Recommended Reading: Conservative and Progressive Views on Sexual Morality

I’ve considered weighing in on the Josh Duggar situation and the conservative reaction to it, but this post does such a fantastic job, and explains why that reaction makes sense from a conservative mindset, so I won’t add much to it before sharing the link.

To give you some background, Josh Duggar is known to have molested five girls, some of whom were his sisters, when he was 14. He is now 27. He never faced criminal charges for it, and the conservative reaction has been fairly supportive of him, whereas progressives are frustrated that his transgression was swept under the rug for so long, and that there has been no justice for his victims. The Young Turks go over the details in this video if you want the full story.

As a former homeschooler with pretty harsh feelings towards families like the Duggars of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, this scenario only increases my frustration with this family and the conservative celebration of their backwards, antiquated, sexist lifestyle. I have a hard time looking at it objectively, but Libby Anne from Patheos, in a blog post that was shared on the Homeschoolers Anonymous blog, was able to take a step back and examine why conservatives have reacted with so much support for Josh Duggar and so much frustration and even harsh language towards progressives. The post is titled “Josh Duggar and the Tale of Two Boxes” and can be read here.

If you have conservative, religious friends and family members with differing sexual mores and have trouble talking about these things with them, this is for you. And them. Maybe they should read it too.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

Premarital Sex: It Can Actually be a Good Thing

Photo courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A lot has happened since my last post. My boyfriend, who I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is now my fiance. He proposed a few days before our college graduation.

After the announcement, my mother took me aside the next day to talk to me about sex as she sometimes does in the hopes of influencing me in that area. She said, “I hope you’ll continue with your previous promise to wait until marriage.” (A decision I’ve discussed in a previous post, and which I made under a lot of peer pressure.) She added, “I know you know who you’re going to marry now, but it’s really meant for marriage, and diseases can still spread.”

I didn’t argue, but I found it telling that her only argument in support of restricting sex to marriage was to avoid STIs. While that argument does have some merit for most people, when you’re engaged, it’s not as strong. Sure, people do sometimes call off engagements–but not frequently. More likely than not, two engaged people having sex are already monogamous, at least in this culture, and will continue that monogamy into their marriage. Ultimately, maintaining monogamy is what limits the spread of STIs when one waits until marriage, not the contract itself. The marriage contract is just a legal document. It’s not a condom.

That conversation with my mother reminded me of a fact that I would never have believed when I started college: I’m glad I didn’t wait to have sex,  mainly because of how difficult and even painful the first time really is for many girls–including me.

For this post, I’ll be sticking to a discussion of vaginal intercourse because that’s the type of sex that Catholics consider to be acceptable in marriage, since it can lead to babies.

If you don’t want to read about vaginal sex in detail, skip the next paragraph.

Vaginal sex can hurt a great deal the first time for many women, but it can also hurt the second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. You probably know all about hymens and how they need to be stretched (not popped–that’s a myth!) the first time. What not everyone knows is that for some women, it can take more than just the first time to stretch that darn thing. I did my research, so I went into it with some preparation, and it still hurt really badly for me. It wasn’t an issue of the other usual problems either. We were very thorough. We used plenty of lube, and foreplay, and went very slowly. It sometimes felt like someone was stabbing me down there. It took many tries on different occasions for the pain to finally subside to the point where he could stay in there for more than a minute. I made myself do it because I knew it was supposed to get better, but sex was varying levels of pain for the first month or two. We couldn’t even focus on figuring out how to make it feel good until the pain was out of the way, and that later task took some time too.

My reason for going into so much detail is to establish the length of time it took for sex to start to feel good for me, and why that was the case. I’ve looked it up online, and while this is not the case for every woman, it is a fairly common complaint. It’s completely biological as far as I can tell, and in my case was definitely not due to just not being good at it. We knew what to do; we just couldn’t actually do it for a really long time without putting me in agonizing pain.

Waiting until marriage would not change that for me. I would still experience a great deal of terrible pain every time I had sex for the first however many times. If we’d waited and had a week long honeymoon, sex would most likely hurt me every single time we did it that week, and even when the pain had subsided, it still would not feel good for months afterwards while we tried to figure out what works. I can’t imagine spending my honeymoon like that. Frankly, who would want to?

Growing up, I was sold the idea that waiting until marriage makes your first time special, but I now realize that even if I had done that, I would still experience the intense pain and the incredible frustration my fiance and I felt at the time, just during our honeymoon instead of while we were dating. Trust me: pain is not romantic. It sucks.

The only thing that waiting until marriage would change is the situation in which we were having sex, not the biological factors of sex itself. I don’t want to spend my honeymoon in agony. I don’t want to walk out of the wedding reception nervous about going to bed with my husband. And thanks to that horrible, forbidden thing called premarital sex, I now know I don’t have to.

But what if it isn’t special, you say! What if having done it before takes away the novelty of it?

You know what else takes away the novelty of anything? Agonizing pain. We’ll find our own way of making it special when the time comes, but trust me, at least in my case, that novelty was completely overrated.

I feel bad for women who are built like me down there, who wait until marriage. They’ve been sold this image of a magical first time, but for them, it won’t be magical at all.

This is not to say that having premarital sex is for everyone. I support the right of all people to decide for themselves what to do with their bodies, and that includes waiting to have sex if they feel that’s best for them. If you don’t feel ready, don’t do it. If you really want to wait until marriage, then by all means, wait. But be advised that for many women, that first time is completely overrated. If you’re going to wait until marriage, make it an informed decision, just as your decision to engage in sex should also be.

What are your views on premarital sex? Feel free to leave a comment. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

Ignorance and the Baltimore Riots

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last week was a bit crazy for me. It was finals week, and I had to write multiple long assignments while packing and moving out of my dormitory. Everything went smoothly, but I had a brief moment of frustration when my roommate’s family came by to help her move out.

In the middle of the conversation my roommate was having with her family about buying some things she needed, her mother said, “Well, I need toilet paper. We should just go riot. Everybody’s doing it.” She was being sarcastic of course, but that comment got my blood boiling.

I managed to sit down and try to focus on my homework, and I’m proud of myself for staying out of the conversation. My roommate’s family has said many ignorant things in the past in my presence, and one has to pick one’s battles for the sake of getting along with a roommate.

Considering the widespread media coverage of the situation in Baltimore, I knew that was what she was referring to, and her comment showed zero understanding of the nuances of the situation. Yes, people have rioted. Yes, violence is a bad thing. Yes, stealing, vandalism, and other typical riot crimes are all wrong. But cops killing people for reasons other than self-defense? That’s really bad. The frequent racial profiling by police that’s only now coming to light, is absolutely wrong and harmful, and I’m glad the media’s finally catching on. It erodes the trust citizens have in their government, and believe me, my trust in the government had already worn dangerously low. Thanks to police brutality, not only do we currently distrust the policy makers, we’re now also afraid of the enforcers. The people we’re supposed to call in an emergency have shown themselves to be untrustworthy.

Luckily, the police involved in Baltimore did not escape being charged. Whether they will be convicted or not remains to be seen, but at least now we know they will have to face charges for what they have done. We can’t continue to have police offers operating with complete immunity from punishment. It’s tragic that it seems to have taken multiple murders for this issue to be picked up by the media.

But then people like my roommate’s mother come around, and try to turn a complicated situation into cops and robbers. A friend of mine shared this picture below on social media, attempting to do the same thing:

Found on facebook

Found on Facebook

If the situation were as simple as this meme suggests, there’d be no reason to protest. This meme and others like it assumes that the entire situation can be boiled down to the notion that “People broke the law and want to get away with it.” That simply is not the case. Yes, some of the people who’ve been on the receiving end of police brutality have committed crimes. However, the police response to those crimes is what’s in question. Frankly, the police response has often not been appropriate. Time and again, the police, not the criminals as the meme suggests, have been the ones to escalate the situation to the point where a death occurred.

The death of Eric Garner is a perfect example. I’m sure you probably know about him but just in case I’ll sum it up briefly. He was stopped for a minor crime: selling cigarettes illegally. The police involved choked him to death in an attempt to arrest him. The (disturbing) video of his death can be easily found online through a google search, and while he seems extremely upset, he clearly makes no violent movements towards the officers except in self-defense. The officer who was clearly shown choking him ON VIDEO was not indicted.

In addition to police brutality, we’re seeing that the American criminal justice system overall, the system whose job it is to hold people accountable for what they’ve done, seems to be more interested in punishing civilians, particularly black civilians, than anyone else. The system is broken. The people who hold power within it are more concerned about protecting each other than they are about protecting the general public. To simplify the events in Baltimore, in Ferguson, in New York, and beyond, to a clear-cut case of crime and punishment is to completely ignore the facts of the situation.

Regardless of whether this racism and brutality is widespread or “just a couple of bad apples,” as many Republicans are saying, the officers involved need to be held accountable. Otherwise, we’re looking at a country where for a specific group of people the law does not apply, and for another group, the law is enforced violently. That’s not freedom. That’s not what America is supposed to stand for. I hated sitting quietly and typing a paper about William Wordsworth instead of turning around and telling my roommate’s mother that black lives matter. But ignorant people dislike being informed of their ignorance, and unfortunately in that situation, it was the right thing to do.

As always, feel free to leave a comment. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

What’s in a Name?

Image courtesy of Rosen Georgiev at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Rosen Georgiev at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My boyfriend and I are talking very seriously about marriage, and recently the topic of name changing came up. Now, I’ve never liked that it’s automatically assumed that when people get married, the woman changes her last name to her husband’s, end of discussion. If true gender equality is to exist, then a name change should be up to the couple to decide–and legally it is, but socially, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

I understand the logistical reasons why making both members of a couple (and potential future children) have the same last name makes life a lot easier, and that’s why I think I’ll most likely be changing my name when I get married–but now that it’s looming closer (quite possibly within the next few years), I’m having trouble with the idea of letting go of my name.

I’m a writer. The first time I got published, it was under my name (which, in case you’re curious, is not my blog name.) I’ve held editorial positions at school, and my last name is listed with my work there as well. If I change my name, I have to continuously tell people to look me up under two different names. It splits me between my pre-married self and my married self, and I don’t like that.

Name changing fits well with the ancient practice of considering women the property of men. From birth to marriage, a woman used to be the property of her father, so she had his last name. When that property was essentially sold to the husband, she’d take the husband’s name. In a culture like that, this name change was like a brand on a cow. It meant, “She’s my property now. I bought her fair and square.” My boyfriend is not the sort who would think that way at all–but the tradition really does remind me of that time period.

Name changing also stinks a little bit of religion to me. In Christianity, a name change signifies a change in a person. That’s why babies are baptized with a middle name, formerly called a “Christian” name, and at confirmation, thirteen-year-olds choose yet another name, symbolizing their step into Christian adulthood. It’s why, in the Bible, Saul becomes Paul, and Simon becomes Peter as they each take on their new leadership roles in the faith.

Am I changing as a person by getting married? I’m changing my habits. I’m making a lifelong commitment. Maybe I’ll change over time, but I somehow doubt that at the moment I tie the knot, I’ll be permanently a different person from my single self. I’ll still be Nancy, I just won’t be single.

I know the other options to name changing: don’t change it at all, convince him to take YOUR name, or hyphenate. Each of these presents its own problems. I haven’t asked him what he would think about taking my last name. But to be honest, I don’t really want him to have that last name. I associate that name with my extremely flawed, deeply religious, conservative family, and I don’t want that to be his. At the same time, I don’t want to permanently change something that has been part of who I am since the day I was born.

Why do we put women through this? Why do we expect them to change their identity as soon as they get married? Would divorce rates drop, or would marriage rates increase, if women were allowed to just be themselves permanently?

This whole crisis was floating around in the back of my mind, but it came to the forefront today, because I just learned that my state requires a shit ton of paperwork and hoops to jump through if you want to do anything more complicated than replace your maiden name with your married one. I had hoped to tack my married name on to the end of my current one, and simply have an extra name without losing my old one completely. I’m not going to lie–I was kind of banking on that as a way to subtly maintain my identity. And now that I know that I probably can’t do that because my state is absolutely fucking ridiculous, I’m kind of freaking out. I’m not even at the point where I need to be dealing with this stuff, I’m just trying to get through the last finals week of my undergraduate education, but I’m pretty upset right now.

What do you guys think about the whole name changing thing? Feel free to leave a comment.

All opinions are welcome, just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy