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Deconstructing Sex Work In Order to Construct Femi
Name: Kelsey
Date: 2005-12-12 20:45:20
Link to this Comment: 17378


Sex and Gender

2005 Final Web Papers

On Serendip

Sex-positive feminism centers upon the principle that sexual freedom is an essential component to women's freedom; and thus, sex-positive feminists oppose both political and social efforts to control sexual activities between consenting adults. Gayle Rubin, a prominent sex-positive feminist, summarizes the conflict over sex within feminist politics during the 1980's:

"Because sexuality is a nexus of the relationship between genders, much of the oppression of women is borne by, mediated through, and consulted within sexuality...There have been two strains of feminist thought on the subject. One tendency has criticized the restrictions on women's sexual behavior and denounced the high costs imposed on women for being sexually active. This tradition of feminist sexual thought has called for a sexual liberation that would work for women as well as for men, The second tendency has considered sexual liberalization to be inherently a mere extension of male privilege. This tradition resonates with conservative, anti-sexual discourse." (Rubin, 35-36)

This "anti-sex" feminism that Rubin describes labels the sex industry to be both male oriented and controlled thus rendering the female participant a submissively sexualized object whose passive participation is compliant to male subjugation. I agree with Rubin that a woman's sexuality and sexual freedom are intrinsically linked, and therefore, argue that women who actively participate in a sex industry must be included into today's feminist studies. In this essay I am only referring only to women who willingly participate within the sex industry, not women, particularly those of third-world nations, who are forced into the commerce through poverty, intimidation, or human trafficking. It is in this context I argue that while it is women who are commercializing their bodies for the pleasure of men, it is also these women who are reaping the economical benefits while retaining control in self-marketing; and thus, commercialized sex must be considered a new medium for a feminist dialogue concerning female power.

In opposition to Rubin's "Sex-positive" stance lies Radical Feminism, a movement that claims pornography and prostitution to be oppressive to women. One of the most prominent leaders to these anti-sex groups is "Women Against Sex" whose goal is to eliminate female participation in the sex industry:
"All sex acts subordinate women...all actions that are a part of the practice of sexuality partake in the practice's political function or goal...Thus, all sex acts (and their depictions) mean the same thing, though some mean it more than others" (Chapkis, 18)

Catherine MacKinnon further articulates what WAS presents as the "meaning of sex acts":
"Gender is sexual. Pornography constitutes the meaning of that sexuality. Men treat women as who they see women as being. Pornography constructs who that is. Men's power over a women means that the way men see women defines who a woman can be" (Chapkis, 20)

Radical and "anti-sex" feminist groups such as WAS describes the act of commercialized sex to be a product of male oppression, and therefore, the "meaning" of women within a gender context is that of a male-constructed subjected object.

The quandary within the debate of both Sex-positive and Radical feminism is that both groups reduce the female prostitute to an imagined embodiment of sexual lust and execution. In her book Live Sex Acts: Women Performing Erotic Labour, Wendy Chapkis addresses the pragmatic obstructions within these two troupes of feminist movements:
"Within these debates over the meaning and function of sex, practices of prostitution serve as a central troupe. The prostitute thus comes to function as both the most literal of sexual slaves and as the most subversive of sexual agents within a sexist social order." (Chapkis, 12)

Here, the act of sex becomes the defining factor of a female prostitute's profession. She is labelled either a "sexual slave" or a "sexual agent," and therefore, is not viewed as a woman, but rather as a medium through which sexual acts are either executed or exploited. It is this perceived "control" that a female prostitute either holds or relinquishes to an imagined male market that has become the focal point to which her valid presence in a politically feminist discourse is judged.

This ideology of "power" within heterosexual gender relations persists throughout the discourse of both feminist scholarship and social representation. Many feminists including Carol Plateman argue that prostitution is a form of male domination. In her opinion, the fact that men are able to purchase sexual access to a female's body is evidence to the maintenance of their public and private power:
"When women's bodies are on sale as commodities in the capitalist market, the terms of the original contract (which is about men's civil power) cannot be forgiven; the law of male sex-right is publicly affirmed, and men gain public acknowledgement as women's sex masters" (Plateman, p.208)

This statement is not only contradictory to feminist criticisms of capitalist theory; it is also patronising to female sexuality. She implies that masculinity and femininity are sexual identities which are only confirmed in sex, and more specifically, heterosexual activity:

"It is then in heterosexual intercourse that men create and maintain their sense of themselves as men and as women's masters" (Platemen, p. 215).

By stating that heterosexual sex is a "male-right," Plateman is denying the existence of sexual pleasure for women, and therefore, categorizes them as non-sexual beings that are incapable of enjoying the sexual activity. Also, by speaking of prostitution in a capitalist rhetoric where men are the "powerful" consumers and women are the "weak" suppliers of sex, Platemen ignores the theory of supply and demand. Economics teaches us that the greater a product is in demand, the greater power its supplier contains over the consumer market. It is the prostitute who sets the price of the commodity, manipulates the output of its product, and retains control over how their "goods" are to be handled and negotiated; and thus, to claim that a sex worker is a sex slave who holds no bargaining power within the industry is problematic.

Furthermore, in defining sex workers as strictly female and the customer male, Platemen falsely genders this act as a female form of labour. Men also have a history in prostitution to both male and female clients; and thus, she denies their sex when claiming that prostitutes are an entirely female gendered occupation. By stating that sex work is a "male sex-right" and hence a heterosexual act that defines male control, Platemen ignores the power that the female prostitute retains over this exchange, and also dismisses the existence of homosexuality in the sex industry. Prostitution is not only a female occupation, it is also includes male participants. By refusing women sexual pleasure and male prostitutes' gender identity, Plateman narrows her argument to a representational stereotype that is simply inaccurate.

Since the 1860s, feminists have initiated numerous campaigns against the institution of commercialized sex and prostitutes. However, these protests result in contradictions that question both the sincerity and integrity of these feminist motives. For example, feminist leaders such as Josephine Butler in Britain and Rose Scott in New South Wales argued for the legalization of prostitution because the past laws only served to "punish the women and not the male clients" (Sullivan, p. 255). They maintained that the State was committing an act of violence by profiting off of women's wages while also preventing them from obtaining safer working environments. Yet, on the other hand, many first wave feminists lobbied for harsher laws and penalties for the prostitutes themselves. Believing that if they could abolish protection all together, these protesters worked to protect women from sexual exploitation and limit male sexual power (Sullivan, p.256). However, the only protection these women were offering was for the male clientele and State support. By seeking to define the prostitute as the "other", these feminists were actually creating a divisive stereotype that impeded on all women's sexual freedom.

Instead, these feminist leaders should work to educate that all women are sexual beings and therefore entitled to sexual freedom regardless of their occupation. Whether they wish to reserve their sexuality for their significant others or sell their bodies for profit, the fact is, every woman holds a right to her own body, and any move to take away this freedom is itself an act of politicized anti-feminism.

"The dichotomy between female prostitutes and non-prostitute women is a form of social control of female sexuality which makes the support of prostitutes by other women a matter of self-interest rather than moral imperative. This process of defining women as strictly asexual "good" women and sexually active "bad women" takes away a women's right to be a sexually active and moral person" (Sullivan, p. 259)

If feminist action advocates for women's rights and feminism is the study of women then how can we not include sex workers as a legitimate construct of female sexuality? It seems that her decision to sell her "sex" to a male market is what defines her as "anti-feminist." However, female sex work is indeed a form of employment, and therefore sex workers must be studied as employees instead of sexual objects in order to gain a more clear understanding of how these women function in a sexually gendered work place.
Similar to all careers, these women experience both highs and lows in dealing with customers, co-workers, and the industry itself. Yet, many people fail to acknowledge this type of work as an actual "job", instead sex work is viewed as defining a female worker's social identity. Roberta Perkins tries to explain this social mentality in her work Being a Prostitute:

"Prostitution is denied occupational status because it deals primarily with sexual matters out of what is regarded as the proper context, love or marriage, and is therefore seen as perverse, and because it is assumed to be a predominantly female participation, it stands little chance of ever gaining prestige under a patriarchal mode of society. The denial of prostitution as a form of work is the deepest insult of all to most women working as prostitutes" (Perkins, p. 216)

Judging female prostitutes as sexually submissive and dominated is a limiting fictionalized viewpoint; however, to state that these women always perversely enjoy the act of sex with a male client, and therefore are not "working," is equally false. Regardless of whether or not these women enjoy their profession, the act of prostitution is no less a combination of manual and emotional labour that a nurse or flight attendant entails; and thus, sex work but be seen as "work" instead of a sex "act."

In order to build a more open forum for feminist dialogue that includes sex workers, women must formulate a new language and understanding of sex as labor and sex workers as employees in order to integrate sex workers into the feminist dialect. As Chapkis argues:

"Such a perspective allows prostitution to be examined critically as a form of service work, with attention focused on factors enhancing or limiting a worker's power relative to clients, employers, and colleagues. When erotic labor is viewed as work, it is transformed from a simple act of affirmation of man's command over women, and instead is revealed to be an arena of struggle, where the meaning and terms of the sexual exchange are vulnerable to cultural and political contestation" (Chapkis, 57)

The reason as to why "sex as work" is such a difficult concept to grasp is due to our societies' emphasis on productivity within the capitalist market. In order to be considered a legitimate employee, one must contribute skills and labor that adds to productive society and thus helps to produce a marketable product. Although sex work is indeed a service to individuals, it is not considered a service to society since it only produces immediate gratification or the "product" of an orgasm for one person.
Perhaps the explanation as to why it is difficult for us to discuss the sex industry and its employees is due to that fact that we live in a very anti-sex country. The idea of "sex" as a commodity goes against many American's innate intuition regarding sexual morality. Rubin addresses the issue of sex as a cultural taboo in her article "Thinking Sex":

"This culture always treats sex with suspicion. It construes and judges almost any sexual practice in terms of its worst possible expression. Sex is presumed guilty until proven innocent. Virtually all erotic behavior is considered bad unless a specific reason to exempt it has been established. The most acceptable excuses are marriage, reproduction, and love" (Rubin, 14)

"Sex" as a "job" instead of an expression of love or pleasure is problematic due to the cultural models including the Church and the nuclear family that exists in our country. Since Christianity, family structures, and modest behavior are all values that are held to such a high standard in America, we tend to view the act of sex as equivalent to representatives of love, pleasure, and commitment. Rubin continues to comment to the influence of Christianity to sex:

"What I call the fallacy of misplaced scale is a corollary of sex negativity. Susan Sontong once commented that since Christianity focused on sexual behavior as the root of virtue, everything pertaining to sex has been a special case in our culture. Sex law has incorporated the religious attitude that heretical sex is an especially heinous sin that deserves the harshest punishments" (Rubin, 14)

Considering these two overpowering structures against sex work, Western capitalist theory and Christian notions of morality, then how can we as products of our culture move past these ingrained social values in order to critically analyze sex workers within feminist study? The problem is that it is impossible to deny one's influence by their social structures, and that includes aspects of morality, anti-sexual discourse, and religion. The notion of sex as a marketable trade and economic exchange is unsettling due to its "de-romanticizing" notion towards sexual intercourse. If our goal as Americans is to be productive employees to our society while maintaining family values, then sex work is the absolute antithesis to our collective cultural ideals.
My argument is centred on disproving the popular theory that female prostitution is strictly related to exclusive phallic pleasure where women are made victims to male sexuality; and therefore, I seek to combat these social institutions and their theoretical assumptions concerning notions of "moral sex." In female heterosexual prostitution, it is possible for women who willingly engage in commercial sex to view themselves as exerting feminine power. Chapkis quotes "Maryanne," a former prostitute and now practicing nurse claims:

"As a prostitute, you really do determine what goes on, you guide the entire experience. There was a tremendous power in that for me; not only was I able to say "I can make this go whatever direction I want it to" but I also got to experiment in all these different roles and see where I fit in, which ones I liked. I didn't have to be just one thing" (Chapkis, 85).

Although some feminists view prostitute women as the powerless victims of male sexual demands, and female prostitution as perpetuating this notion of phallic dominance over women, I argue this type of ideology to be the ultimate form of misogyny. Here, women are classified asexual beings that hold no control over their sex acts, nor do they possess any feeling of sexual desire. Men who seek sex are identified as sexual predators who desire control over women through heterosexual sex acts. Yet, as Maryanne articulates, it is equally plausible for commercial sex to be understood as a complete role reversal where women are in the position of power and men are made subservient to them.

In a survey conducted by McKean and Barnard involving sixty-six male clients, evidence reveals that men are actually the "victims" in prostitution because they see themselves as inferior to female sexuality. The illusion of acting out this reality through fantasy is one of the foremost reasons as to why men have persisted throughout the centuries in engaging with prostitutes:

"In the private security of fantasy, men can indulge secretly and guiltily their knowledge of women's power, while enclosing female power in a fantasy land that lies far beyond the cities and towns of genuine feminist change" (McClintock, 102)

This representation of male clients does not depict macho men who are out to "conquer" a woman and wilfully act out all of their sexual fantasies, and there is sufficient evidence to back McClintock's statement. Forty-two percent agreed that they were "shy and awkward" when trying to meet women, twenty-three percent felt physically unattractive, and twenty-three percent had "difficulty meeting women who were not exotic dancers or prostitutes" (Monto, p. 80). While the client may seek out the prostitute for emotionally sexual reasons, the female prostitute rarely ever allows herself to become romantically attached to him. Most of these women are so detached from their job that they didn't even bother to remember a client's name. Chapkis quotes a California sex worker named Cheyenne who emphasized sex work as a form of both emotional and functional labour:

"Sex work hasn't been a bed of roses and I've learned some painful things. But I also feel strong in what I do. I'm good at it and I know how to maintain my emotional distance. Just like if you are a fire fighter or a brain surgeon or a psychiatrist, you have to deal with some pretty heavy stuff and that means divorcing yourself from your feelings on a certain level. You just have to be able to do that to your job. But if you a prostitute who can separate herself from her emotions while your working everybody condemns you for it. I don't get it" (Chapkis, 79)

Although some of these men see the women as love objects, prostitutes most always view their clients as money. It is this de-humanizing ability prostitutes contain that allows them to not become psychologically dominated by the men they work for, and thus, these women constructively resist notions of male dominance and control in the sex industry.

For many feminists, female sex workers who engage in heterosexual labor are perceived as the ultimate antithesis to gender equality; and thus the act of "sex" becomes the defining factor that bridges those women who are worth fighting for and those who are not. If we are to define ourselves as feminists and therefore activists for women, then we must include all occupations of women in our quest to study gender in the workforce. To accomplish this, we must formulate a new language and understanding of sex as labor and sex workers as employees in order to integrate the image of the female heterosexual prostitute into a productive feminist study. If being a feminist today still includes a "pro-women" ideology, then it is imperative that we include all categories of women in our discourse, including those who are imagined to act as willing participants to patriarchal institutions. Regardless of our personal moral and/or religious views, we as the new "modern" feminists must learn to critically analyse and deconstruct sex workers in order to expand feminist dialogue when working to create a more complete academic study.


Chapkis, Wendy. Live Sex Acts: Women Performing Erotic Labour. New York: Routledge Press, 1997.

MacKinnon, Catherine. Sexual Harassment of Working Women. New Haven, Yale, University Press, 1979.

McClintock, Anne. "Maid to Order" in Introduction to Special Section on the Sex Trade. Social Text. 1993

Monto, Martin A. "Why Men Seek Out Prostitutes" in Sex for Sale: Prostitution, Pornography, and the Sex Industry.

Perkins, Roberta. "Female Prostitution" in Sex and Sex Workers in Australia.

Perkins, Roberta. Being a Prostitute: Prostitute Women and Prostitute Men. North Sydney, NSW: George Allen and Unwin Publishers Ltd, 1985.

Platemen, Carol. "A Patriarchal Discourse on Sex" in Feminist Studies Review, Vol. XIII, January 1983.

Plateman, Carol. The Sexual Contract. Stanford University Press, 1988.

Rubin, Gayle. "Thinking Sex:Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality." in Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality. Ed. Vance, Carol. Pandora: London, 1992.

Sharp, Rachel. with Roberta Perkins, Garret Prestage, and Francis Lovejoy. Sex Work and Sex Workers in Australia. Sydney, Australia: University of New South Wales Press, 1994.

Sullivan, Barbara. "Feminism and Female Prostitution" in Sex and Sex Workers in Australia.

Summers, A. Dammed Whores and God's Police: The Colonization of Women in Australia. Ringwood: Penguin, 1975.

Weitzer, Ronald. Sex For Sale: Prostitution, Pornography, and the Sex Industry. New York, NY: Rutledge, 2000.

Autonomy and Reproductive Choices for Teenagers
Name: Alex Heilb
Date: 2005-12-13 19:27:03
Link to this Comment: 17387


Sex and Gender

2005 Final Web Papers

On Serendip

Sex education for children is a provocative and controversial issue. The one thing everyone seems able to agree on is that it should exist, though when to start it and how to go about doing it vary across a huge spectrum. There is currently a bill in Congress proposing a $500 million plan to reduce public sex education from a comprehensive look—enforcing contraception and safety while also discussing general issues of sexuality—to one that strictly discusses the "social, psychological, and health gains" of abstinence for unmarried people (Sternberg, 1). Advocates of such a conservative form of sex education argue that education about safer sex is not going to prevent disease and unplanned pregnancies. These people claim that only through abstinence education will teenagers learn how to protect themselves from STDs and unplanned pregnancy. Yet perhaps they have not heard that 26% of women who claim to practice abstinence get pregnant each year (Singer, 2). This inconsistency between education, public policy, and actual behavior, along with the increasingly strict regulations on abortion and birth control accessibility, is sending young women mixed messages, and then denying them the opportunity to fix their mistakes.

At the root of this issue is the concept of choice. Women must be given full authority over their bodies; a woman's individual autonomy must be the governing factor in her choice to have sex, use protection, or have an abortion. In 1972, a step toward furthering women's autonomy was made with the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade. Yet since this ruling, further legislature has once again limited a woman's choices when it comes to her body. Now many states require a 24 hour waiting period between the consultation and the abortion. Other states are lobbying to require consent from the father of the fetus before allowing the woman to abort. Why do many people believe that women are not responsible enough to make reproductive choices on their own? And girls under the age of eighteen have even less autonomy— most states require minors to have written consent from their parents before they can receive abortions—when does a female become a "woman" and get to become the boss of her body?

Abstinence-only sex education removes further choices from teenage sex. This conservative education suggests that by not talking with teenagers about sex, teenagers will choose not to have sex. The fact of current American life is that about 2/3 of boys and ½ of girls in the US are sexually active by age 18 (Rescorla). Clearly sex education in public schools is inadequate—currently, public schools in most states can only receive public funding for sex education programs if they only teach abstinence, and the National Coalition Against Censorship estimates that approximately $100 million are spent yearly to that effect. Bush's $500 million plan would only continue in that tradition. The NCAC estimates that fewer than half of the public sex education programs in the US give students information about how and where they can access birth control. Abstinence only sex-ed is not sex education at all, for it does not educate children about sex; rather, it preaches to them about remaining abstinent until marriage, a sermon half of the teenage girls in this country disregard. Rather than educate young girls about various types of birth control and how or where they can access these resources, public sex education courses are ignoring the issue of teenage sex, hoping it will go away. Further, only a third of public sex education programs discuss abortion and sexual orientation (NCAC).

This sends a message to teenage girls—and not the message that they should abstain from sex. Rather, this non-discussion of safe sex and sexuality further stigmatizes sex for girls, which can cause them to be shamed by their desire to know more about aspects of sex. There is a huge difference between the way teenage boys and teenage girls regard sex. This difference is what causes promiscuous boys to be revered by their peers, and promiscuous girls to be called sluts. Boys are encouraged to assert their manliness through sexual experimentation, which is shown by the statistic that more boys than girls are sexually active by the age of eighteen. It is considered acceptable for boys to have sex, and talk quite openly about sex, in a way that is not paralleled for girls. Because of this, girls are not comfortable in an open sexual discussion. Though both parties, male and female, are greatly interested in all facets of sexuality, girls are less likely to ask their parents questions or seek advice from other knowledgeable sources under the pretext that such questions are inappropriate. As Lauren Doucette, RN, says, "some women feel incredibly embarrassed or shy when it comes to seeking help or clarification." She adds that "these tend to be the girls that may not know enough, or anything at all, about birth control." (Gooding). These same girls then engage in sexual activity without being properly educated about ways to protect themselves, and can end up pregnant or infected with an STD.

Margaret Sanger, a pioneer in birth control education, began speaking out for the need to educate women about birth control options in 1918, long before oral contraceptives had been developed. She saw birth control as a way to maintain lifestyles. That is, giving a sexually active couple the choice to have a baby or not helped them to continue on the path they had set for themselves. In the early 1900's, women who had babies out of wedlock were shut away or cast out (which is still the result for some unwed mothers in certain situations these days), and Sanger knew many of these women. She spoke of a pair of sisters, one of whom became pregnant and had the baby. She was then thrown out of her house and forced to work as a servant for families who mistreated her and her child to the point that the infant died. The other sister also became pregnant, but was sent away to have an abortion, which affected her psychologically but allowed her to continue on in her society. Sanger said, "our laws force women into celibacy on the one hand, or abortion on the other," and she felt that neither option was the best option.

In high school, the following experience was shared with me: a sixteen year old boy went to his local grocery store to buy condoms. As he approached the counter, condoms in hand, the clerk asked, "do you have ID?"
"Excuse me?" said the boy, confused.
"Do you have ID—are you eighteen?"
"You're not going to allow me to have safe sex because I'm underage?" the boy retorted. The clerk then sold him the condoms. And it's a good thing that she did too, because it is actually illegal in Virginia (where I attended high school), and in many other states, to refuse to sell condoms to minors (Planned Parenthood). This woman was most likely told by her conservative employer to demand identification of people who looked too young to be married, in order to help that grocery store do their part to keep sex within marriage. In rural Virginia, it wouldn't surprise anyone. However, the clerk knew she could not flat out refuse the boy, so she conceded upon his pushing. Had he not questioned her, he most likely would have left the store without condoms, and who knows if he would have the confidence to go somewhere else and try to buy them after being denied once already. Though there is a law protecting teenage access to condoms in most states, there is not a universal law protecting a teen's access to other forms of birth control, particularly those used by women.

Currently, 21 states allow all minors to get birth control (oral contraceptives, the patch, the Nuva-Ring, among others) without informing their parents. Another 11 states allow "most" minors to do so (Planned Parenthood). I suspect that these eleven states have an age limitation, such as the minor must be at least sixteen. This ensures that teens who seek out protection can receive it without their parents knowing they are sexually active (surely it is not the fear of most young women that their parents know they are using contraceptives, but that they are sexually active in the first place). But teens who choose to use prescription birth control without the knowledge of their parents are faced with the challenge of paying for it without the assistance of their parents. This poses a problem for young girls without access to money, those who don't have jobs or who could not use their parents' money without their parents' knowing.
Yet even if there is an open relationship between parents and their daughters, paying for birth control can be a challenge. The current Anthem insurance policy my family has does not cover oral contraceptives like Ortho-TriCyclen unless they are being used as an acne treatment, which seems to make a statement about how Anthem feels about teenage sex. Interestingly enough, most mature women (meaning women over the age of eighteen) would not need a prescription medication, be it Acutane (a medication designed specifically to treat acne) or Ortho-TriCyclen, to control their acne (one can assume that these women gained control over their complexions during their teenage years). They might, however, seek an oral contraceptive to reduce their risk of unplanned pregnancy. They would then be disturbed to find that their insurance plan does not cover birth control unless you are presumably a teenager seeking an acne treatment. Even more disturbing is that this same insurance plan covers Viagra. So, though women are essentially denied their right to affordably limit the number of babies they have, men are essentially granted the right to affordably maintain an erection. This insurance policy proves to be not so much anti-sex, as anti-choice for women seeking birth control. Even beyond public policy, private programs are not seeking to facilitate the acquisition of birth control by young women.

What would Margaret Sanger say about this? She argues in her paper "Morality and Birth Control," published in 1918, that birth control education and access has been "tenaciously withheld from...working women," who have not been able to share in the "greater happiness, greater freedom, greater prosperity and...harmony" that upper class women using birth control methods had found. Clearly, birth control has not been equally accessible to everyone since the invention of the pessary, the first form of birth control for women.

So with birth control hard to learn about and even harder to gain access to, what's a girl to do? Planned Parenthood estimates that 34% of teenagers in the US become pregnant by the age of twenty. Currently, 34 states require a minor to have the involvement and permission of at least one parent before that minor can receive an abortion. This can dissuade girls from seeking an abortion, or a legal one, due to the fear of what their parents will do when they find out. Legislature like this does nothing to protect teenage girls who may be better off receiving an abortion without their parents' knowledge. In the most extreme case, should a child who was raped by her father then be forced to ask him whether or not she can abort the fetus? A study by Planned Parenthood suggests that, while most teens do in fact involve their parents in the decision, those that don't come from families with histories of violence. These teens fear their parents' violent reactions were they to learn of an unplanned pregnancy. Other teens worry they'll be kicked out of the house. Teenagers choosing not to involve their parents in the process are not, however, forced to make the decision all on their own. Most of them spoke about it with their boyfriends, a trusted adult, or a "professional," assumably a counselor or social worker.

In Missouri, no matter the patient's age, a twenty four hour waiting period is required between a doctor's consultation with the patient and the procedure. This time is supposedly used to ensure that the patient is making an informed consent before going through with the abortion. If the doctor does not follow guidelines set down by the government, he can be fined or even serve jail time. The problem with this is that the guidelines for ensuring informed consent of the patient are so vague that many doctors do not understand them and could break the law without even realizing it. How anxious do you think this law makes doctors who are already performing such a controversial procedure? Missouri approved this piece of legislature using precedence from Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which approved the 24 hour waiting period for women in Pennsylvania back in 1992. Especially considering the obscure requirements of the doctor during this twenty four hour waiting period, the general level of anxiety for both the doctor and the patient is greatly increased. Oftentimes, this waiting period is used to try to talk the woman out of the procedure. Though it may be just a rumor, accounts of women being shown photographs of aborted fetuses or very developed fetuses still in the womb (to try and show the woman that she is not simply aborting a bundle of cells, even though late term abortions are not legal and what the woman is about to abort is in actuality nothing more than a bundle of cells) are disturbing. A pregnant woman preparing to have an abortion needs support, not a guilt trip. This guilt imposed on the woman could essentially trick her out of going through with the decision she had made, which is in actuality a form of autonomy-limiting. If a woman has two choices, and she is made to believe that one of them is so horrid that she could not possibly go through with it, then really she has no choice at all. Some would argue legislature like this is not a threat to women's autonomy, because it merely delays the abortion by one day. However, the fact that the government can now dictate when a woman can have an abortion is a small step towards many anti-choice lobbyists' goal of illegalizing abortion.

Even more worrisome than the idea of a 24 hour waiting period is the idea that perhaps men should have a say in whether or not their sexual partners can receive abortions. Many websites such as talk of men being unsatisfied with their partner's decision about abortion. Most cases suggest that these men wish they could convince their partners to have an abortion so that the man will not get stuck paying eighteen years of child support on a child they never wanted to begin with. However, a few men wish they could prevent their partners from having an abortion. Such a battle happened in Pennsylvania in 2002, when a father-to-be got an injunction against his girlfriend's abortion. The injunction was lifted days later under the precedence of Planned Parenthood v. Danforth, a 1976 case that led to the invalidation of a Missouri law that required a woman to have written spousal consent before she could have an abortion (Lithwick, 1). Planned Parenthood v. Danforth posed many problems, the first one being that the state assumed that all women seeking abortions were married, though most likely the opposite was true. Also, Planned Parenthood v. Danforth assumed that a woman's husband is in fact always the father of the fetus she is carrying, which in fact could also be false. Finally, this case attempted to equate the amount of say a woman has when making decisions about her body with the amount of say a man should have in that same decision. This is most likely the reason this ruling was overturned. No one is comfortable flat out saying that women cannot make reproductive choices without the help of men (why is it then that a large portion of America has no problem flat out saying that women should simply not have the choice?). Men and other advocates of "choice for men" seem to have forgotten that there is more to being pregnant than just becoming a mother. The nine month gestation period is something that, quite simply, some women do not want to go through just because their partners say so. You cannot "legally force women to bear children against their will (Lithwick, 2)," just as you cannot legally force them to have an abortion because you don't feel like paying child support.

So, there are many difficulties when it comes to sex in the US. It is difficult to find birth control and learn how to use it. It is difficult to receive an abortion, and may become even more so. The one thing that seems not so difficult is getting pregnant when you weren't planning on it. And why all this trouble? Inadequate sex education practices for young people. As Jocelyn Elders, former US Surgeon General, says, "Vows of abstinence break more easily than latex condoms." So why is the Bush administration trying to push through this $500 million plan that will essentially deny teenagers access to information needed to make responsible decisions about sex? Perhaps it is their Puritan concern with the overall level of national morality. But on that note, Margaret Sanger argues, "knowledge of birth control is essentially moral."

Sources Used

Elders, Jocelyn. Interview by Priscilla Pardini in 2002 for Rethinking Schools.

Gooding, Amber. Birth Control: Knowing What You Need to Know—When You Need to Know It. 2005. [internet] accessed 10 November 2005: .

Lithwick, Dahlia. "Dad's Sad, Mad: Too Bad." Slate 7 August 2002: 1-3. Accessed 19 November 2005 .

National Coalition Against Censorship. Abstinence-Only Education: Why First Ammendment Supporters Should Oppose It. 2005. [internet] accessed 12 December 2005: <>.

New York University. The Margaret Sanger Papers Project. 2005. [internet] accessed 19 November 2005: .

Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood Federation of America. 2005 [internet] accessed 19 November 2005: .

Rescorla, Leslie. Introduction to Psychology. Lecture heard November 2005, Bryn Mawr College.

Singer, Alan. "Preaching Ain't Teaching: Sex Education and America's New Puritans."
Rethinking Schools Online 2003: 1-3. Accessed 10 November 2005: .

Sternberg, Steve. "Sex Education Stirs Controversy." USA Today July 10 2002: 1-3. Accessed 10 November 2005 .

Learning to Find the G-Spot in Discourse with the
Name: Patricia F
Date: 2005-12-15 19:47:08
Link to this Comment: 17411


Sex and Gender

2005 Final Web Papers

On Serendip

I suggest a utilization of the current discourse in claiming one's identity—by doing so, it acts as a silencing of the "outside" voices. Simone de Beauvoir speaks of a need to "start fresh" and discard the quarrels. She feels that the quarrels have consisted of ideals that are actually useless to the fundamental steps towards independence for women. She says, "If we are to gain understanding, we must get out of these ruts; we must discard the vague notion of superiority, inferiority, equality which have hitherto corrupted every discussion of the subject and start afresh." (pp. 686) The idea of ending the "quarreling voices" is not realistic, but by claiming oneself through language can act as an immunity shield from the "outside" naming one's own self. Through working within the current discourse and claiming one's own identity, it allows for control over one's own identity. Although the self-claiming does not prevent the outside from placing names on one's own self, through a fixed identity in terms governed by oneself prevents the outside world from penetrating one's own core identity.

Similar to de Beauvoir, I want to discard the fighting against language, and rather utilize the language as an act of control. With the help of the romantic poet William Coleridge, I have imagined a mode of resistance to this blockage of pleasure. In Coleridge's poem, "Kubla Khan" he speaks about a creation of a new world. The lines, "Could I revive within me/Her symphony and song,/To such a deep delight 'twould win me,/That with music loud and long, I would build that dome in air, / That sunny dome! Those caves of ice!" (ln. 42-47) are playing with the notions of one's own ability to find one's current language, and take it upon themselves to claim oneself with it, thereby producing this "pleasure-dome" where pleasure is accessed through the current discourse as a result of claiming oneself using the current discourse. Using language to claim one's identity is similar to the ideas of de Beauvoir as well. She says, "Man can think of himself without woman. She cannot think of herself without man...She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not her with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute—she is the Other." (pp. 676) We need to free ourselves from these confines of relating ourselves to and against men, and rather focus on a way in which female identity can be formed in a new way—an entity free from the differentiation of men.

A good place to look for inspiration is, surprisingly enough, several women within the disability-feminist movement. The disabled women within this feminist movement have resisted the outside placing names upon them, and rather have chosen to name themselves with current words within the discourse—regardless of how much residue of negative associations the words may have. They have constructed their own "pleasure-dome" in that they have named themselves and therefore they resist the outside gaze imparting names on them. Similar to woman being defined in relation to man, the disabled are defined in relation to the non-disabled body. Leonard Davis, a disabilities scholar says, "Without the monstrous body to demarcate the borders of the generic, without the female body to distinguish the shape of the male...these taxonomies of bodily value that underwrite political, social and economic arrangements would collapse." (Davis, pp. 280) In other words, attempting to break that link between deviant and abnormal with the female and disabled will help society become more accepting of both groups of people. The disabled women have helped break this link already by claiming words within the discourse that explicitly convey their situation. Nancy Mairs, a woman battling Multiple Sclerosis does this very effectively. In her novel, Waist-high in the World; A life Among the Nondisabled she claims the word "cripple" because it demands that others acknowledge her embodied identity on her terms. She says,
"People...wince at the word 'cripple'...Perhaps I want them to wince. I want them to see me as a tough customer, one to whom the fate/gods/viruses have not been kind, but who can face the brutal truth of her existence squarely. As a cripple, I swagger." (Davis, pp. 284)

She wants to call attention to the material reality of her crippleness and less to her oppression. By calling herself a "cripple" she is forcing people to look at her through her own self-constructed definition and thereby allowing her to be in control of her identity. She also recognizes that although she is a woman with a disability, she can not speak for all women with disabilities. She realizes the specificity of her experience and focuses in on her own power as it relates to her own body. She can be in control of her own identity and no one else's. She says,
So, then: my body. And only my body. The specificity of the personal pronoun I is critical to me (and to this book) because the range of bodies with disabilities is so exceptionally broad that I could not speak for them all and do not wish to be perceived as trying to do so...I can only represent my own experience as authentically as the tricks and vagaries of language will permit, trusting others to determine what similarities we share and make use of them as they see fit. (pp. 43-44 Mairs).
By claiming her own body and realizing that she would literally be "no body" if she gave it up is important in figuring the "pleasure-dome" as well. Mairs claims not only her identity through the given discourse, but also claims her own physical material embodiment which only adds strength to her control over her own self.

The problematic overlapping thread between disability and women is that they are expected to be fixed in relation to a certain "norm" determined by the outside world. Smith and Hutchinson, in their critical work Gendering Disability write, "The twin ideologies of normalcy and beauty posit female and disabled bodies, particularly, as not only spectacles to be looked at, but as pliable bodies to be shaped infinitely so as to conform to a set of standards called normal and beautiful" (Smith and Hutchinson, pp. 83). The specific culture of disabled-feminists is attempting to prevent this forced conformation to an outside standard. Cheryl Marie Wade is a prime example of this rejection of the outside world calling her "their" names. She writes a poem entitled "The Woman with Juice" and creates her body and identity through the discourse on her terms:
I am not one of the physically challenged--

I'm a sock in the eye with gnarled fist
I'm a French kiss with cleft tongue
I'm orthopedic shoes sewn on a last of your fears

I am not one of the differently abled--

I'm an epitaph for million imperfect babies left untreated
I'm an ikon carved from ones in a mass grave at Tiergarten, Germany
I'm withered legs hidden with a blanket

I am not one of the able disabled--

I'm a black panther with green eyes and scars like a picket fence
I'm pink lace panties teasing a stub of milk white thigh
I'm the Evil Eye
I'm the first cell divided
I'm mud that talks
I'm Eve I'm Kali
I'm The Mountain That Never Moves
I've been forever I'll be here forever
I'm the Gimp
I'm the Cripple
I'm the Crazy Lady
I'm The Woman With Juice (pp. 1 Brava)

This active claiming of oneself through language is integral in creating and upholding the "pleasure-dome" and is very evident in Wade's description of her self.

Another example of this resistance is Diane DeVries-- a woman with just a trunk for a body. Diane DeVries, regardless of what others say, refuses to use prosthesis. Diane worked with both upper-and lower-extremity prostheses for many years but did not like using them for both practical and aesthetic reasons. She said that being independent was impossible with artificial arms because someone else had to position the terminal hook devices for each different activity. Aesthetically, Diane felt they made her look like a "little Frankie" (DeVries, pp. 53) and only exacerbated the monstrous image that the outside world constructs for the disabled. Instead of prostheses, she preferred wearing sleeve-less dresses and leaving her stumps uncovered. Although this provoked debate because some people thought it was offensive to show her stumps in public, she did so anyway because she wanted to. She has a positive attitude towards her body and cultivates an appearance that she thinks looks together without any use of cosmetic limbs. She said, "You got to let them see you. I mean they're going to look at you anyway, so you might as well give them something to look at" (DeVries, pp. 35). Diane DeVries is an example of this resistance—she is creating her identity as she sees fit, and refuses to conform to the outside world's standards of beauty and normal.

Moraga in her essay "The Breakdown of the Bicultural Mind" helps to identify this kind of resistance in taking claim of oneself through the discourse as well. She struggles with being labeled as something in ways that are based on an assumed sisterhood—an assumption that womanhood equates with some sort of common ground for everyone in that category. She does not want to be owned by the outside—even if it is by other women. She says, "Do not call me 'sister.' I am not yours." (pp. 237) Moraga is comfortable with only a personal declaration of one's own identity. The claiming of one's own identity through the current discourse is what allows for the construction of the "pleasure-dome". If one is able to claim one's own identity through her own language, then she is able to control it.

Not only does Moraga resonate with my own ideology, but there is fundamental connection between Moraga and Simone de Beauvoir as well. Moraga says, "And our liberation won't happen by some man leading the way and parting the Red Sea for us. We are the Red Sea, we women." (pp. 232) This is very in line with Beauvoir's notion to "start afresh" and break free of the confines of being defined solely in reference to men. This also connects back to the disability-feminist train of thought in that they assert their humanity first and foremost to break free of the confines of the notions of the deformed body. Beauvoir begins with asking the question, "What is a woman?" as a means to exhibit the idea that men would never feel the need to ask that question because men do not think of presenting themselves as of a certain sex. Man inherently encompasses the positive as well as the neutral as indicated by the common use of the word "man" to designate human beings in general, and therefore relegates women to the only spot open on the spectrum—the negative.

The intersections of Beauvoir and Moraga only help to strengthen the idea of the "pleasure-dome". There seems to be an ambiguity as well as determined relegation for what women should be. The identity of women is this paradoxical idea; they are without any true identity since they are created in reference to men, but at the same time they are identified as being confined to this negative and very limited realm of human. The passivity which has been assumed to be part of womanhood cannot affect the claiming. Moraga says, "I think this is why I have always hated the terms biracial and bisexual. They are passive terms, without political bite. They don't choose. They don't make a decision. They are a declaration not of identity, but of biology, of sexual practice. They say nothing about where one really stands." (pp. 236). Beauvoir speaks of those as well by saying that women need to break free of the confines of being defined in relation to men. Beauvoir's recipe for independence insofar as it exists in this world for women is "to refuse to confine her to the relations she bears to man, not to deny them to her; let her have her independent existence and she will continue none the less to exist for him also: mutually recognizing each other as subject, will yet remain for the other an other." (pp. 704). According to Beauvoir, Woman needs to be her own definer and, by doing so, will exist as a Subject as well as an Other.

This is why I believe that the disabilities-feminist movement is very important. The disabled women are refusing to be shaped in relation to something else—they are claiming themselves as one whole entity. They have adopted this idea of "re-symbolization" that allows for this push against what they are "called" and rather creating what they are calling themselves. The feminist-disability culture has been fighting hard to present images of disabled women within the public realm as a way to force them to look at women's disabilities. This is important because although they are presenting their corporeal images to the public, their own personal identities have already been claimed and therefore these images are imbued with power. For example, in January 2000, The Breast Cancer Fund based in San Francisco mounted a public awareness poster campaign called "Obsessed with Breasts". This campaign showed women boldly and sexually displaying their mastectomy scars. The posters parodied the traditional Victoria Secret or Calvin Klein ads. In doing so, these posters presented an erotic image of the breast, with the seemingly forbidden image of the amputated breast. As a result, they were able to disrupt the visual convention of the female breast being only a sexualized object for male appropriation. The posters produced a powerful visual violation combining the spectacle of the eroticized breast with the medical image of the scarred breast. By presenting the something that has been purposefully concealed from the public view, the scarred breast, into the public sphere is a conscious move of re-symbolizing the stigma of disabilities.

In a similar direction, Ellen Stohl—the paraplegic actress—posed naked for Playboy in 1987. After becoming disabled, she wrote to Hugh Hefner articulating her desire to pose nude because of the difficulty of maintaining sexual appeal for disabled people. For some, they felt that Stohl needed to present herself in an overtly "feminine" action in order to compensate for the seemingly desexualizing power of her disability. That idea, however, is not what I take Stohl's action to be representative of. The photos of Stohl in Playboy can not erase her disability, regardless of how sexual she looks. There is a centerfold of Stohl nude and masturbating—and also photos of Stohl in her wheelchair. Although there is some debate as whether or not her disability was able to be erased because of her overt sexuality, I feel as though that is irrelevant. The important point is that a disabled woman, her disability and all, was sexually presented in a mainstream magazine catered specifically for men's pleasure. Stohl recognized the outside world's view of disabled women, and resisted it. She would not allow herself to be relegated to an asexual position, so she posed in Playboy—her disability and all.

Catered to a different audience, though with similar intentions, is another example of these attempts to re-symbolize: the introduction of Barbie's friend "Becky" in a wheel-chair. It is important that Becky is presented in a way that challenges notions of normalcy in feminist ways. The disabled Becky is dressed in comfortable clothing—pants, roomy shirts and not the insanely high heels that Barbie usually always wearing. According to Smith and Hutchinson, "The disabled Becky is dressed and poised for agency, action, and creative engagement with the world." (pp. 89) While in contrast to Barbie who is always dressed in her restricting sequined gowns and push-up bras, Becky suggests an almost liberating outlet from those oppressive constraints of femininity. By placing Becky into the mainstream youth, helps to fight this image of disability as abnormal and only allowed within the private sphere. A disability activist has a new suggestion for an alternative similar to Becky—a disabled Civil Rights Lawyer in a power wheelchair and briefcase who enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act. He wants to call her "Sue-Your-Ass-Becky." We'll all be waiting with bated breath for that to materialize.

Similar to women, disabled women are vulnerable to the outside's judgmental look as well. For them, however, it is not the "gaze" but rather the "stare". The stare is what sculpts the disabled subject into a grotesque spectacle and it frames their body as an icon of deviance. The disabled women have more of a reason to prevent themselves from the susceptibility of this pointed "stare" and therefore have resisted to it in a way that has created an outlet for their resistance—by posturing themselves as something, prevents them from being relegated to the "Other" role. The disabled-feminists have actively created their own sort of "pleasure-dome" by claiming their own identity through the current discourse. Feminist disability theory suggests that we are better off learning to individually accommodate bodily limits than trying to deny them. This is actively implemented by the women's blatant claiming of the limitations of their body on their own terms. Who cares, then, if the outside world than calls you "differently abled"? What does it matter if the outsiders wince at your word "cripple"? They are not able to usurp your own power if you have already claimed yourself. The disabled women within this feminist movement have recognized this. As Diane DeVries says, "I mean they're going to look at you anyway..." resonates with the idea that the outside world is always going to place names. That more important idea is through the construction of some sort of "pleasure-dome" allows for immunity from those names. Within the "pleasure-dome", the children's song "...but names will never hurt me" really will ring true. The pleasure-dome is built upon the utilization of the present discourse as a way of resisting the discourse. So: let's get building.

Hate Crime Legislation: Renegotiating in Three, Tw
Name: Sarah Halt
Date: 2005-12-15 20:28:23
Link to this Comment: 17412


Sex and Gender

2005 Final Web Papers

On Serendip

All violent crimes are reprehensible. But the damage done by hate crimes cannot be measured solely in terms of physical injury or dollars and cents. Hate crimes rend the fabric of our society and fragment communities because they target a whole group and not just the individual victim. Hate crimes are committed to cause fear to a whole community.

-The Human Rights Campaign Website

If it's true that sex is on the American public's mind, then it's likely that laws about sex are as well. One such hot topic issue is the question of whether to expand hate crime legislation to include gays and lesbians. Current federal law (Title 18 U.S.C. §245) only mentions crimes motivated by race, religion, or national origin, and expanding this legislation would be a unique gesture as it would attempt to protect people based on who they have sex with. In "Thinking Sex," Gayle Rubin says, "Sex is always political. But there are also historical periods in which sexuality is more sharply contested and more overtly politicized. In such periods, the domain of erotic life is, in effect, renegotiated." I argue that we live in such a period. In September this year, the House of Representatives passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (the LLEHCPA), an act that would expand our current hate crime legislation to protect gays, lesbians, and transgendered people. According to the Human Rights Campaign website, this was the third such attempt by the House in the last decade to pass this sort of law (the Senate vetoed the other attempts). Critics are now saying, as they did in the past, that it is all but impossible to decide what constitutes a hate crime. As Barbara Perry says, "The problem with interpreting 'official' estimates is that the term hate motivated is not clearly defined" (Perry, 2003 50). Others insist that all crimes are acted out of hate, so what difference does it make? However, I insist that there is a big difference: hate crimes are unique from other crimes because in these instances a perpetrator acts out of intolerance, fear, and lack of education. In a period of political polarization such as ours, hate crime legislation is needed now more than ever.

It has taken decades for us to reach the point we are now at in regards to hate crime legislation. James Jacob says, "The long-term impetus for the 1980's hate crime legislation undoubtedly is the American Civil Rights movement that, since World War II, has pressed forward the interests and aspirations of one 'minority group' after another" (Kelly 152). In 1990, the government made its first conscious effort to collect accurate information about hate crimes nationwide by passing the Hate Crime Statistics Act. This act did not address how to decide if someone was guilty of a hate crime or how to punish someone who was. It was and is important because it records hate crimes – essentially, this act shows that the government is making a statement that it is interested in hate crime study.

In 1994, two new pieces of legislation were passed. The Violence Against Women Act protected women against crimes motivated by gender, but it was declared unconstitutional in 1999. Also passed in '94 was the Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act, which outlined how to prosecute persons who committed crimes motivated by the "the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation" of their victim (Jenness 44). However, this act is not as progressive as it sounds: it only covers crimes that are committed on federal property. As of today, individual states have statewide laws regarding hate crimes, but these vary a great deal. The most recent federal hate crime legislation, the LLEHCPA, was passed in the House on September 14, and it's unique because it provides a way for the law to punish those who commit hate crimes (and not just on federal land). Also, this is the first act to include protection for transgendered people.

Upon initial examination, hate crime legislation sounds like a great idea: what can be wrong about protecting people who might ordinarily be attacked simply for being born a certain way (i.e. because of their national, ethnic, sexual, etc. identity)? It would be a grievous error, however, to categorize those who counter hate crime legislation as bigots or proponents of hate. Many of those who are against hate crime legislation take the stance they do because this legislation makes for a very slippery slope.

In hate crime legislation, subjectivity is the greatest problem, as it is impossible to know what goes on in the perpetrator's mind. Courts will have to ask whether hate for the victim's nationality, religion, sexual orientation, etc. was the only motivation for the crime. How do we distinguish between actions that are hate crimes and actions that are protected under the First Amendment? Is it only a hate crime if the victim is a member of a minority group? What other factors play into hate crime laws? James Jacobs points out that sometimes the law may simply be dealing with juveniles who want to make trouble, and use racial slurs or graffiti as a medium for troublemaking. Their acts may be deplorable, but they are hardly the mark of hate crimes (Jacobs 156). What constitutes a hate crime – does it have to be violence against a person, or does vandalism count? If an act is determined to be a clear-cut hate crime, why should a man be punished for killing a gay man more than if he had killed his friend in a fit of anger? What makes the first a hate crime and the second not?

There are no easy answers to these questions. In an ideal world, hate crime legislation would protect those who feel afraid for their safety because they are members of a certain community, defined by gay, religious, or political identity. But this is not an ideal world, and to a student studying sex and gender, one problem outshines all others when it comes to hate crime legislation: to make this proposed legislation a reality, it becomes necessary to use a ever-dreaded and always distrusted label.

In order for hate crime legislation to become a reality, it would be necessary to call people by words that can be said to define their identies: gay, black, lesbian, Muslim, Arab, etc. In regard to the recent LLEHCPA, it becomes necessary to define transgendered people. Using labels is never easy - we progressive Changers Of The World fear labels. We don't want to play on the same terms as those who use labels as instruments of oppression. Didn't Foucault say that when we put our desires into words, we allow for others to police our desires?

But here is how it stands: current federal hate crime legislation already protects people against crimes motivated by race, religion, and national origin. The LLEHCPA proposes to expand current legislation to protect gays, lesbians, and transgendered people, but many people think the Senate will veto this act, just as they vetoed past attempts to expand hate crime laws. This is unfair. Why should the government refuse to protect for sexuality, but embrace protection for race, religion, and national origin? Should we therefore abolish all hate crime legislation in order to be entirely fair? I think not. I argue that hate crime legislation is important less for the punishment or the laws it creates than for the ideological statement it makes.

If the government were to embrace hate crime legislation that protects gays, lesbians, and transgendered people, this will not stop a lunatic from attacking a lesbian couple who is walking down the street. Hatred will not evaporate because a law is passed. But the government's gesture of good faith is what's important. Right now in 2005, our government is cozying up with right wing Evangelicals, some of whom blame liberal Boston for pedophiles^1 or feminists for 9/11^2. Hate crime legislation would be a signal from the government that it wishes to move away from polarizing, hateful rhetoric and embrace all of its citizens, including gays, lesbians and transgendered individuals. Hate crime legislation would be a proclamation that the government will no longer ignore 10% - if that's the current statistic – of its population.

In a perfect world, we would have no need for hate crime legislation, just as we would have no need for labels. But I want to argue that it is not that hate crime legislation makes labels obligatory – it is the other way around. The existence of labels allows – no, makes it necessary – for us to have hate crime legislation. We do not play into the hands of those who will use labels as instruments of oppression by expanding hate crime legislation. (We have to tell Foucault to be quiet for a minute). The voices of several thousand people crying out against labels will not change the world for one very important reason: history.

Gayle Rubin says, "Western cultures [such as ours] generally consider sex to be a dangerous, destructive, negative force" (Rubin 13). She goes on, "Sex is presumed guilty until proven innocent. Virtually all erotic behavior is considered bad unless a specific reason to exempt it has been established" (Rubin 14). She shows a hierarchy in which monogamous heterosexual marriages are the top and "bar dykes" and "promiscuous gay men" are barely above the lowest ring, the "transsexuals, transvestites, fetishists, sadomasochists, sex workers ... and those who eroticism transgresses generational boundaries" (Rubin 14-15). It's this hierarchy that makes hate crime legislation so controversial and difficult to pass – after all, it's hard to convince people that those who perform "base" sexual activities deserve federal protection.

Hate crime legislation would not be necessary if not for this sexual hierarchy's control over the American mindset. (That is not to say that the hierarchy doesn't exist in other western and non-western cultures; merely, for this paper, American history will be our focus). Where did this hierarchy come from? Henry Abelove has some speculations about the influence of the industrial age on sex in England, which can certainly be applied to American progress as well. Abelove looks at the rise of fertility in the long eighteenth century (the 1680s-1880s), the decrease in single women, and the drop in illegitimate births as evidence to suggest that more people were marrying and having more "cross-sex genital intercourse" (Abelove 126) in their marriages. He reasons that this came about as a result of the industrial revolution, which put a new focus on production. Sex that did not allow for the crossing of genitals (i.e. masturbation, foreplay, or homosexual sex) could not produce children. And during a time in which production was a chief value, these acts of sex were seen as nonproductive and defective. "Behaviors, customs, usages which are judged to be nonproductive ... come under extraordinary and ever-intensifying negative pressure" (Abelove 128-129). Because of the industrial revolution's influence on thought, production and the making of babies made heterosexual, married sex the "good sex."

It was during this period of change (the change of the world into an industrial world, the change of mindsets and values, etc) that "man" and "woman" were defined as categories that couldn't interact. By looking at the widely popular and available newspapers "The Tatler" and "The Spectator," any English student can see how concerned and anxious people were over categories, especially gendered categories. The writers of these papers (and others like them) argued that a third gender – a sodomite gender – existed. Suddenly, a world in which only the homosexual act existed became a world in which the homosexual himself existed. Sodomy was a known practice (just look to Greeks and Roman texts for ancient examples), but it wasn't until the long eighteenth century in English literature that the "molly" came into existence as a being who was defined by his act of having sex with other men.

These examples of change and Abelove's theory may have English root, but it's not difficult to translate these thoughts to American history. Like England during the long eighteenth century, America also went through an industrial revolution. Definitions were changing. America was emerging as a truly capitalist state, one that demanded production. And a country that wants production has little room for "the deviant."

John D'Emilio furthers the connection between capitalism and gay identity when he tries to renegotiate the existence of the queer. Although this paper earlier alluded to the birth of the homosexual, D'Emilio nails this birth down when he says, "I want to argue that gay men and lesbians have not always existed. Instead, they are a product of history, and have come into existence in a specific historical era. Their emergence is associated with the relations of capitalism" (D'Emilio 264). D'Emilio's argues that before capitalism, family units were self-sufficient in that they had both the land and the tools to survive on their own. He argues that homosexuals had "no social space in the colonial system of production" because "survival was structured around participation in the nuclear family" (D'Emilio 266). These families produced what was needed to survive, and so while a man or woman could engage in homosexual acts, they needed to act out heterosexual life styles in order to create a family and survive on their land and tools.

By the nineteenth century, however, many families had moved away from this method of living; they now worked in a "capitalist system of free labor" (D'Emilio 265). By making money and living off this money (not off tools and land), the homosexual was able to exist as an entity. S/he could live on his money and did not need a nuclear family in order to survive: "capitalism allowed individuals to survive beyond the confines of the family" (D'Emilio 267). Yet, while this change signified the birth of the homosexual as a person who could live on her/his own, the definition of the family also changed in an exclusive and negative way. D'Emilio says:

The family took on new significance as an affective unit, an institution that provided not goods but emotional satisfaction and happiness ... the ideology surrounding the family described it as the means through which men and women formed satisfying, mutually enhancing relationships and created an environment that nurtured children. The family became the setting for 'a personal life,' and sharply distinguished and disconnected from the public world of work and production" (D'Emilio 265).

This definition doesn't seem negative until one considers what the definition excludes. Since this "typical" family needs a male and female in order to produce children (and production is good, Abelove reminds us), the homosexual had no place in the family. "The ideology of capitalist society has enshrined the family as the source of love, affection, and emotional security, the place where our need for stable, intimate human relationships is satisfied" (D'Emilio 269). Rather than redefining the family as a more inclusive place, where even homosexuals could find a niche, the family has become a place where the male/female relationship governs all. There is no room for the deviant in this safe, personal space; in essence, we are looking at the birth of "family/traditional values." These are the very "values" that threaten the peace of the homosexual today. By defining the family as a nurturing, safe place where children are cared for, the family is also defined as Heterosexual and (more importantly) Not-Homosexual. This definition makes it so that married, heterosexual sex is sacred and good while homosexual sex is "other," outside, and bad. It's easy to see how this definition allows for the fear, intolerance and hatred of the queer. This intolerance and hatred creates the reason that hate crime legislation is needed so desperately.

This negotiation of "the family" illustrates how Rubin's sex hierarchy came into existence in past history, but there are also events in contemporary American history to explain the existence of the hierarchy. Michael Warner proposes the call for normality as another reason that some sex is valued higher than other sex. He says, "What immortality was to the Greeks, what virtu was to Machiavelli's prince, what faith was to the martyrs, what honor was to the slave owners, what glamour is to the drag queens, normalcy is to the contemporary American" (Warner 53). Americans want to be normal, Warner says – we all want to be one of "the guys" or "the gals" - and this desire comes from our obsession with the statistics that guide us. After all, don't we all look to tests in magazines and numbers in commercials to tell us everything from the number of calories we should ingest to when a young person should have sex for the first time? If statistics show us that more people have heterosexual sex than homosexual sex, this could make homosexual sex deviant sex, and so it becomes something to fear and avoid.

Mary Poovey pushes this question further when she considers the problems of studying sex with statistics.^3 Poovey concludes,

"To represent sexuality as discrete, repeatable sex acts that can implicitly be referred to a sexuality identity, in other words, is to represent sex – or certain sex – as amendable to administration, in that it – or they – can be vilified if they do not conform to what the majority represents as "normal" whether or not this constitutes the statistical norm. Representing sex as discrete acts makes it easy to imagine policing certain acts while tolerating sex in general: by the same token, referring sex acts to a sexual identity makes it easy to imagine policing certain individuals, because they practice these sex acts, even in a society supposedly made up of a 'we' that encompasses 'all Americans'" (Poovey 388).

This argument explains why people may want to police individuals or sex acts: Poovey blames the faulty use of numbers in a similar way that Foucault blames well-meaning but erring words. Yet Foucault hasn't won yet. I purpose that Poovey's argument does not mean we need to look at how we talk about sex but how we think about sex. Perhaps if we change our thoughts about sex, hate crime legislation will become unnecessary. Unfortunately, this goal would necessitate a massive overhaul on our thought and then our language. We would not only need to renegotiate the definitions and categories we created in the long eighteenth century, but all definitions and categories that we ever created. We would have to reevaluate our entire history. This is not something that comes easily to the human race, and yet there is quite a bit of evidence for why we should take this dramatic step.

In October 2002, Gwen Araujo was tortured and murdered by friends who discovered that she was born biologically male.^4 In August 1995, Tyra Hunter was seriously injured in a car accident, but when an emergency medical services officer discovered that she was biologically male, he ceased trying to revive her.^5 The Brandon Teena and Matthew Shepherd cases are well-known in the public eye now because of recent cinematic attempts to bring national attention to anti-gay hate crimes. The Human Rights Campaign has page after page of statistics of hate crimes committed against LGBTQ people within just the last decade. Rubin says, "Most people find it difficult to grasp that whatever they like to do sexually will be thoroughly repulsive to someone else, and that whatever repels them sexually will be the most treasured delight to someone, somewhere" (Rubin 19). This is the climate we live in – a climate of intolerance and fear of the "Other" sexual act. And while this is the climate, hate crime legislation is a necessity. We need the government to step up to the plate and say that it will protect its own citizens, so that the next time a Araujo, a Hunter, a Shepherd, a Teena – and the lists go on – might be saved. And after that? Perhaps we can begin the renegotiating.

^1: On George Stephanopoulos' "This Week," Senator Rick Santorum said it was no surprise that Boston, "a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America," was suffering from the priest/pedophile scandal. Read more at <>.

^2: On Pat Robertson's "700 Club," Rev. Jerry Falwell blamed "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians ... the ACLU" for 9/11. Robertson said he agreed. More can be read at <>.

^3: Mary Poovey looks specifically at studies made by the National Opinion Research Center in 1992 that were discussed in two books, Sex in America: A Definitive Study and The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States.

^4: The perpetrators in this crime, with whom Araujo had occasionally had sex, told the police that they had experienced gay panic when they found out Araujo was biologically born a male. More can be read at <>

^5: This officer also made anti-gay slurs (heard by the crowd) over Hunter's injured body. She died in the hospital that evening. More can be read at <>.


Abelove, Henry. "Some Speculations on the History of Sexual Intercourse During the Long Eighteenth Century in England." Genders. 6 (1989): 125-130.

"Crimes of Hate, Conspiracy of Silence: Torture and Ill-Treatment Based on Sexual Identity." New York: Amnesty International Publications, 2001.

D'Emilio, John. "Capitalism and Gay Identity." The Material Queer: A LesBiGay Cultural Studies Reader. Ed. Donald Morton. Boulder: Westview Press, 1996. 263-271.

Jacobs, James B. "The Emergence and Implications of American Hate Crime Jurisprudence." Hate Crime: The Global Politics of Polarization. Eds. Robert J. Kelly and Jess Maghan. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1998.

Gerstenfeld, Phyllis B. and Diana R. Grant, eds. Crimes of Hate: Selected Readings. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 2004.

"Hate Crimes." Human Rights Campaign. 20 November 2005. <>

--------.< MPLATE=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm>

Jenness, Valerie, and Ryken Grattet. Making Hate a Crime: From Social Movement to Law Enforcement. New York: Russel Sage Foundation, 2001.

Perry, Barbara, ed. Hate and Bias Crimes: A Reader. New York: Routledge, 2003.

Perry, Barbara. In the Name of Hate: Understanding Hate Crimes. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Poovey, Mary. "Sex in America." Critical Inquiry. 24.2 (1998): 366-392.

Rubin, Gail. "Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality." American Feminist Thought at Century's End: A Reader. Ed. Linda S. Kauffman. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1993. 3-64.

Warner, Michael. The Trouble with Normal. New York: The Free Press, 1999. 41-80.

The Docile Dame vs. the Dominatrix: A Case Study o
Name: Kathryn Co
Date: 2005-12-15 21:17:43
Link to this Comment: 17413

<mytitle> Sex and Gender
2005 Final Web Papers
On Serendip

Pornography has been at the forefront of the modern feminist movement since it's conception in the 1960s. As the sexual revolution was beginning, accessibility to pornography was becoming easier and easier. While some thought of porn as a fantasy outlet, others viewed it as the tool for continuing female oppression. Feminists Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin created the anti-pornography movement in the 1970s using the argument that pornography was dangerous to women because it promoted sexual violence. Robin Morgan, a prominent anti-sex feminist argued that if "pornography is the theory, [then] rape is the practice". These feminists crusaded to outlaw all forms of pornography in hopes of liberating women from their sexual oppression. Sex-positive feminism was created in the early 1980s as a response to the anti-sex movement. Sex-positive feminists maintain that the regulation of pornographic material would also mean the regulation of other types of free speech that feminists have relied on for decades. Gayle Rubin notes that "this tradition of feminist sexual thought has called for a sexual liberation that would work for women as well as for men". The sex-positive movement maintains that women should not have to restrain themselves from sex because men will be gaining pleasure from it. Instead, there should be an effort toward mutual pleasure between the partners, something that is overlooked in the anti-sex movement. MacKinnon argued that attempting to reclaim sex was a waste of time, since the very meaning of sex was male domination. In the most literal terms, when a man and a woman (because these movements are centered primarily around heterosexuals) engage in any sex act that involves penetration, the woman's space is intruded upon, taken away, invaded. The activist group "Women Against Sex" advocated a strategy of sex resistance: "All sex acts subordinate women...all actions that are part of the practice of sexuality partake of the practice's political function or goal". This statement indicates that a woman has no control over her own sexuality, even if she is a consenting adult in the eyes of the law. The purpose of this movement is to empower women and encourage them to withhold sex as the way to regain control of their bodies. While it is true that if women say no then they are gaining some control over their bodies, however problems occur when they are worn down, either by men or their own desire? What happens when they finally "give it up"? That control is gone and women, as a group, are right back where we started: with men inside us and without any power over our bodies, the only "real" thing we have. The overarching theme of the anti-sex/anti-pornography feminist movement is that men are constantly "inside" women, in everything we do and even in the language women use everyday. Anti-sex feminists claim their movement does not stand against sexuality per se, but rather against the current language and politics of heterosexual encounters. From this perspective, women must resist not only the sexual advances of men but also their own desires and attempt to recreate their desire into something for which there is not currently a name, making it something else entirely. Catharine MacKinnon argues that women cannot use sex as a way to dismantle men from their state of dominance because sex is inherently a large part of male supremacy. Anti-sex feminists argue not only against acts that benefit men, but also against the language that men created and use to control society. Dworkin notes that "w[omen] have no freedom and no extravagance in the questions we ask or the interpretations we can make...our bodies speak their language. Our minds think in it. The men are inside us through and through". This indicates that women are intrinsically, and unwillingly, tied to men despite differences in lifestyle choices, types of relationships, types of sex, consent, or geography. Anti-sex feminists see pornography as a continuation of this control, especially when it comes to S&M or other types of pornography where women are dominated by men. Naturally, when a porn scene is displayed out of context and contains graphic imagery, such as S&M, it is going to shock people into agreement, which is exactly what happened. Anti-porn feminists showed raunchy picture after raunchy picture and scandalous movie after scandalous movie where women were dominated, whipped, and raped and thus, gained more followers through misrepresentation. While I agree that the creation of these types of images is problematic, the anti-sex feminists failed to address two issues. First, they failed to mention was that not all pornographic images demeaned women. In fact, there are many images where women demean men or sex is mutually pleasurable between the [consenting, paid, adult] partners. Wendy McElroy, a sex-positve feminist, has been studying the effects of pornography on women for over a decade. During this time, she has interviewed hundreds of women in the porn industry, not one of whom said she was coerced into anything. She notes that she "decided to take the articulate voices of these adult women seriously and not dismiss them, as anti-porn feminists were doing." Secondly, and more importantly, they ignored the essential difference between the reality of demeaning women and the fantasy of demeaning women. Anti-sex feminists believe that if one is encouraged, then the other is as well, no matter what. I am frustrated by the idea that my fantasy must equate with my reality, given that the point of fantasy is to escape from reality. Lisa Johnson examines the interconnectednes of violence and desire in her collection of essays, saying "the familiar connection of sex and violence provokes in me two responses: there's the proper feminist critique...and then there's my real response. The one where I want someone to fuck the shit out of me" . Anti-porn feminists would argue that this response was created and conditioned by a male-dominated society and is routinely reinforced by the porn industry's advertisement of fantasies portraying rape and sexual assault. Sex-positive feminists acknowledge that the reality is different from the fantasy, even if the language contains stark parallels, and that reclaiming sex in whatever form is pleasurable for you is the ultimate form of control. While I personally don't like rape fantasies, I think it is wrong to try to regulate someone else's fantasies, especially on the basis that they are reinforcing sexual violence by having said fantasies. So what happens if, dare I say it, a woman actually enjoys sex because underneath everything else, she is a human being with biologically ordained desires? It seems that withholding the potential for incredible pleasure just to make sure someone else doesn't get any is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Female pleasure is constantly overlooked in the anti-sex movement because, even if a consenting adult female in a monogamous unmarried relationship enters into a sex act with her loving male partner, he still has complete control over her and no woman can feel good as long as she isn't in control of her body. If every woman withheld sex because it was the only way she could maintain control over her body, either the human species would cease to exist or there would be an inordinate amount of rape in the world. Wendy McElroy discusses the implications of outlawing pornography in her essay "Banning Porngraphy Endangers Women". She reiterates the idea that eliminating pornography would infringe upon the first amendment but more importantly, she addresses the idea of female control. McElroy notes "the touchstone principle of feminism used to be " a woman's body, a woman's right." With regard to rape, radical feminists [agree] but on some sexual matters, saying yes apparently means nothing. Pornography could not degrade women more than this attitude does." Controlling female sexuality has long been the ultimate way to control women. Wendy Chapkis identifies the main problem with this argument by saying "male power is constantly reaffirmed even as it is denounced. In this way, anti-sex and romanticist feminist rhetoric tends to reproduce the very ideology it intends to destabilize." By withholding sex, it is made into something forbidden, something that women should try to refrain from doing for fear of a reputation or pregnancy or giving up control. When women give in to their own biological sexual urges in addition to hose of their male partners, the real problems begin. The feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s wanted to create a sexual liberation for women. Ironically, the anti-sex followers who call themselves feminists are going directly against the original foundations of the feminist movement. By advocating a withholding of one's body for pleasure, the anti-sex movement is playing right into the hands of the conservatives they supposedly are working against. When legislation initiated by feminists arises preventing women from controlling their own bodies, a serious problem has occurred pertaining to the ultimate goal. The goal of anti-sex/anti-porn feminism is to help women regain control over their selves by withholding sex and eliminating an outlet for fantasies. So then how are women supposed to know how to control their bodies when they don't actually know the full capacity of their bodies? While I agree that there are many other ways to know one's body than engaging in heterosexual sex acts, anti-sex feminists want to get rid of this opportunity as well. If women are ever going to get anywhere in society, we need to break out of this mass of "sex is bad and only men should be interested in it" propaganda. Society has always considered sex the "original sin" and this belief has been reinforced by almost every aspect of society, including anti-sex feminists. However, awareness of modern variation in type and amount of sexual activity have caused society to "rank" what is more acceptable. In Thinking Sex, Gayle Rubin describes a diagram of the "sex hierarchy". This hierarchy contains two circles, the inner containing more acceptable types of sex, including procreative, married, heterosexual and "vanilla". The outer circle is reserved for types of sex deemed "bad, abnormal and damned" such as non-procreative, unmarried, homosexual and "with manufactured objects". As can be inferred from these minimalist lists, society deems the majority of sexual encounters as negative. According to anti-sex feminists, heterosexual sex acts that involve penetration, no matter what the situation, give total control to the man and none to the woman. However, there are many other types of sex than heterosexual and penetrating. There are sex acts that don't involve vaginal penetration and there a sex acts that are not heterosexual. Interestingly enough, there are more laws pertaining to non-vanilla sex acts between consenting partners than there are for child molesters. For as long as civilized society has existed, people have been experimenting in some way with sex, whether it is through oral-genital contact, the use of manufactured objects, multiple-partner sex, gay and lesbian sex or S&M. The breakdown occurs when people don't acknowledge that what disgusts them sometimes works for others. In her study, McElroy recognizes the irony of comparing a woman who enjoys pornography to a child. The Minneapolis ordinance on pornography states that "children are incapable of consenting to engage in pornographic conduct...and therefore require special protection. By the same token, the physical and psychological well-being of women ought to be afforded comparable protection." The idea that women are compared to three-year-old children that have no control over themselves is incredibly offensive, not to mention demeaning in itself. If anti-sex feminists are looking to get away from demeaning women, backing documents such as this one surely isn't the way to do it. Sex conflicts arise mostly due to "moral panics", defined as "the "political moment" of sex, in which diffuse attitudes are channeled into political action and from there into social change". This is when that fine line between personal morals and national/state law is crossed all too quickly concerning sex most likely because "legislators are loath to be soft on vice". However, who gets to decide what is "right" when it comes to sex? Sex-positive feminists hold that sexuality is political and it will always be political, thus withholding sex until further notice will only further the oppression that women have been trying to break free from for decades. Argues Rubin, "sexual liberation has been and continues to be a feminist goal...[but] the fact remains that feminist thought about sex is profoundly polarized" leaving too much open ground for feminist and male chauvinist bias. Women are not equal in the current world, nor are they inferior, which displays the incredible discrepancy of language for where women truly stand and what they should do to attain equality and respect. Withholding sex is not the answer, because it denies female pleasure, reinforces male dominance and prevents the continuation of the human species. However, if there are some women who buy into the anti-sex ideal and some who do not, this stark division only serves to aggravate the situation. Not only does it not accomplish anything pertaining to what is the best course of action for women, but it also retains the position of supreme sexual power for men. Rubin, as a sex-positive feminist, seems to think that "it is time to recognize the political dimensions of erotic life" including pornography and non-vanilla forms of sexual expression. Presumably, acknowledging the underlying issue will display some answers concerning how women are to proceed in a world bombarding them with contradictory statements about sex. Since outlawing pornography would not only infringe upon the First Amendment but also serve to endanger women, I believe it is unwise to do so. Although I don't enjoy rape fantasies or S&M, it is certainly not my place to regulate someone else's ideas about sex or pleasure nor would I ever presume to do so. Athough I would love to have a society where gray areas were acceptable as legislation, that is unfortunately not the case. Black and white, either/or is necessary to regulate and people will always be on opposing sides of the sex, and more specifically pornography, argument. I have to agree with Chapkis and Rubin that sex-positive feminism and thusly, legal pornography is the best way to go. If women are every going to be able to take control of their selves, they need to start with the most personal aspect of their lives: their sexuality.

The Talents to Balance or the Struggle to Juggle
Name: Talya, Em,
Date: 2005-12-15 23:35:07
Link to this Comment: 17418


Sex and Gender

2005 Final Web Papers

On Serendip


The life of a woman is a curious balancing act. There is always the struggle to make things fair, or equal: male and female coworkers, mothers and fathers, young girls and young boys in the classroom. It's not only a struggle because of the different identities that are constructed for women and men but also because of the ways these differences are manifested in societal interactions and institutions of work and learning.

The modern woman is cast as a juggler. This compilation seeks to explore the ways in which women balance their lives and why this juggling is necessary. It also hopes to explore the limitations of the figure of the juggler, and find a different sort of balance. How many of the things which women juggle are societally expected and imposed, reasonable or otherwise?

How do women express their desire to maintain loyalty to these diverse obligations? Virginia Woolf explores the idea of unreal loyalties and the usefulness of seeking freedom from them. It is our contention that women should be able to examine their situations and determine which of their commitments represents real loyalties and which do not. This process is specific to each woman and her situation and location. Whether it is the institution of higher education, the classroom, or beauty; these loyalties can all shift over time and circumstance as in a relationship that has soured.

A modern woman's juggling act is ever changing: balls are added, taken away, mysteriously change shape and weight. The goal of keeping the balls in the air is a never ending responsibility which engages each woman differently.

Anna looks critically at Bryn Mawr's historical and original focus: setting up a space for women to study and behave like men. Through interviews, she comes away with a clearer idea of the necessary time-management skills of female faculty at Bryn Mawr. By asking them to discuss their personal and professional realms, it seems as though no one felt pressured to choose, though some clearly did. What many women have said is that there is a pressure for professionalism, and not the expectation for one's personal life to take the backseat to one's professional career. However, the ability to give birth is something that is unique to women and is an important facet of womanhood. What does it mean to choose the academy over a family? Or to attempt to manage these two spheres at the same time? What would Bryn Mawr feel like with a childcare center in a corner or campus? It would dramatically alter the feeling on campus because Bryn Mawr would no longer be a strictly academic world – we would have room for babies and thinking.

It's not just the academic world, but also the world of appearances that places demands on women. Emily wants to look at the unreal loyalty of beauty, and how this has complicated and hampered women's progress in the work world and beyond. Who asserts that this beauty loyalty must be maintained? How much do women "self-police" in this beauty culture? And how can women stage an effective separation of the concept of "beauty" from the concept of "worth"? Drawing from Naomi Woolf's "The Beauty Myth" and Virginia Woolf's "Three Guineas," this essay argues that women can and should begin this uncoupling, and uses the words of the wolves to figure out exactly how to go about it.

By encouraging one sex to thrive in the educational system, we need to ensure that we aren't crippling the other. Societally, we encourage the sexes in different ways, providing different incentives for classroom success for girls and boys. Currently, with the onset of increased numbers of ADD diagnoses for boys, boys are seen as marginalized for their inability to focus. However, increased focus on "troublemakers" leaves dutiful girl students with less time to learn. The classroom is a closed economy, one which a teacher (male or female) must navigate. A lot of the debate surrounding gender in the classroom is rooted in the fact that there are different educational ideals for men and for women. Must progress for one gender always be made at the cost to the other? Lindsay's essay applies the concept of a closed economy to the Bryn Mawr classroom. She makes inquiry as to why the culture of Bryn Mawr might inhibit students from learning and teaching each other. Examining the relationship between student and classroom, she calls for a reform in the ways we give and take knowledge, a better balance.

This friction between genders can be translated into a private struggle behind closed doors. This struggle is really about power and the need to create a desired hierarchy within a given relationship. Many relationships, of varying types, go from healthy and equal to abusive and unbalanced. On rare occasions this attempt to usurp total power is publicized and ended; more frequently, however, it remains hidden and undetected until it is often too late to ameliorate. Talya will be looking at how education can support relationship equality as well as teaching empowerment skills for women.

Women are the ones who will be on the phone with teachers, driving kids around, cleaning and cooking, struggling to achieve workplace and domestic equality, and trying to decide what it means to be a woman. Can she be feminine and still a feminist? Can she wear pink and still kick someone's ass? Women are always juggling time and commitments. However, the figure of the juggler is necessarily limiting, because the juggler works alone. To take an image from Lindsay's paper, perhaps the definition of modern woman needs to be expanded to that of a participant in a see-saw game. Men should not be exempt from this drive towards self-definition and balance. No woman is an island, and if women are going to continue this drive towards balance, men must be included too, as see-saw partners and willing participants in this struggle to juggle.


I. Introduction

II. The Politics of Bryn Mawr:
Time Management – An Acquired Taste
~Anna Mazzariello

III. A Modest Proposal
~Emily Madsen

IV. The Eternal Gap: A Myth
~Lindsay Updegrove

V. Being Hurt Is Not a Given:
A Feminist's Perspective
~Talya Gates-Monasch

Being Hurt is not a Given: A Feminist's Perspectiv
Name: Talya Gate
Date: 2005-12-16 00:08:25
Link to this Comment: 17420


Sex and Gender

2005 Final Web Papers

On Serendip

Dear Curriculum Committee Members,

As an active member of the Bryn Mawr community majoring in Psychology with a concentration in Gender and Sexuality and a minor in Hebrew and Judaic Studies as well as Math, I am very aware of the difficulties that women face outside of the protective Bryn Mawr shelter. I have also interned at a Domestic Violence Agency (advocating against it, not for it) where, following a forty-hour training program, served as a confidential advocate for victims in addition to developing and coordinating a teen education program.
In my Sex and Gender course this semester we have been challenged to write a final paper about a political issue facing women today, how that issue is being dealt with in reality and how we, as feminists, would respond. What would our optimal response be? What would it provide and how would it directly impact the situation that we are trying to ameliorate? Based on my experience and clear interest in issues of domestic violence it seemed to be the most logical topic to address in my paper.

That's why I am writing to you, the members of the Curriculum Committee. We pride ourselves on being a community that encourages women to grow, learn, stretch, and push in every way imaginable. We have a substantial variety of courses and we have a consortium to participate in if the class that we desire is not offered here. We have physical education requirements to complement academic demands so that we keep our bodies healthy in this highly stressful environment. According to the website, "Bryn Mawr's Physical Education curriculum is designed to provide opportunities to develop lifelong habits that will enhance the quality of life" (BMC Webmaster).

Other than the eight requisite credits, the only requirement for physical education is a swimming test that is now included in the "Wellness" course for all freshmen. Wellness is required because it is specifically designed to educate Mawrters about healthy living, "The class will explore issues related to women's health and wellness and in particular issues that face Bryn Mawr undergraduates"(BMC Webmaster). Wellness is a relatively new requirement with a fairly comprehensive syllabus discussing most issues that face Bryn Mawr women. The class itself is worth three credits and the swim test is worth one. When a freshman is done with wellness, she has completed half of their physical education requirement.

There is, however, one very large gap in the Wellness curriculum: self-defense, including both the theories and practices behind the art of force that should be in every woman's repertoire as a last resort.

The self-defense option currently available for credit is RAD: Rape Aggression Defense. This course is offered once or twice a semester on a Friday and Saturday. Both days must be dedicated entirely to the training which means that other things, including academic courses and religious beliefs, must be put aside for those two days. While the availability of such a course is better than its absence, it should be required and not simply offered, and the timing should be adjusted to reflect varied schedules and diverse traditions.

Simply because we are women, we are in more danger than the other half of the population. Our parents have taught us to tread cautiously when in the world: "don't walk alone at night" and "don't accept an open drink at a party" are only the beginnings after the requisite "don't talk to strangers." There have been sitcoms about date rapes and the drugs used because they have become increasingly common in recent years.
Bryn Mawr is the optimal environment in which to learn about self-defense. The resources are available and the RAD class could easily become a part of Wellness. Issues and topics covered in customs week do not need to be reiterated during Wellness, those sessions could be omitted and replaced with self-defense. One day a semester could be dedicated to the actual practice of self-defense. It could be used as an introduction so even those who decided not to continue with the full RAD program could have a basic working knowledge of self-defense. The actual RAD course could then be used to teach more advanced skills to those who are interested.

As a requirement that is supposed to encompass the basics for all women, Wellness should, by definition, include self-defense. No woman in the US should reach her 20s without learning how to physically protect herself when necessary. Bryn Mawr has the resources to offer all women who matriculate here the necessary skills. As the capital campaign says, it is really all about "challenging women."

Thank you for your consideration in this matter,

Talya Gates-Monasch
Class of 2007

* * *


This paper was written by a student not a professional, it is exploratory. There are many resources available for victims including a number of which offer anonymity. If you or someone you know is being hurt, physically or emotionally, please use the resources available offered by qualified professionals.

Victims are referred to as females or children in this paper because the overwhelming majority of victims are women or children. This statistical evidence is not an attempt to diminish the reality and importance of men who face domestic violence.

* * *

The location where inequality is most prevalent on a personal basis is within the home. The struggle for equality has been a long standing and very silent battle. Only recently has the outside world truly come to realize what is happening behind closed doors and the frequency with which it occurs.

Throughout the communities knowledgeable about domestic violence an abusive relationship is defined as

"A pattern of behavior used by one person to maintain power and control over another. Physical battering is not the only form of abuse. Emotional and sexual abuse, including insults, intimidation, threats and forced sex are also part of an abusive relationship. Domestic violence occurs between people in relationships, such as current or former husbands and wives; boyfriends and girlfriends; gay and lesbian partners; the elderly and their caretakers; parents, children, and/or relatives; sex workers and pimps/clients, as well as victims of stalking or trafficking. Although anyone may be a victim, the majority are women and their children" (Riley Center).

Many people think that this is an extremely broad definition, often not worthy of explaining thoroughly. I am not going to explain the actions and the relationships that it speaks of; I am only going to emphasize the beginning: the first sentence specifically. "Domestic Violence is a pattern of behavior used by one person to maintain power and control over another." This is the key to defining domestic violence because it attempts to explain the importance of power and control in an abusive relationship.

The fight against domestic violence began in 1968 when The Women's History Library was founded to bring issues of equality to the surface. In 1973, the first battered women's shelter in the US opened in St. Paul, Minnesota. It began as an office space where women in danger would sleep when they needed a safe space. By the next year they had raised enough money to open a 5 bedroom shelter (Women's Advocates). In 1976, Nebraska was the first state to abolish the marital-rape exemption; at the same time Battered Wives by Del Martin was published identifying sexism as the cause of violence against women. In 1977 the first counseling program for batters was developed at the request of the women working in shelters (Schecter). The US Commission on Civil Rights sponsored the "Consultation on Battered Women: Issues of Public Policy" in 1978. This was where The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) was formally created. However it began through the work and dedication of feminists around the country. On October 17, 1981, the NCADV declared a National Day of Unity on behalf of battered women. This day of unity became a month of unity in 1987: since then October has been Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In 1994, the US Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act as part of the Federal Crime Bill (Howard). In 1998, all exemptions from rape prosecution for husbands/cohabitants/dates were repealed in Delaware. Feminists have continued the fight against domestic violence through the creation of hotlines, therapy, and shelters (NCADV).

There is not a "type" of woman who is destined to be a victim: every 9 seconds, a woman is battered in the US (Family Violence). Domestic violence is the primary cause of injury to women (NIJ): 1 out of 3 women will be hurt at some point throughout their lives, physically or sexually, by a husband or boyfriend (Commonwealth Fund).

Unlike many other areas, including large cities, Philadelphia has some impressive resources for those whose life is affected by domestic violence. Not only are there support centers for the women who are victims but there are also support systems for the men who are batterers. Throughout the United States, the sheer number of opportunities for women is growing exponentially but most men do not have options and consequently condemn themselves to lives of committing physical, mental, or emotional violence.

Menergy is one of the many organizations in Philadelphia, serving the city and the suburbs, working toward an end to domestic violence. however, offers counseling to end the violence, in Spanish and English, for both male and female batterers; it caters to victims who too often go unnoticed: men, teens, elderly, disabled, and lesbians. Their mission statement encompasses the idea that self-recognition is imperative, blame is futile, and safety is the number one priority. Menergy also works with recovering alcoholics and drug users as well as those who are HIV/AIDS positive. Their goal, over time, is to end the violence (Menergy Webmaster).

The likelihood that women will enter into abusive relationships is unfortunately and startlingly high considering the frequency, or lack thereof, with which abuse makes its way into our publicity. There are certain ideas of the "type" if person who is involved in an abusive relationship. I would like to help break through this barrier so that those who are being hurt know that they are not alone and that there are other options.

Despite the seemingly safe and nurturing bubble around Bryn Mawr, when presenting the idea for this paper to the class my first question posed to the class was "how many of you know someone, either yourself or someone else, who has been in an abusive relationship?" I have asked this question before and the answer never manages to change. The majority of people, and in this case all the women in the class, raise their hands and look around. People always have a somewhat shocked look on their faces. Perhaps because they realize that so many other people know of those who have been victims, or have possibly been victims themselves.

Due to the incidence, it is important for all women and men to take advantage of the resources that they have available to them. It is also important to their mentors to offer them opportunities for prevention and education. This brings me to Bryn Mawr and Haverford. We are two of the most liberal campuses in the United States yet we don't have a program that informs students about the support systems available which is particularly strange because of the proximity to such an active city with a myriad of options.

Before a woman can graduate from Bryn Mawr she must pass a swim test. Despite what seems like a silly requirement, many realize that this is overwhelmingly useful when the time comes to enter into the world outside Bryn Mawr. The reasoning behind the swim test is not widely known; when asked, most people respond with "It's a liberal arts college so they want to make sure that we can handle all sorts of situations before we graduate? You know if we are ever in danger of drowning or something." The response usually warrants a laugh from both parties. Most people seem to be happy when they pass their swim test: either because they were forced to learn how or because it was an easy credit if they already knew.

There are forms of physical activity, other than the swim test, that sadly may have to be used more frequently throughout our lives as women, particularly women who can easily intimidate based on brain power alone. We are at all an all women's college; we should not only learn how to use our minds but our bodies so that we can protect ourselves when necessary. All women should know self-defense; there are often unavoidable situations (those publicized and those silenced) where the ability to protect oneself is key. Self-defense is only one way to get involved in the fight against domestic violence.
Sharon Lamb, is a feminist psychologist who speaks of issues facing women, focusing on domestic violence. She wrote a book titled The Trouble with Blame: Victims, Perpetrators, and Responsibility that discusses violence from multiple perspectives of those involved. She attempts to answer the question that most victims ask themselves: "What is it about me that makes men do this to me?" (Lamb, pg.55) as well as discuss the most common reasons given by the perpetrator for the act of violence.

Part of what makes Lamb unique is her view of victimization and blame. "It happens to everyone. It was my fault" is the most common comment in response to violence. This belief is also part of the reason that so few cases of domestic violence are actually reported to authorities and is part of the reason that is so difficult for women to gain the courage to leave those who are perpetrators of violence. The standard answer in response to the self-blame is "No. It does not happen to everyone and it was not your fault." Lamb, however, has considered the possibility that perhaps a little self-blame is not bad if it helps the victim maintain the belief that there is order in the world and that she has at least some control over her life.

"But a number of authors from the field of social psychology speak of schemas and cognitions too, and describe victims' self-blaming as a way of maintaining beliefs that the world is a just and meaningful place, and that they have control over their own lives. From the 'just world' perspective of the victim, it would be easier to see oneself as blameworthy than to give up the more important belief that the world is a fair place and that people get what they deserve in life" (Lamb, pg.30).

We also like to feel that we have control in our lives, and that we will not be a random victim in a chaotic world.

Virginia Woolf's theory and idea freedom from unreal loyalties would suggest that it is necessary to let go of something that may seem important, but isn't in actuality, in order to hold on to those that are important. Woolf and Lamb seem to be following the same thought process, Woolf, however, expresses her thoughts in terms of letting go while Lamb articulates hers with respect to holding on: it is a greater necessity to accept something that is not ideal in order to avoid the damage caused by those that harm. Reclaiming the idea of blame offers victims of abuse a level of control over their lives which they otherwise wouldn't have leading to the empowerment of women.

One form of empowerment that enables women to go into possibly dangerous situations is the knowledge of self-defense. With self-defense, the power dynamic in cases of domestic violence can change or at least shift so that the victim feels like she has done everything that she could to protect herself, whether or not she was as successful as she might have liked. Lamb and Woolf would, as do many students who I have spoken to, agree that self-defense is an important and necessary option for those left to their own devices in danger. The Bryn Mawr Curriculum Committee and Athletic Department should take what Woolf and Lamb, a former professor here, encourage, or would encourage, to heart and dedicate a section of Wellness to self-defense.

The Commonwealth Fund, May 1999.
Bryn Mawr College, "Physical Education", Webmaster. Updated Nov. 4, 2005. (Bold added for emphasis).
Bryn Mawr College, "Physical Education", Webmaster. Updated Nov. 4, 2005.
Family Violence Prevention Fund, 1994.
Herstory Exhibit at the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence's 8th National Conference, 1998.
Howard, April. Herstory of Domestic Violence.
Lamb, Sharon. The Trouble With Blame: Victims, Perpetrators, and Responsibility. Cambridge Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1996.
Menergy,- Anger Management and Domestic Counseling in Philadelphia. Updated 07/02/04.
National Institute of Justice Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nov 1998.
National Institute if Justice, Victim Costs and Consequences: A New Look, NIJ Research Report, National Institute of Justice, US Department of Justice, January 1996.
The Riley Center, Volunteer Handbook. San Francisco, CA.
Schecter, Susan. Women and Male Violence. Boston: South End Press.
Women's Advocates. "The Story of a Shelter". St. Paul: Women's Advocates, 1980.
Woolf, Virginia. Three Guineas, San Diego: Harcourt Inc, 1938, 1966. Pg 80-81.

Sexing America
Name: Elle, Sara
Date: 2005-12-16 05:38:04
Link to this Comment: 17428


Sex and Gender

2005 Final Web Papers

On Serendip

There can be no question that we live in a culture that has sex on its mind. Every time we turn on the television or flip through a magazine, our eyes are bombarded with sexy commercials for everything from cigarettes to shoes, sitcoms about 20-somethings who sit in coffee shops and make suggestive jokes, or ads filled with voluptuous models who laze about on silk sheets and show off the newest bra. We've all heard the adage: "Sex sells."
However, just because sex is everywhere does not mean that America is comfortable with sex. One merely needs to look at the President's current "abstinence only" national plan to know that sex is a danger and an allure to Americans. We love it and hate it. We want it on our TV, yet we want it hidden away from children. We want our porn websites, but we want sexual predators locked away forever.
The following four essays all look at America's relationship with sex, albeit in very different ways. Kelsey Gaynier's paper begins with the claim that sexual freedom is essential for a woman's freedom. She argues that since sex-positive feminism believes that sexual freedom is an essential component of feminism, feminists should not resist or vilify the sex industry. Looking at women in First World countries who make a living in the sex industry, Kelsey insists that these women commercialize their bodies and sell sex in a way that empowers them. Far from being pathetic victims or brainless pawns, Kelsey argues that these women are strong and capable. Feminist theory must be expanded, she says, so that constructive dialogue about the sex industry can be brought to the table.
Elle Stacy's paper discusses the importance of sexual education in America. Throughout America's history, she argues, there has been a considerably sex-negative political atmosphere. This has, in turn, resulted in some of the highest rates of STDs, and teen pregnancies in the industrialized world. Political figures in America's history who have who have brought up the possibility of teaching sex education in K1-12 public schools have been ostracized or fired from their positions. However, this paper takes a new stance on sex-education, beyond that in K1-12 schooling. Instead of fighting a losing battle with sex-negative proponents, this paper proposes a new venue for teaching comprehensive sex education to America's rising adults: College. While this may seem like too late in the game to start talking about comprehensive safe, and safer-sex ('safer' meaning beyond contraceptive health, including healthy relationships and healthy lifestyle habits), her paper argues a better-late-than-never approach.
Kathryn Corbin's paper steps back from politics to consider the theory behind sex-negative feminism. On one hand, sex-positive feminists such as Wendy Chapkis and Carol Queen advocate female sexuality and also women's participation in the sex industry. On the flip side, anti-sex feminists like Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin argue that any type of situation that sexually objectifies the female is offensive. Sex, they say, is not an intimate act between two people, but an incident in which a woman's body is penetrated and debased. Kathryn takes issue with this standpoint and argues that feminists should never make sex the enemy. Kathryn insists that it is about time we feminists reclaim sex as a powerful and feminist action.
Finally, Sarah Halter looks into laws about sex, specifically hate crime legislation. Using the recent passage of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act as a starting place, Sarah explores the history of hate crime legislation. She argues that legislation like this is necessary because America believes in a sex hierarchy in which heterosexual married sex is sacred, and all else other is less. This belief leads to the vilifying of "Other" sex acts. After going into the history behind this hierarchy, Sarah concludes that the government must rule in favor of hate crime legislation so that it can make an ideological statement that it wishes to accept those who practice "Other" sex acts. Only then can America begin to demolish the sex hierarchy.
The intent of our papers is to invite others to the Table of Sex. We want to add our voices to the dialogue about sex and insist that the expansion of this dialogue is necessary. Despite the moral objections or religions fears of many Americans, sex will not go away. And in order for our country to progress, we must expand the discussion about sex.

Better Safe Than Never
Name: Elle Endre
Date: 2005-12-16 06:40:14
Link to this Comment: 17430


Sex and Gender

2005 Final Web Papers

On Serendip

Throughout America's history there has been a considerably sex-negative political atmosphere. This has, in turn, resulted in some of the highest rates of STDs, and teen pregnancies in the industrialized world. Political figures in America's history who have who have brought up the possibility of teaching sex education in K1-12 public schools have been ostracized or fired from their positions. The most famous Political Figure was Jocelyn Elders, the surgeon general who advocated for the teaching of masturbation as a healthy practice to school age children, who was asked to step down from her position. Instead of fighting a losing battle with sex-negative proponents, this paper proposes a new venue for teaching comprehensive sex education to America's rising adults: College. While this may seem like too late in the game to start talking about comprehensive safe, and safer-sex ('safer' meaning beyond contraceptive health, including healthy relationships and healthy lifestyle habits), this paper argues a better-late-than-never approach...
When Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson's breast on live television during the 2004 Super Bowl, he unleashed a massive uproar over the question of public indecency. Over half a million people have protested to the Federal Communications Commission about the incident, more than twice the number that complained to the F.C.C. in all of 2003. As a result, on 11 March, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly (391-22) in support of a bill on broadcast indecency (Wikapedia). The measure would increase fines to as much as $500,000 (up from $27,500) per incident (Wikapedia). However laws against so-called "indecent acts" are far from new (Rubin p. 7). The Comstock Act of 1873, named for Anthony Comstock, made it a federal crime to make, advertise, sell, possess, send through the mail, or import books or pictures deemed obscene (Rubin p.7). It also banned contraceptive or abortive drugs, devices, and information about them. Most states passed their own anti-obscenity laws at this time. In 1910 The Mann Act, also known as the White Slave Act went on to criminalize prostitution, which has caused considerable health and safety issues for sex-workers to date.
The United States is pathologically, and hypocritically sex-negative. It lives and breaths sex, flaunting it in ads, TV soaps and movies. Yet the nation's obscenity laws and politics refuses to acknowledge that its existence, unless a politically correct line is crossed. Nipplegate is an example of such a line crossing: while it may have been perfectly ok for Janet Jackson to be dancing half naked on Prime Time Televison, the exposure of her nipple was considered "obscene" (Wikapedia). Gayle Rubin speaks of the history and influence of the U.S. anti-sex federal laws from the beginning of the 19th century through the 1980's on relationships and societies. She explains America's sex-negative modern history that stems from religious, Victorian morality, and fear of emerging systems of eroticism. Very early on in its history the united states criminalized sodomy, sex toys, and even fellatio in many states. The 1940s through the 1970s brought homosexual witch-hunts, the grouping of deviant sexualities and eroticism with child molestation, pornography and communism (Rubin p.7). Notably, these actions were not simply about enforcing a religious ideology. They came as a response to the emerging modern erotic system. They came as a response to the flux of pornography, out gay and lesbians in the workforce, and the expansion of the commercial sex industry. The 1950s were an especially good example of formative yet repressed times for sexuality: homosexual literature was flourishing, and gay rights organizations were forming, along side a right-wing sexual counter-offensive (Rubin, p. 44). The notion that sex is bad for the young was chiseled into extensive social and legal structures at this time, right along side the criminalizing of gay men as the stereotypical child molester (Rubin, p. 5). Thus it has been a collective sex-negative history which has helped to perpetuate itself which has brought us to date. The lack of sex education in schools are a key example of the current reality of these histories.
Sexuality is broken down in the United States into two categories the insiders: those who are allowed to carefully experience sex within the right rules, and the outsiders: all other forms of sexuality. Sex work is an example of an outsider form of sexuality. Sex work has been criminalized as well marginalized, yet still flourishes in America as a trade. This has our sex workers many times without health coverage or the resources they need to stay safe. Sex is free from sin if in state sanctified, heterosexual, same-generational, monogamous marriage, however, as teen pregnancy ratings, and rape statistics show, this is not the only sex that people are participating in. Even if a married couple were to stay within the politically correct boundaries, sex is still only considered wholly legitimate if it is pro-creational, and creates a family unit. If knowledge of sex is harmful to children, an idea which Ruben discusses, gained ground in the 1950s, the "mother", the "care giver", must therefore be the anti-sex. This strips a woman of her sexual expression, and the last space for an accepted sexual space for women generally. On the flip side, the lack of honest discussion about sex, and sexuality with America's children drives our children's natural curiosity underground. Their natural exploration comes loaded with taboos, guilt and shame towards their bodies. Unavailability of birth control pills without a complete exam drives many young girls away because of the shame they have learnt to feel towards sex and their bodies. This shame has manifested itself into a vacuum of talk related to healthy sexual habits, and can be seen the rise of teen pregnancy and STD ratings. The major focus of this essay concerns the politically incorrect line-crossing that comes with teaching youth about their bodies and themselves through comprehensive sex education. sex education offers a tangible solution to these negative statistics, but much of the shame and unhealthy behavior that goes hand-in-hand with it. the current lack of sex education is not only a key indicator of the way in which sex-negativity has become so entrenched in our politics, it is also the root cause for avoiding further generations of sex-negative politics.
While I may ultimately advocate for something other, It is vital that Congress begin to recognize that sex education is just as important as sanitation, chlorination , immunization, pasteurization and fluoridation as a public health and quality of life issue. It is important to stop teaching children to fear sex and their bodies if nothing else than for the health of the next generation. Comprehensive sex education in schools starting early on in America's public schools, much in the same way as it does in Sweden, would, in the long run, be the best-case-scenario.
Sweden's sex education in schools considers the reproductive system just as important as the digestive, respiratory or nervous systems. Swedish sexuality education operates on four levels. In general, at the lowest level, education for pupils age 7 to 10 years deals with menstruation, intercourse, masturbation, contraceptives, fertilization, pregnancy, and childbirth (Encyclopedia on Sexuality). The same topics are dealt with at higher levels, adjusted to the students' age and maturity. At the middle level, ages 10 to 13, added topics include the physical development at puberty, venereal diseases, homosexuality, exhibitionism, and pedophilia (Encyclopedia on Sexuality). On the upper level, ages 13 to 16, added topics include: petting, different views of sex roles, premarital relations, marriage and family including the views in some non-Christian views, abortion, pornography, prostitution, HIV/AIDS and "safer sex," and where to go for further information and advice (Encyclopedia on Sexuality). On the college level are included sexual desire, with its variations in the orientation and strength, falling in love, sexual problems and dysfunctions, ethical and religious viewpoints on contraception and abortion, societal support for the family (family law), sexual problems of certain immigrant groups, and the problem of world population. (Encyclopedia on Sexuality). In the United States many parents have also grown up in a sex-negative political climate, and would prefer to think that their children are not having sex, resulting in millions of unwanted pregnancies. Swedish teens are as sexually active as American teens, however pregnancy due to failure of contraception is usually followed by abortion, which is also available to all, regardless of income. The incidence of teenage pregnancy, abortion, STDs and AIDS is far lower than in the U.S..
Unlike Sweden, however, the average citizen in the United States does not hit a steady source of information or discourse on sex and sexuality until they reach the college level. While this is certainly not all of America's youth, college attending students have a wide range of resources available to them which encompass everything from political clubs to hobby groups. American College's are vibrant with student groups, clubs, and organizations that deliberately try and educate students about different types of sexuality, and ethical and religious viewpoints on touchy subjects such as abortion and gay marriage. For this current point in time I see College as the most viable space to be utilized for the education of America's young adults about sex, safer-sex, and healthy relationships. Granted, many college students when entering college have already had relationships, and many of them sexual. Thus the college venue of education would be a re-education of people about their bodies, the way they function, and what they need to be healthy in their relationships.
On a very local level I see the revitalization of the Bryn Mawr College's Women's Center here on campus as a tangible venue to start dialogue. The Women's Center at Bryn Mawr College has been dormant for a good part of the last five years, and has been relatively low profile since it's hey-day in the late 80s- early 90s. It's revitalization marks a part of the turn over of the feminist movement from second wave to third, and a new generation of women who still feel that a there is a need for a women's resource center, even at a women's college. The new Center, currently under construction will be designed for two main things- support and activism. Much of what I will be talking about as it applies to education, or re-education comes under the broad category of support, although there are several components of the sex-education needed on campus that will require activism to be implemented.
Safe Sex Materials
Currently there condoms are available on campus. Apart from internal contraception, there is no other readily available contraception to those female students who have sex with women. Dental dams are the first token of support that the women's center hopes to offer. The Center is designed to fund, and support the availability of safe sex materials such as dental dams, and more condoms if needed, with the help of the already available condoms located in the Health Center. However, it is imperative that these safe sex materials not only be located in the Women's, and Health Center, but that they be widely available to all of campus. Currently each floor of each dormitory has a Hall Advisor, who's job it is to stock their hall's bathrooms with condoms. The Center will advocate, and fight for dental dams to be implemented in all bathrooms along side condoms, not only for singular use, but will also supply "safer-sex packets". In each of these packets there will be:
$ A couple of latex condoms: one lubricated, one not (as some people are allergic to certain lubricants), with instructions
$ A dental dam: with instructions
$ Two different water based lubricants: non-flavored, personal packets for singular use, and,
$ Information cards: with resources and information listed, such as rape-crisis hotlines, free-testing clinics, help-hotlines, other local Women's Centers, Support Groups on Campus, and further information

The Packets will reusable plastic, and have the Women's Center's Logo and contact information on the front.
Currently the Center does not have enough funding to stock and keep stocking all of campus with safe sex materials. Some of these materials are offered free, or at least subsidize through sex-positive organizations such as Planned Parenthood. The new Women's Center staff will need to contact these organizations to get more information, as well as advocate for the funding through various venues on, and off of campus.
Safe sex demonstrations
The simple availability of t`these resources, however, is not enough to ensure that students will practice safe-sex. Currently there are no safe-sex demonstrations being given on campus. Every semester they are budgeted for through a couple of disjointed student organizations on campus, an occasionally one comes into fruition. However, these sporadic events are not enough to... There are several venues at which safe-sex demonstrations could occur on a regular, mandated basis, and of professional, comprehensive quality. As of 2005, all incoming freshman must attend a "Wellness" class, which supplies them with three physical education credits. In these classes discussion topics range from eating habits, drinking, stress and time management, but none surrounding safe-sex. Bryn Mawr has many campaigns devoted to the well-being of women, including "Women Living Well", as sponsored by the Athletic Department, yet there are no classes devoted to safe sex, and no others offered throughout the institution.
It is a project of the women's center that a safe sex, and safer-sex demonstration be given in all mandatory wellness classes to incoming freshman, and a program further implemented to make training more frequent and attended by the whole of campus. As mentioned above, Planned Parenthood, an organization located in several places throughout Montgomery County (the nearest of which is five minutes away from Bryn Mawr's campus), offers valuable resources. They offer free safe sex training, and would be willing to come and give several demonstrations in the five different sections of fresh women wellness classes, or train others to do so.
Healthy Relationship Training
Also an important attribution to fresh women Wellness classes, and an important part of safer-sex are healthy relationship training. Healthy relationship training is vital especially at a women's college, because 33% of teenage girls report physical violence from dates before college, and physical violence occurs at a rate of approximately 20-50% in college dating relationships (Montgomery Country Women's Center). The Montgomery county women's centers (there are five), offer healthy relationship training. While there is one discussion in the fresh women Wellness class on relationships, there is currently no healthy relationship training. The main objective of the training is to teach healthy ways of developing relationships with people, meeting their needs, treating them with dignity and respect, while helping them keep their own dignity and respect. The most important part of this is teaching students ways in which they can learn to manage themselves, and teaching students how to make nonphysical interventions.
The Women's Center at Bryn Mawr will also offer pamphlets and other information about where to get help should a student be in crisis or want to learn more. As only 5% of teens who are battered by their dating partners ever call the police, and statistics show that one in three women have been sexually assaulted, this means that there is a high likely-hood that over 400 women at Bryn Mawr women have been assaulted (and this is undergraduate alone) (Montgomery Country Women's Center).
The Women's Center will also stock educational books available to be read in the center, as well as loaned out through the central library system on Campus. It's genres (as many have already been purchased) range the gamut, from instructional how-to books and to educational resources, to children's educational books. The children's books will be stocked for students, many of which have not had children, to read in the hopes that this helps to de-stigmatize talking to children about sex. A Women's Center may not be able to reach this generations young children, but perhaps it will help to reach some of the next. The Center will also stock some women directed pornography which is designed generate more open discussion, and de-stigmatize pleasure.
The Center will also stock pamphlets on safe and safer-sex, STD testing, sexuality, relationship issues, as well as eating disorders, and menstruation alternative.
Coalition on Feminism
The women's center will also host a Coalition of feminist organizations on campus. The Center will offer a living-room style space to student-run support and activist groups that meet regularly. The Coalition of feminist groups on campus will include:
• Body Image Council,
• Rape Awareness (which is currently out of existence, but who's projects, such as
the clothesline project- a project which displays voices of silenced women who
have experienced very negative sexual or emotional relationships, will be carried
on in the upcoming years),
• Zami (the queer African-American/people of color support group)
• Rainbow alliance (the queer organization and support group on campus)
• Domestic Violence Support
• Students for Choice
• Students for Life
These organizations do not all share the same mission statements, however they all share a common goal- women's issues. The Center will support these organizations in doing campus wide events, fund-raises, lectures, speakers, presentations, and demonstration with the goal of creating a supportive space where dialogue can occur.
What The Center Still Needs
As college is the first time many people will be able to receive an education in many of the issues in safe and safer sex, there is a lot of information and resources that need to be available to students. Ultimately, it would be great if all Hall Advisers where brought back a week early for Abusive relationship identification, and rape crisis training. This would entail teaching them what signs to look for in the members on their dormitory hall, and to aid students in seeking help through the Health Center, or Women's Center, on or off of campus. Also a long term goal is the frequent availability of free HIV testing on campus. Currently there is one free testing per semester, located in the health center by appointment, with limited spots available. Another goal is safe-sex be a discussion allowed at q-forum, a forum for all incoming freshman surrounding the diversity of sexualities on campus. Currently the administration has explicitly advised that no talk of safe-sex occur at these meetings, lest the incoming students be frightened off. This further stigmatizes discussion about safe-sex, and leaves many students without the knowledge that they need to protect themselves if having sex with women.
Ultimately the Women's Center will be a living, functioning resource and information Center which can offer a safe space to students on campus. As there is relatively little prior to college, One of it's main goals will be to advocate, and work towards a positive intervention in the lack of safe and safer sex knowledge. Granted, it would be great if education started sooner, however College offers a positive space for many of these discussions, as there is either no, or relatively less parental and governmental control over curriculum and student activities. The Center and it's programing is vital, especially on a women's campus, see pouvees essay. Many of these women will one day grow up to have their own children; maybe they will buy the children's books that they read in the center to use to talk to their children or PTA boards about the importance of safe, and safer-sex education or avoid participating in an abusive relationship. While it is not impossible that the United States will take on a safe-sex education strategy in the years, given fast-rising HIV, AIDS, and other STD statistics, an education is an education. Later is better than never.


Bryn Mawr College, At a Glance, , viewed 12/9/05.

Janice M. Irvine. Talk About Sex: The Battles over Sex Education in the United States. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. xi + 271 pp. ISBN 0-520-23503-7.
The Montgomery County Women's Centers,, viewed 12/9/05.
Kathleen Kennedy and Sharon Ullman, eds. Sexual Borderlands: Constructing an American Sexual Past. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2003. xvi + 360 pp. ISBN 0-8142-0927-0 (cl); 0-8142-5107-2 (pb).

Card, Claudia, Against Marriage and Motherhood, Moral Issues in Global Perspective, edited by Christine Koggel, Canada 1999.

Rubin, Gayle, Thinking Sex, American Feminist Thought at Century's End: A Reader, Edited by Linda Kauffman

Encyclopedia of Sexuality, Sweden,, viewed 12/8/05.

Wikapedia, Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy,, viewed 12/8/05.

Either/Or and Both Neither: A Discourse of "Trans-
Name: Amy Philli
Date: 2005-12-16 06:45:48
Link to this Comment: 17431


Sex and Gender

2005 Final Web Papers

On Serendip

When thinking about trans issues, it can be really confusing. What does it mean to be trans? Who is considered trans? Does it have to do with sex? With gender? With clothing? With body parts? The questions can keep on going and going. We first examine the terms that we use to define trans. Next we listen to what trans people themselves say. As we listen to their views and insights, we can begin to develop our own and frame their ideas within a social context.
In the present discourse, gender is in a binary system of man and woman and sex of male and female. These binaries are problematic for everyone, because no one really fits perfectly. Thus, people exist within the discourse of gender, while at the same time resisting it. People whose resistance is extreme are labeled as or take the label of transgendered. Transsexuals exist within the discourse of sex because they are positioning themselves against it but at the same time are resisting it by adapting the rules to fit their needs. When transsexuals conform to the gender of their new sex, they are in some ways upholding the dichotomy even as they resist their assigned sex. Some transsexuals remain within the gender discourse rather than rejecting it by adhering to gender roles, but others reject this as well. Transgendered people, some of whom identify as genderqueer or a third gender, position themselves in opposition to the established discourse of gender and are working towards a redefinition of gender. Transgenderism still remains in the discourse of gender by positioning itself against the gender binary, however, in the gendered world we live in, it may be impossible to hold discourse without the context of gender.
I originally posited the position that "transsexuals who conform to their new gender's stereotypical roles working within the discourse, rather than working against it. Even though they do not conform to their biological sex's gender, they do conform to one of the two genders, thus upholding the dichotomy" (My introduction). After delving into Trans Liberation by Leslie Feinberg, I'm beginning to understand that there is much more to the discourse of trans than such a simple picture. To put the question of transsexuality as a matter of either opposition to or cooperation with the status quo denies the reality of transsexuals as people who just want to be how they feel. Transsexuality messes with the status quo by flipping biological sex and gender on its head Transsexuality throws out the sex binary. It exposes that society links a person's gender, sex and biological form, and that it does not have to work like that. A penis is not inherently male, the clitoris and vagina are not inherently female, and male does not have to mean man and female does not have to mean woman. For a society that is so strongly gendered, these statements are very threatening. At the same time transsexuality can also reinforce gender roles by transsexuals imitating the archetype of "woman" and "man".
Now I'd like to go back to some of the questions and pose some more to try to figure out how to shape my thinking about trans issues. First of all, I'd like to discuss the words themselves, because discourse is dependant on language. Bornstein defines gender as "categorization. Anything that categorizes people is gender, whether it's appearance or mannerisms, biology or psychology, hormones, roles, genitals, where does that leave sex? Sex is fucking" (My Gender Workbook, p 26). Califia argues that Bornstein's approach to biological sex is extreme, as she "dismisses the physiological and genetic realities that really do divide most of the human race into two very different groups of people" (Sex Changes, 247). Califia does not believe that biology holds no relevance as Bornstein does, but rather that biology is not destiny. I myself cannot deny the compelling evidence that demonstrates differences between males and females, but am starting to see biological sex as more of a social construction closer to Bornstein's theory than Califia's. If we set the discourse of gender, why would we not also set the discourse of sex? To simply say that sex is biological and gender is cultural is to ignore the implications that culture has on biology and that sex has on gender and vice versa, but let us use these definitions with the understanding of their limitations.
Transgender and transsexual; half of these two words are the same, and we hope that that makes them similar. Unfortunately it is not that simple. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the prefix "trans-" as: "1 : on or to the other side of : across : beyond 2 a : beyond (a specified chemical element) in the periodic table 3 : through 4 : so or such as to change or transfer." I believe that different people use the different definitions of "trans-" to understand the meanings of transsexuals and transgenderists in different ways. One colloquial meaning of "trans-" in transsexual is the fourth definition: "so or such as to change or transfer." In this we see transsexuality merely as a switch from one sex to another. But if we consider the possibility of the other definitions, especially the first "on or to the other side of : across : beyond." Could that mean that transsexuals are beyond sex? Does this place them outside the discourse of sex? And then the question that begs to be asked is can we use these definitions in the same way for transgenderism? Do the largely contested definitions of sex and gender preclude this comparison?
So do we use different definitions of "trans-" for "transsexual" and "transgender?" Colloquially, I observe that "transsexual" is more of "transfer" and "transgender" is more "beyond." Do these attached meanings have significance regarding the nature of sex and gender? To the mainstream, both are seen as firm, but in theory, gender is possibly more malleable than sex. Even though we no longer hold biology as destiny, we still see it as more definite. We are either male or female, end of story. Well, obviously it isn't the end of the story otherwise this paper wouldn't exist. Still, we can see biological sex as a certainty, because of only two possible expressions. Obviously this evaluation leaves out intersexuals, but if we allow ourselves to see them as exceptions, we can ignore them (I say this tongue in cheek). It's as if for transsexuals we see them jumping from the male pool to the female pool (or vice versa) without being able to be out of the water. Gender on the other hand has many expressions. There are many ways nowadays to be a man or a woman, and still be within the bounds of masculinity and femininity. Therefore, it would make sense for a person to be able to float around in gender and even get out of the pool without having to jump into another one.
In "Towards a Sociology of Transgendered Bodies" Ekins and King describe the four different types of transgendered bodies. For Ekins and King, "'transgendering' refers BOTH to the idea of moving across (transferring) from one pre-existing gender category to the other (either temporarily or permanently) AND to the idea of transcending or living 'beyond gender' altogether" (Ekins, 581-2). Their typology explains the ways in which some transgendered people uphold the gender binary and ways others do not. They differentiate transgendered bodies into four categories: "migrating, oscillating, erasing and transcending" (Ekins, 583).
Migrating refers to when a transgender body permanently moves from one sex to the other (585). These people often start a new life and do not acknowledge the transgendering. Oscillating refers to "moving to and fro between male and female polarities, across and between the binary divide" (588). This occurs for example when people perform in drag or in the privacy of their own homes at night, but dress in gender appropriate attire during the day. Erasing refers to the "expunging" of sex and a removal from the binary divide of gender and sex (591). Ekins gives the example of sissy maids that have their male attributes removed or disguised and are dressed in woman's clothing. Transcending is where the person leaves their assigned sex/gender, but don't settle in the opposite space and go somewhere else different all together (595-6). Rather than going from male to female and man to woman, they go outside the binary.
Ekins explains that these types "illuminate the extent to which contemporary body transgendering styles tend to reinforce or subvert that divide" (599). Ekins sees migrating and oscillating transgenderism as reinforcing the gender binary. Transcending breaks down this binary. Erasing leads to a "third space" for gender, but at the same time upholds the gender binary, because it emphasizes what is supposed to be masculine and feminine. By differentiating between the different types of transsexuality and transgenderism, we can discover where they uphold the gender/sex dichotomy and where they deconstruct it, and that it doesn't have to be one or the other.
Transsexuality and transgenderism are created and exist within a sociological framework. If sex and gender can be understood as a social construction, then so too can transsexuality and transgenderism. Without a strict binary, perhaps what we know of as transsexuality and transgenderism would possibly exist, but we would not see it as such. Without the rules, we wouldn't see people as breaking them. The existence of a gender and sex binary inherently creates a space for opposition to this binary, found in trans. Sociology of deviance theory suggests that "Trans" serves a function to define sex and gender. By establishing what is not acceptable with regards to sex and gender, what is acceptable is established.
So how do we know if someone is transsexual or transgender? The three feminist foremothers that I'm drawing from all have different views on what they are. Feinberg states right off in her book that "I'm not at odds with the fact that I was born female-bodied. Nor do I identify as an intermediate sex" (Trans Liberation, p 1). Ze (yes, ze prefers gender-neutral pronouns) goes on to explain that ze identifies as a masculine female, but also acknowledges that while this is "incendiary" it is not complex enough to fit hir (9). Bornstein says she is "what's called a transsexual person" but goes on to explain that she lives her life as something other than a man or woman (Gender Workbook, 9). Califia had at one point considered transitional surgery, but decided to embrace as much as possible her female body while at the same time as expressing a masculine gender and does not consider herself transsexual (Sex Changes, 5-6).
How do these people fit into our definitions of transsexual? If I were to have guessed, I would not have come up with the answers that they have provided for me. The point of this is that really, it is every individual's understanding of what these terms mean and how she/he/ze/etc do or do not apply to her/him/hir/etc. If we leave it up to the individual, it is scary for the rest of us, because we often have this compulsion to make sense of a person's sex and gender in a quick and simple manner. Feinberg is often asked to clarify what hir sex and gender is. Ze posits that "it seems as though everyone who questions the totality of who we are – whether they despise us or admire us – thinks that an answer to the question 'Are you a man or a woman?' will illuminate our identities" (Trans Liberation, 69). However, ze finds the answer more complex than just one word. The question is all about the asker, rather than the asked. It is uncomfortable for us to not know, but I think that we need to get used to the unsettling feeling of not knowing, because trans people have to deal with the discomfort of our uncertainty all the time.
Now that we (sort of) have an idea of what sex, gender, trans-, transsexual and transgender mean, let's figure out how they work within the discourse of queer studies. I had originally posited as stated above that transsexuals actually work within the discourse of gender and therefore hold up the dichotomy of man and woman. I realize now that this statement is full of value judgments. Feinberg states that ze's "heard the academic argument that transgender is a revolutionary tactic in the struggle against the patriarch, but that transsexual men and women uphold the oppressive either-or categories of man and woman" (Trans Liberation, 117). When I read this passage my own words echoed in my head and my cheeks stung with embarrassment for doing just what Feinberg says is not cool. Ze questions the validity of this argument also in that while transgenderists challenge the woman/man binary, transsexuals challenge birth sex assignments (117). By saying that transgenderists are more valuable than transsexuals in deconstructing the discourse, we place a greater value on the fluidity of gender than sex. Feinberg goes on to argue that this is not true and being transsexual or transgender "is not a tactic; these are our lives we are fighting for" (117). In this we really need to separate the effect people have on discourse from the people themselves. Transsexuals and transgenderists are shaped by the discourse (and would not exist in the same way without it) and they alter the discourse, but they themselves are not necessarily setting out to do so. Activists like Feinberg, Califia and Bornstein are working to alter the discourse on sex and gender, but they are just three people in a diverse group, many of whom are just living their lives. Their existence alters the discourse and we should not criticize their gender expression based on politics. Feinberg argues that transsexuals have a right to live as men or women just as non-transsexuals do.
Transsexuality is still medicalized and seen as a psychological disorder. Transsexuality's medicalization is a form of social control, which allows it to be subjected to moral constraints in the name of science. In these ways, we can see how social structures create and shape the discourse for transsexuality and transgenderism. In New Directions in Deviance Theory, Conrad and Schneider discuss the medicalization of deviance. While they never refer to transsexuality or transgenderism, their theory can be directly applied to these concepts. While it may be seen as a positive thing that transsexuality is seen as the psychological disorder of gender dysphoria rather than a sin, its medicalization serves the same purpose of stigmatization as religious moral objection. "Medical language veils the political and moral nature of this decision in the guise of scientific fact" (Conrad, 574). Regardless of whether it is a moral or medical aberration, transsexuality is still viewed as an aberration. Medicalization also sterilizes the problem instead of leaving room for the recognition of social resistance. "By giving medications, we are essentially supporting the existing social and political arrangements in that it becomes a 'symptom' of an individual disease rather than a possible 'comment' on the nature of the present situation" (Conrad, 576). Labeling trans as a psychological order blames the person and negates the commentary that trans makes on the linked binary sex and gender system.
Where does this all leave us in our understanding of trans? Though the personal is political, we can't forget about the person. Transsexuality and transgenderism is still complicated, and will be, but this is because the discourse of sex and gender is complicated. When we talk about sex and gender and try to establish what that means, it's confusing enough, but when we try to go past the established boundaries in the land of "trans-," we find ourselves on very shaky ground. Trans originates from the established discourse of sex and gender, but it goes above and beyond that, true to its name. Feinberg strives in hir book to expand the discourse to include trans on the inside rather than its outside status. Bornstein wants to do away with the discourse of gender all together. Califia wants to work within the discourse to disassociate sex from gender. I think all these goals are admirable, if not all practical, but perhaps we should look to the Chinese proverb that Feinberg quotes: "The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it" (Trans Liberation, 61). I personally prefer Feinberg's inclusion of trans into the discourse. We can create a space within the discourse for more possibilities than just male or female and woman or man and thereby allow more people to live their lives as they see fit. We need to develop a new language of the transsexual and transgendered, to engender a reforming, a reorganization, of the discourse language to form a new resistance-language.


Bornstein, Kate. my gender workbook. Routledge: New York, 1998.

Califia, Pat. Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism. Cleis Press: San Francisco, 1997.

Conrad, Peter and Joseph W. Schneider. "Medicine as an Institution of Social Control: Consequences for Society." New Directions in Deviance Theory. p 563-596. This article was assigned last semester in Professor Washington's Sociology of Deviance. I could not find additional information on the publishing of this book. I have enclosed the article for this reason.

Ekins, Richard and Dave King. "Towards a Sociology of Transgendered Bodies". The Sociological Review. 47. 3 (1999). p 580-602.

Feinberg, Les. Trans Liberation: beyond pink or blue. Beacon Press: Boston, 1998.

Choice and Reproductive Technologies: Introduction
Name: Flora Shep
Date: 2005-12-16 11:19:39
Link to this Comment: 17434


Sex and Gender

2005 Final Web Papers

On Serendip

Choice and Reproductive Technologies
by Alex Heilbronner, Samantha Martinez and Flora Shepherd
Gender Studies, Fall 2005

Table of Contents
1) Introduction to Reproductive Choices and The Control of Women's Bodies
2) Autonomy and Reproductive Choices for Teenagers, Alex Heilbronner
3) Missing Voices, Missing Wombs: Reproductive Technologies and Women of Color, Samantha Martinez
4) Policing Sex: Emergency Contraception and Anti-sex Policy, Flora Shepherd

In the following section of the Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Gender and Sexuality book project, three authors evaluate reproductive choices and technologies and the control of women's sexuality through legal and social regulations.

In her chapter, Alex Heilbronner explores the connection between sex education, birth control, and abortions. She argues that the current abstinence-only sex education that most teenagers are receiving in public high schools is insufficient, and leads directly to more unprotected sex. Teenagers who don't practice safe sex are more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases or become pregnant, which may lead them to seek access to abortion services. This chain of events is hindered by current laws in several states limiting a minor's accessibility to reproductive services.

In some states, a teenage girl cannot acquire contraceptives without the consent of her parents. Even in states that do provide birth control for minors without their parents' knowledge, it is then up to those teenagers to figure out a way to pay for the service. The same goes for abortion, in which case even more states require parental permission, and abortions are even more expensive than an oral contraceptive prescription. Lobbyists such as those behind the website are seeking to include men in the abortion making process, suggesting that a woman is not responsible enough to make decisions about her body on her own. Though no legislation has been passed to this effect, there have been several instances in which a judge has granted an injunction against an abortion at the wish of the father. These have all been overturned shortly after they were issued.

Heilbronner demands full access to information and resources for women regarding the sexual health of women. She claims this must begin in schools, where girls and boys alike should be educated about practicing safe sex. The tools they learn in the classroom should be affordable and accessible to them in the real world, without fear of their parents' finding out. Without this, women's reproductive issues will continue to be determined by other people.

Heilbronner's essay leads us from a discussion of information and access to the idea that we all have choices to reproductive technologies. While her discussion focuses on the lack of choices of young people, Samantha Martinez will discuss the lack of choices for poor women and women of color.

Choice in reproduction and reproductive rights has been on the forefront of the minds of Americans since the first wave of feminists demanded autonomy from patriarchal systems that oppressed or diminished women's agency with regard to reproduction. Abortion, birth control, family planning, and other reproductive technologies have been debated in public and regulated by federal and state government. Although these issues affect both women and men, women bear a heavier burden in society because of legal and religious sanctions that limit their rights to choose what to do with their bodies and biological products.

In the following chapter, Samantha Martinez will expand on the conversations about reproductive rights to talk specifically about new reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination, pre-implantation diagnosis, and other technological advances that assist women with reproduction. Using a third wave feminist perspective, she will highlight how reproductive technologies are not available to all members of society, particularly those who have historically been stigmatized because of race, class, and/or sexual orientation. Her analysis will uncover reasons why these technologies are not available to all women and implore feminists and others concerned about woman's rights to take interest in how and why these technologies are produced and marketed. Also, she raises these questions to illustrate the many dilemmas presented with the use of reproductive technologies, to emphasize how the social structures in our society continuously impose greater sanctions against poor women and women of color, and impose strict rules on who can and should access reproductive technologies. She further hopes to illustrate that while many might think feminism has done its duty, society still struggles to allow individuals to do what they want with their bodies, and this is especially vivid in the discussion of reproductive technologies and access and use by people of color and other marginalized communities.

Heilbronner and Martinez's essays have illustrated the need for access and information about reproductive technologies for both teenagers and women of color. Flora Shepherd's essay will discuss the link between controlling emergency contraception and controlling all women's heterosexual and reproductive behavior.

Emergency contraception is difficult to discuss. The mechanism of the drug is not yet fully understood. Therefore, the drug can be defended or attacked through many different levels. Activists on both sides of the argument employ combinations of medical, social and moral arguments to advance their positions. Proponents of the drug claim that it is a necessity for victims of rape and sexually active women whose birth control may fail them. Opponents defend the embryo's right to life and claim that women should not be allowed to run away from bad decisions; some even claim that motherhood is a gift that cannot be rejected. However, both sides cannot be right. Without a solid biochemical understanding of the drug to stand on, it is impossible to make a conclusive medical or moral argument. There is a slight possibility that the drug may cause an hours-old embryo to not implant on the womb. However, one cannot make social policy based on a slight possibility.

Shepherd argues that the one common theme throughout both sides discussion of the emergency contraception debate is sex. She examines the question of rape victims. Even the most staunchly anti-emergency contraception activists, such as the Catholic Church, generally approve of its use for rape victims who report their attack to the police. But why allow a drug to one group of women but not to another? Shepherd claims that the answer is sex. Women who have sex outside of marriage should be forced into motherhood. Only women who have had sex without their consent are allowed emergency contraception. This policy serves to keep women in their traditional gender roles. Women should not be allowed to "escape" their biology. Shepherd draws on the work of feminists Barbara Ehrenreich and Deidre English to illustrate how the "experts" are trying to control women's sex lives through regulation of emergency contraception.

These three authors have provided several areas of concern for women in which political action is necessary. Their feminist foremothers have provided an important link to a historical analysis of issues affecting women and the problems presented and the suggestions for solutions reinforce the importance of political action regardless of your location in the struggle for women's rights and social justice.

Emergency Contraception and Anti-sex Policy
Name: Flora Shep
Date: 2005-12-16 12:52:24
Link to this Comment: 17438


Sex and Gender

2005 Final Web Papers

On Serendip

Flora Shepherd
Dalke and Patico
Gender and Sexuality, Fall 05

Emergency Contraception and Anti-sex Policy

Jane is a sixteen year old high school dropout. She has run away from home and is living with her drug dealer boyfriend. One night, the condom breaks while they are having sex. She decides to go to the free clinic to get the morning after pill. The doctor gives her a prescription for Plan B emergency contraception, but when she visits the only pharmacy open in her town on Sunday, the pharmacist on duty refuses to give her the drug, for moral reasons.

Amy is a thirty year old, married suburban mother of two. One night, while walking home from getting her nails done, she gets kidnapped and raped. Her husband takes her to her family doctor to get a prescription for Plan B. Amy visits the same pharmacy and is also told that the pharmacist will not give her the drug for moral reasons.
Which woman should be given the pill? Which woman should not? Should their social background affect their access to emergency contraception? What are the pharmacists moral reasons and should he be allowed to refuse treatment? These questions are at the heart of the debate over emergency contraception.

I invented the previous two scenarios but there are thousands like them happening every day. An anonymous woman wrote to the emergency contraception provider "After calling every local clinic, hospital and doctors office that was open on Sundays, I was amazed by their reaction and refusal to supply emergency contraceptive. Apparently, being responsible enough to immediately follow up after my birth control failed, is taboo in this small town!" And the president of Pharmacists for Life International, Karen Brauer, wrote about EC that "I would not touch the pill where abortion is a significant mechanism. The big conflict is that some people don't recognize there is a second person in a pregnancy. I have to look out for both of them." How can these positions be resolved?

I argue that the pharmacist does not have the right to refuse women their prescription. One woman does not have more of a "right" to emergency contraception than another based on her lifestyle choices or victimization. If emergency contraception is a right for Amy, then it is a right for Jane as well. To refuse Jane her drug is to punish her for her choices. And refusing her her drug will send the message that the government has the right to control whether or not women are allowed to have sex without bearing children. Men have always had the right to sex without childbearing. With new reproductive technologies like Plan B Emergency Contraception, women can now have that right as well. Taking it away from them is forcing them into traditional gender roles. Policing emergency contraception is policing sex.

To unravel the relationships between women, Plan B and pharmacists, one must start at the beginning: with the drug. Emergency contraception is difficult to define. Its biochemical mechanism is not yet known. Unlike RU-486 or surgical abortion, there is no exact scientific explanation of how the pill works. The US Food and Drug Administration explains:

Plan B works like other birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. Plan B acts primarily by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary (ovulation). It may prevent the union of sperm and egg (fertilization). If fertilization does occur, Plan B may prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb (implantation). If a fertilized egg is implanted prior to taking Plan B, Plan B will not work.

This definition causes problems. The primary mechanism of the drug is to stop ovulation. Only 40% of women trying to conceive without using birth control become pregnant (gain implanted embryos). This means that it is unlikely that an egg will even come near sperm let alone unite with one and implant on the womb. Still, the pill may prevent implantation of a few hours old, microscopic embryo. Many of the pill's opponents use this possibility to claim that the pill is an aborticant, like the controversial RU-486. The pill's association with abortion creates inaccurate implications.. It is possible that Plan B may prevent an embryo from implanting. However, a months old fetus and a few hours old, bundle of cells are not the same thing. Plan B cannot abort a fetus. It must be taken within 72 hours after intercourse and is most effective 12-24 hours after. Plan B is a contraceptive method that encourages a natural process in a woman's body. The aborticant definition is inaccurate.

What other arguments can opponents make? If the pill is not a true aborticant, why shouldn't women be allowed to take it? The United States Food and Drug Administration recently decided that Plan B emergency contraception cannot be sold over the counter in America because of health concerns, despite the fact that the advisory committee of health experts that reviewed the drug expressed its support. For now, in America, emergency contraception is in the control of pharmacists and pharmacies. Even if the FDA had approved Plan B for over the counter use, companies as big as Wal-Mart refuse to dispense it. Cashiers can claim civil rights just as much as pharmacists do and have less of a medical obligation to help patients.

Jane and Amy's reproductive future is currently in the hands of pharmacists. And the government cannot force an employees to work again his/her morals. As Lawyer Cantor and Dr. Baum wrote "Although we believe that the most ethical course is to treat patients compassionately—that is, to stock emergency contraception and fill prescriptions for it—the totality of the arguments makes us stop short of advocating a legal duty to do so as a first resort." (New England Journal of Medicine) But this legal loophole is dangerous. As they state in a different part of the article, "...because a pharmacist does not know a patient's history on the basis of a given prescription, judgements regarding the acceptability of a prescription may be medically inappropriate. To a woman with Eisenmenger's syndrome, for example, pregnancy may mean death." Just how much background does a pharmacist need to dispense a drug? Should it be medical or social?

The language of emergency contraception opponents is one of crime and punishment, victims and perpetrators, virgins and sluts. Louisiana State Representative Woody Jenkins said it best in 1995 "...He argued that it [the clause legalizing abortions only for rape victims] was unnecessary since a rape victim could go to a hospital within a few days of the crime to get a pill or injection that would prevent pregnancy. He stipulated, however, that he didn't support the use of such morning-after pills in cases other than rape." (William Saletan on Jenkins, brackets mine) Here, emergency contraception can only be given to the victims. The "cases other than rape" do not deserve the luxury of emergency contraception, since they committed the crime of sex.
Jenkins discovered the biggest issue in emergency contraception. Unlike surgical abortion, this issue is not about not a fetus' right to live or women's control of her body. Jenkins wants to let the government legitimize sexual intercourse.

If the emergency contraception concerns were purely in objection to the minimal chance that it may work as an aborticant, then the government and even the Catholic Church would not make exceptions for victims of rape or incest, because all abortions would be equally evil, regardless of the manner of conception, or, as pharmacist Erik McKlave cites Mark 9:42 "And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck." However, Jenkins and others have specifically stated that rape victims are "allowed" this drug.

Even liberal author Naomi Wolf parallels Jenkins' remarks "Once, I made the choice to take a morning- after pill. If what was going on in my mind had been mostly about the well-being of the possible baby, that pill would never have been swallowed...I was not so unlike those young louts who father children and run from the specter of responsibility." Here Wolf, having had irresponsible sex, does not deserve to take the drug for the sake of the embryo that could not yet be more than one hundred cells. She later discusses her emergency contraception as a "sin" that must be atoned for. So, rape makes emergency contraception ok and consensual sex makes emergency contraception as sin?

Viewed in this light, forbidding access to emergency contraception will create an anti-sex, pro-children society. If emergency contraception is a sin equated with murder of the unborn, it should be completely outlawed. And, if one believes anything else than all women should have it barring real health risks. There is not a gray area here. But with all of this moralizing, emergency contraception becomes very complicated very quickly. What's an activist to do?

Enter Harrison Hickman, a man who did not call himself a feminist, but spent most of his political career working for their cause as a pollster. Hickman was and is the definition of a pragmatist. He manipulated voters any way he could to swing them to his side, at times using racist and even misogynist themes to promote abortion and women's rights legislation. His methods were very effective. He would never hesitate to compromise (Saletan, 24-65). How would a man like Hickman approach the emergency contraception issue? He would approach it pragmatically; do whatever is necessary politically to secure EC access.

As a strong-willed feminist, my knee jerk reaction is to force pharmacists to do their job. I am frustrated Cantor and Baum's statement that the legality of forced dispensal of EC is legally questionable. The solution that Hickman would probably approve of is a two part strategy using economic pressures on pharmacies and government restrictions on pharmacists. The government could force pharmacies to choose between dispensing either both oral and emergency contraceptives or neither. Market demand will probably force them to stock both. Then, working under what is commonly called a referral clause, pharmacists or cashiers (if the drug is made available over the counter) who do not wish to dispense emergency contraceptives must notify their boss in writing and refer patients to other pharmacies or other sources to obtain the drug. This solution is not perfect. However, Hickman would argue that the end result is best. Pharmacists who refuse to help their patients will be breaking the law and Pharmacies that refuse to stock EC will be losing money.

If pharmacists are allowed to refuse to dispense the medication as long as they refer the patient to another pharmacy that will, women still suffer. The drug is time sensitive and pharmacies can be scarce or hard to travel to in some areas. This is not a permanent. I think the referral clause loses too much ground for women. And I'm not alone. The Plannned Parenthood family planning organization states that "Pharmacists, physicians, and other medical clinicians have professional and ethical responsibilities to their patients. Health-related decisions made between a provider and patient should be based on the personal welfare and health-care needs of the patient — not the morals or beliefs of the caregivers." Pharmacists should not have so much control over patients' lives. Pharmacist Peggy Page claims that in pharmacy school, "a patient's individual expectations, because they can be incorrect or unrealistic, was never held out as the model by which we practice. Now, however, it seems that this has become a new standard, and must include that we do whatever the patient wants."

Still, forcing companies and employees to act against their morals martyrs them. It is in thinking through the problem of finding a way to morally strike mack at self-martyred EC opponents that my feminist foremothers, Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English and their work For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts' Advice to Women have been immensely helpful. The book was published in 1978, but its summary of how society uses science to manipulate women still rings clear in today's world. "Science had once attacked entrenched authority but the new scientific expert himself became an authority himself. His business was not to seek out what is true, but to pronounce on what is appropriate." (Ehrenreich and English, 26) The opponents of emergency contraception have been trying to manipulate science in just such a way. If emergency contraception may cause abortion, than its use cannot be appropriate. Women need scientific experts to regulate their lives for them. The FDA wrote in its dismissal of Plan B as an over the counter drug that "adequate data were not provided to support a conclusion that young adolescent women can safely use Plan B for emergency contraception without the professional supervision of a licensed practitioner." Effectively, the FDA has stated that the choice is in the hands of the medical experts, like doctors and pharmacists, instead of the woman herself.

The problem with entrusting the choice of emergency contraception into the hands of medical experts is that the decision is not primarily medical. Ehrenreich and English state that today's society "...has nothing to offer a discarded wife but welfare..." (Ehrenreich and English, 288). Pharmacists can force a choice onto a woman without assuming any responsibility for the consequences.

The solution I propose to the emergency contraception question is as follows. Women must say no. Women must say that the government does not have the right to dictate their heterosex life or the consequences of sexual assault (The further references to women are used to describe women who choose to have sex with fertile men. I do not mean to exclude other women.). Without adequate contraception, women cannot be men's equals in the bedroom. The stakes are higher when one partner may bear children and the other cannot. And by controlling women's sexual choices, the government is regulating heterosexual women into traditional woman as mother roles. In order to fully equalize men and women in society, women must be given the same reproductive rights as men. Men cannot yet bear children. But advances in biology have given women the right to have sex without bearing children. Medicine has given women this right. All government has to do is enforce it.

Works Cited
2/22/2004 "Testimonials."
Cantor, Julie and Ken Baum. "The Limits of Conscientious Objection—May Pharmacists
Refuse to Fill Prescriptions for Emergency Contraception?" The New England Journal of Medicine. 351;19 pp2008-2012
Ehrenreich, Barbara and Deirdre English. For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts' Advice to Women. Anchor Press. New York: 1978.
Food and Drug Administration. "FDA's Decision Regarding Plan B: Questions and Answers." Department of Health and Human Services.
Friedman, Deborah. Refusal Clauses: A Threat to Reproductive Rights. Planned
Parenthood Federation of America Website. l/fact-041217-refusal-reproductive.xml
McClave, Erik A. A Catholic Pharmacist's Struggle.
Page, Peggy. June 2, 2005 Testimony.
"Pharmacist Promotes Freedom of Conscience" University of Cincinnati Horizons Online. August 2005.
Saletan, William. Bearing Right: How Conservatives won the abortion war. University of
CA Press. Berkeley and Los Angelas, CA:2003
Wolf, Naomi. "Rethinking Pro-Choice Rhetoric: Our Bodies Our Souls." The New
Republic. October 16, 1990

Missing Voices, Missing Wombs: Reproductive Techn
Name: Samantha M
Date: 2005-12-16 19:20:46
Link to this Comment: 17444


Sex and Gender

2005 Final Web Papers

On Serendip

In the 1960s, Second-Wave feminists not only continued to fight for gender equality in the social and political sphere, but also, for the right to use contraception and for safe and legal abortions. The patriarchal systems of authority, mainly the church and state, imposed strong restrictions forbidding birth control and abortion. Women eventually fought for and won these rights in fiercely contested court battles. Even today although abortion is legal it is constantly publicly debated, and women's autonomy to do what they deem necessary or right with their body is challenged. Later, in the late 80s and the 90s, Third-Wave feminists such as Cherrie Moraga and Audre Lorde challenged the mostly white, heterosexual feminist movement to confront their racism, classism and homophobia in order to unite all women in the overarching women's rights movement, insisting on inclusion of these voices as a matter of equality and social justice.

Reproductive technologies is the current label for all forms of "current and anticipated uses of technology in human reproduction." These technologies have progressed rapidly since scientists and researchers began manipulating DNA and delving into genetic engineering. As represented in high profile news stories of famous actors for instance, they are often used to help infertile couples conceive children through in-vitro fertilization, which is the process by which an egg and sperm is fertilized in a lab and the resulting embryo is implanted in the woman. Today, the term reproductive technologies encompass the various forms of biotechnological procedures that allow women to produce children who might not otherwise be able to. These technologies range from in-vitro fertilization to pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, a procedure that uses genetic testing on the embryo to find genetic illnesses. Currently, these technologies are costly and are only available to certain people, namely, privileged, white, heterosexual and most times married women. Using a third wave feminist framework, in particular the influence of Audre Lorde, this paper will discuss the lack of availability and use of reproductive technologies in women of color communities. Several areas will be highlighted, such as the lack of consideration for the real needs of women from diverse backgrounds with regard to these technologies; the issue of invisibility from promotion of such technologies, and reasons women of color give for not using reproductive technologies.

In our culture, we tend to think about liberty and freedom as important features of our society and hold these values dear to us in all areas of our lives. We often use the terms "freedom" and "liberty" in connection to discussions about individual choices and agency. This is important to recognize in a discussion about reproductive "rights" given the history of discriminatory practices that exclude some members of our society from enjoying the freedom and liberty that is so often cited. The rights of women have often been suppressed or regulated. This is why first wave feminist fought for equality for women. It was important to challenge male dominance and how it has adversely affected women. Third wave feminists bring new perspectives and challenges to the way we talk about rights for women because past feminists have excluded discussions about class or race or homophobia. To third wave feminists, these concerns should be concerns for ALL women, or all those who call themselves feminists. So, a discussion about how we should be free to use whatever reproductive technologies are available is not appropriate for all since this conception of freedom is based on a dominant discourse of rights.

Most users of these technologies are white, privileged and heterosexual. In an essay titled, "Race and the New Reproduction," Dorothy E. Roberts argues that "because of financial barriers, cultural preferences, and professional manipulation, the new methods of reproduction are used almost exclusively by white people." By professional manipulation, Roberts is talking about doctors or other medical providers that steer women of color away from positive uses of reproductive technologies where they can remedy fertility issues to pushing for other procedures that would render the woman unable to reproduce. She wants us to consider these technologies as more "conforming than liberating" in that they reinforce a heteronormative ideal, one that idealizes the nuclear family. She reminds us "[f]eminists have powerfully demonstrated that the new reproduction enforces traditional patriarchal roles that privilege men's genetic desires and objectify women's procreative capacity." In addition, she points out, these technologies help reinforce a "racial hierarchy" in America because technology such as IVF are inaccessible to Black people. She provides extant examples of this when describing how the media first talked about IVF such as when the first IVF child was born and was displayed on the talk show Donahue. To Roberts, this display, of the perfect child—white, blond-haired and blue-eyed—reinforced for Blacks that IVF was not something they should or could use.

To further her account of the inaccessibility of treatments like IVF, I researched what the actual costs of these procedures might be. I searched for infertility clinics in the Pennsylvania area and tried to find actual numbers for the costs of these procedures. What I found was that many did not break down the costs and pointed instead to ways to pay for these services, for example, taking out loans, borrowing from family, or tapping into retirement accounts. Finally, I found one site that listed the varying costs of procedures, drugs, and lab work. It appears the starting price for in-vitro fertilization is $10,000—this is without costs for drugs or lab work . Insurance companies might cover these procedures, but with many caveats that prevent single women or lesbians from utilizing insurance coverage for their procedures.

Roberts asks us to consider the historical and social implications of reproductive technologies on Black people and other "marginalized" communities. While she does not negate the usefulness of these technologies for many (such as infertile women, and lesbians) she asks that those promoting these technologies make them available to a wider audience. This is necessary for women who are in need of treatment for infertility but cannot access this treatment because of costs, misconceptions about the services, or other problems as discussed by Roberts. She suggests that policymakers consider, "What does it mean that we live in a country in which white women disproportionately use expensive technologies to enable them to bear children, while Black women disproportionately undergo surgery that prevents them from being able to bear any?" As Roberts suggests, reproductive technologies and how they are marketed and used present a dichotomy of interests. On one hand, white women are encouraged to use this technology to help in procreation, while Black women are forced to endure surgery that renders them infertile. Roberts provides the example that Black women are often told they should go ahead with procedures that will render them impotent (such as a hysterectomy) when other possible treatment might not require such a drastic choice.
Many communities of color are suspicious of scientific pursuits because of the history of abuse perpetrated on these communities in the name of science and medicine. For example, in the United States we have a history of using poor people of color for experimentation. An example of this was the 40-year study of Black men with syphilis from Tuskegee, Alabama, or the forced sterilization of Puerto Rican women during the initial push for industrialization of the island of Puerto Rico by the American government.

Women around the globe have also insisted on challenging how and what new reproductive technologies are manufactured and to whom. The Association of Women's Rights in Development, an organization committed to informing and mobilizing women around the world on women's rights, has written in detail about facing the challenges of new reproductive technologies. They pose the following questions: "How are NRT's [New Reproductive Technologies] tested, marketed, promoted?" "Are we becoming more accustomed to turning to techno-fixes for other problems?" and "[W]ho makes decisions about the creation and control of NRT's?"

AWID provides a historical context by which women of color/third world women have been mistreated by the medical establishment. They have been used as research subjects for these NRT's often without consent or concern for the well-being of these women. AWID is not only concerned that these technologies come about at the expense of third world women's lives but the larger issue of the commodification of women's bodies and reproductive capabilities. They also stress as Roberts did that "fundamental ideologies seek to impose an ideal of the family or of women that limits reproductive rights and autonomy." Also, they remind us that most NRT's are developed with a "Western-based model" which means that it is men in medicine that are designing new ways to "control women's bodies" , in essence, reproduction. AWID wants women around the world not to blindly accept NRT's and implore us to question how these technologies affect our lives.

Reproductive technologies can be both beneficial and harmful to women. This paper discussed issues of accessibility, invisibility, and the mistreatment of women of color in the medical establishment to highlight reasons why all women need to take a stronger stance and control of the way new reproductive technologies are marketed and developed. As a third wave feminist I firmly believe it is necessary to question why we choose to talk about reproductive technologies in terms of freedom of choice instead of talking about ways to make healthcare more accessible to all, or working to combat the conditions that might lead to problems with infertility such as poverty, malnutrition, etc. Should we be advancing technologies and using our resources for the few who can access them, or should we be remedying the problems that exist for a larger group of people? Roberts addressed the issue of accessibility of reproductive technologies and I see several ways in which the medical establishment could do more outreach to those who might actually need their services. I believe a grass-roots approach is most appropriate since many communities seek advice from each other either in churches or community organizations, even in beauty salons and barber shops. Advocates for safer sex find ways to do this by posting flyers in neighborhoods, or sponsoring free events. This could also be a vehicle for promotion of reproductive technologies. A further step is needed to address the costs, but this requires a comprehensive effort by many people in our society. Can we say universal health care?

Further research is needed on the effects of reproductive technologies on women of color and third world women and further analysis of the needs of these women with regard to what technologies are most useful for women in these communities.

Works Cited:
Association for Women's Rights in Development. "Facing the Challenges of New Reproductive Technologies." facts and issues No. 8, June 2004.

Roberts, Dorothy E. "Race and the New Reproduction." Rpt. Moral Issues in Global Perspectives. Christine Koggel, Ed. Broadview Press: 1999

The Tuskegee Timeline from the Center for Disease Control Website . Accessed 11/23/2005

Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia. Accessed 11/23/2005

Women in World History Website, George Mason University Accessed 11/23/2005

Date: 2007-09-28 22:39:59
Link to this Comment: 21952

Very interesting. Thanks for the incite.

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