressed/looked/walked/whatever. Or this: using the word rape in casual conversation—as in, “Damn, the ATM totally raped me with fees” or “Haha, I raped you playing Halo last night”—lends itself to not taking the actual act of rape very seriously. (Though I can’t think of many things more serious than rape; can you?) And that’s just the tip of the ginormous metaphorical iceberg, by the way. There are so many things to which rape culture can be attributed, maybe you should just read about it for yourself.

I go back and forth about whether “Avoiding Every Woman’s Worst Nightmare”-type articles are really helpful. I’m a firm believer in the idea that (1) no person deserves to be raped under any circumstances, and (2) there is only rape in the world while there are rapists who perpetuate it. Based on that, it doesn’t matter how much a person protects herself, as long as there is someone attacking and raping her, there is still rape. I guess it’s good for a woman to protect herself, but that’s like (in the mildest terms I can imagine) putting a bandaid over a splinter—it doesn’t deal with the real problem, which is the splinter. And also, as the linked article mentions at the end: protecting yourself while walking home alone, dancing in a bar with friends, not getting in some random car, and so on, only helps when your attacker is a stranger; most rapes occur between people who know each other.

Which brings me to my next point, which is an admission on my part. The only reason I’m so passionate about this—I will be the first to admit that I’m pretty lackluster about many important things—is because it has directly affected me. In December 2006, I was raped in one of the academic buildings on my college campus by a man I knew. I had, after all, dated him most of the 2003-2004 school year. I hope I knew him. I thought I knew him. Many people in my circle already know this joyful factoid about me, but this is the first time I’ve ever directly actually written out the words “I was raped” for anyone, including myself.

The story of what happened is for another time, but suffice to say that (preventing) rape (and helping victims after it happens) became exponentially more important to me after it happened to me. (That is, it was important before, but it wasn’t a priority.) As for myself, I received sympathy from some of my friends—though not even close to all of them—when they found out, but very little in the way of actual support and help. I’m not over it. I’m still triggered sometimes, and I have to find my way back to reality from a flashback again. Sometimes, I’m completely blindsided. Usually, I can handle it, but luckily for me I have at least one friend who’s talked me through panic attacks in person at three in the morning more than once. Thank gods for him; seriously.

Now, having said all that, rape fantasy seems like it’s completely and totally right out, right? Well, no. I’d rather have thousands of people jerking off to rape fantasy porn than even one person actually perpetuating rape in real life. There is something to be said, however, for the “monkey see, monkey do” theory (a name which I just made up), which basically states that the things a person takes in (in this case: describing rape in a story, as in Incubus Master, or depicting rape in pornography) influences his or her ideas about what is acceptable (or, rape). That is, as a friend of mine put it, “There’s always the idea that depictions of rape promote the act, or that these works were made with malicious intent, and can conceivably be dangerous…” (There are similar arguments related to the violence in video games consumed by teenagers.)

I tend to argue that, if the person already has the inclination to rape someone else, then perhaps reading a bodice ripper romance (or, more bluntly, watching rape porn) may lead that person to assume that forcing him/herself on someone else is okay. And, similarly, if a person has no previous inclination to dominate someone else (against that person’s will) or force someone else to do something against their will, reading a bodice ripper or watching rape porn won’t give them the impression that those fictions are acceptable in reality. After all, it’s called rape fantasy for a reason.

Now, where do I draw the line between things like Incubus Master and the Penny Arcade drama? Well, for one thing: the former is most definitely a rape fantasy, and it’s pretty clearly labeled as such in the first couple of pages of the story. It gives the reader a chance to stop, to put the story down and walk away if they think they might be negatively affected by it. The latter was a fucking idiotic joke that spiraled into downright rape apology, which is the “ideology of denying the seriousness of rape”. Also, jokes are given without warning almost 100% of the time. So there’s no way anyone who’s sensitive to the joke’s subject matter can say, “Wait! Stop; I don’t want to hear this.”

And, guys, don’t think you’re safe just joking around with your guy buds during male bonding time or whatever you do when there are no women around; one of them may have been assaulted (yes, guys are sexually assaulted, too), or he may have a sister or girlfriend or mother who was assaulted. And to everyone who says, “But wouldn’t I know about something so serious if we were friends?” No, you actually might not. It’s not like a woman is going to introduce herself by saying, “Hi, I’m Sarah. I was raped.” (And that kind of introduction is even less plausible for men because of the stigma of being gay or being “a pussy”.)

I’m sure I could go on and on, but let me end with a reiteration of my belief in “Yes means yes!” (as opposed to “No means no”). Only yes means yes. Really. As one of my closest friends said, basically summing up the entire topic for me: “If there’s a place for rape, reality isn’t it.”

facebook fast end

facebook fast end

EDIT 22 March 2011 at 8:47 PM PDT: My sister claims she asked me about my facebook fast and probably counts herself among the people who objected, but I think I told her about it, not the other way around. Also, she mentioned last night that my aunt (my father’s sister) had inquired to her, “Where’d your sister go?” but I’m not counting that, either, since my aunt could have just as easily asked me about it and chose not to. Hearsay is still hearsay, after all. Either way, both my sister and aunt are blood relatives, so it’s difficult to imagine they’d have no other way of contacting me besides facebook.

So, today is the last day of my 30-day facebook fast.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but only four people commented upon my exit from facebook, and they were all people with whom I have other/further contact anyway. The first three: Zekor, of course, was distraught immediately upon learning of my fast, but decided to wait it out as patiently as ever; my father asked why I wasn’t tagged in a photo of myself; a family friend wrote me an email thanking me for my holiday card and then mentioned she couldn’t find me on facebook. The fourth: one of my closest friends, Wolfman, took it the hardest, I think (which I’ll explain in a moment).

As for everyone else who even found out about the fast: I had to tell them (as opposed to their finding out for themselves). I received no commentary from anyone—positive or negative—excepting the aforementioned four people. Mostly what I got was surprise: “You deleted your facebook?” (After which I’d invariably have to explain that, no, I actually hadn’t deleted my facebook page. I’d only deacitivated it as a test.) I actually have friends who’ve never had “a facebook” to begin with, and I thought at first that they were living in the last century, but now I’m starting to see the wisdom in their choice.

One of my coworkers did mention, however, that she had deleted over 400 of her facebook friends after becoming disenchanted with the whole thing after one of her friends from high school was publicly (on facebook) smeared when it was revealed that she’d performed in some porn. My coworker was so angry about her friend’s treatment that she basically exorcised her entire “friend” list. Her story hit a little close to home for me, so I was glad she was angry for her high school friend rather than at her.

Aside from the reaction my friend, Wolfman, gave (which I’m still getting to, I promise), I noticed a couple of things. First, about Steve Pavlina, the man who originally suggested the facebook fast (though I’d been thinking about it before he posted his suggestion). In his post, he compared the use of facebook to addiction and his catering to said as just enabling an addiction. He also wrote that he didn’t like being virtually surrounded by (what amounted to) tons of people half his age. Two things struck me about Pavlina’s words after I was about halfway through my fast. (A) I don’t believe facebook use is nearly close to serious addiction, and comparing it to such is kind of insulting to people who’ve had to deal with actual addiction (and yes, I realize the incongruity of my using an icon of Snow White snorting cocaine); and, (B) I am about half his age, so while he dealt with people half his age, I deal with people in my age group. That by itself makes for leaps and bounds of difference. I still agree, however, with Pavlina’s assertion that using facebook lends itself to assume you’re doing something worthwhile when you’re actually not.

The second thing I noticed (see beginning of previous paragraph) was that I’ve logged into some websites using my facebook alias, and when I deactivated my facebook page, I essentially cut myself off from using those other pages as well. This was, obviously, an irritating discovery, but nothing I couldn’t handle for a month. The three most notable of these were/are Echo Bazaar (Fallen London), formspring, and LivingSocial. Echo Bazaar is just an online game that I should probably stop playing because it’s such a timesuck anyway, so no real loss there. I still got notifications from formspring informing me that I’d been “asked a question” multiple times, but since I couldn’t log in, there was no way to answer said questions. Luckily, I guess, questions are saved until I either answer them or manually delete them, so I’ll just go answer them when I have access to the site and have time. The last website, LivingSocial, was the most cumbersome. I basically created a new account not linked to my facebook account, which is all fine, but it means that now I essentially have two LivingSocial accounts, not one. So even if I decided to completely and irreversibly delete my facebook account, I would have to log in at least one last time just so disentangle my account from other websites that I periodically use. I can’t yet comment upon combining the two LivingSocial accounts because I haven’t yet attempted it.

Now, as for Wolfman’s reaction. (I told you I’d get to it!) I was kind of surprised by his concern, actually, but when I thought about it, I realized that the last time we had any in-person contact, he was talking me down from a panic attack. If I were him, and in light of that information about me (the other person), I would be concerned, too. Haha, so: my friends care about me. Who knew, right? Anyway, as far as I know, even Wolfman didn’t notice the absence of my facebook page until March 12—possibly the evening of March 11, when he texted me to see how I was doing—but either of those dates is still more than halfway through my fast. When we finally had a decent conversation about it, he expressed concern that I was/am cutting off all contact with the outside world, even more than I have been so far already. (I don’t party, I don’t hang out with my friends much, and I don’t even drive except to necessary school or work functions, for example.) Here’s excerpts of our conversation:

Wolfman: And when I see that you have squelched one avenue of remaining communicative with and connected to people, even remotely, I am also bothered. It’s not just that you are receding from view, but you are also restricting the means by which people might connect with you.

V.E.: the people I’d actually want to talk to anyway have other ways of contacting me. historically, facebook has been a colossal timesuck for me.

(A little later: )

Wolfman: Besides, what fortunate few are you condescending to allow to communicate with you? And why not anyone else? While it’s not the same as real-world interaction, it bothers me that you’re closing off an avenue of communication. What next?

V.E.: look, if people want to talk to me, fine. but they have to actually talk to ME, not just everyone. I’m not closing down my website. I have a twitter page. I have a cell phone and an email address. I just don’t want to be inundated by random crap all the time. I get that enough at work.

I could’ve said I get that enough everywhere, but I didn’t want to engage in too much hyperbole. And, as I told him, this is only a test.

Anyway, after an entire month of not using facebook, I have to say I don’t really miss it. Except for the website entanglements, there’s not much I feel like I’m missing. And it’s not like many of my facebook “friends” even noticed the difference. I think I had maybe 300 or so friends, and only a grand total of four noticed enough to mention it to me, and one of them was my own father. Meh. No loss. I’m not in a hurry to reactivate my page, that’s for sure, except to disentangle from it the other websites I use. I may just do that in a couple of days and then dump the whole facebook page entirely (or at least keep it permanently deactivated).

For now, I kind of like the quiet.

Asbestos Surveys

Asbestos, in case you don’t already know, is bad news. That is, breathing it in is bad news. If you’re living in the United Kingdom, Asbestos Surveys by Assist Facilities Management may be just the thing you need to make sure you’re living in a safe environment.

Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals exploited commercially for their desirable physical properties. While the inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious illnesses, such illness is linked primarily with long exposure to a high concentration of asbestos. (Asbestos actually exists in the ambient air at low levels, which itself does not cause health problems.) It was a popular building material in the 19th century because of its sound absorption, average tensile strength, and its resistance to heat, electrical and chemical damage. Since then, however, developed nations have banned its use in building because of its extreme negative effects on human health. (Learn more at Wikipedia by searching for “Asbestos”.)

In looking at the Assist Asbestos Surveys page, I didn’t actually learn too much about how a survey is performed. I can only assume that a certified inspector comes to your residence or place of work and thoroughly checks your building for asbestos. Maybe a phone call to the company will provide you with more information, but I didn’t go that far because I don’t live in the United Kingdom and calling out-of-country is seriously expensive.

DISCLAIMER: I was hired by PayPerPost to talk about asbestos surveys. However, the opinions I have shared are my own. See also the sitewide disclosure.

The Past Week via Twitter: 2011-03-20

  • I want it to rain. I want it to downpour. #
  • to do: manuscript, hippocampus, Billy Collins, Incubus Master, facebook fast, Easy A, Scott Pilgrim, O Occhi Manza Mia, class/choir/homework #
  • @JeffreeStar yeah, sorry. rape jokes are not funny. unfollowed. -_- #
  • I don't have to do anything on a set schedule tomorrow (Tues), so I'm going to use this opportunity to NOT set my alarm. Yay. #
  • wtf, Penny Arcade? I loved you T_T #
  • @postsecret that's… kind of creepy. #
  • work in ten minutes. yaaaaaaaay…? #
  • "Someone told me, once, that, when you find someone you want to live for, you stop trying to die." –Duo, #
  • argh cat allergies make me want to give a middle finger to my sinuses. aaaaarrrrrrgh. #
  • @Dredgly all my life. lol. #
  • @Dredgly right now I'm practically fighting a losing battle. I probably have a milder case than you, but having 4 cats doesn't help matters. #
  • feel like I'm juggling reading, work, and school and one misstep will have everything come crashing down around me. T_T #
  • reviews/recaps I still need to publish this month: Incubus Master, Billy Collins, Scott Pilgrim, Easy A, The King & I, Story of the Bible #
  • + a post on my facebook fast, Ostara (Spring Equinox), and maybe even my own thoughts on something (not a review? gasp!) #
  • figuring it out, that's more than a post every other day from now until March 31. I guess I better get crackin'? #
  • my review of @yaoiprose's "Incubus Master" (part 1) here: tl;dr version: pretty good & definitely worth 99ยข #
  • see also @yaoipress about "Incubus Master" (part 1). my review—finally!—here: #