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An Open Letter to Our Readers About That Football & Rape Piece

October 21, 2014

0 Comments


photo via Flickr

Dear Readers (Robert in particular),

Our recent post, Is Football More Important Than Rape, syndicated by us from YourTango and written by Charles J. Orlando, ignited one of the most spirited and thoughtful debates EMandLO.com has had in a long time. The first response came from Robert, a long-time reader, now (sniff) no-more:

I come to Em and Lo to read articles that are fair and interesting. I like reading about empowering women, gender equality, and sexual exploration. BUT I will not do it at the expense of my beliefs in due process, racial equality, and just being [a] good human free of hate.

The incendiary piece puts forth Orlando’s opinion that FSU football player Jameis Winston is guilty of the date rape he’s been accused of (despite a lack of trial or conviction) and that the police, the FSU Athletic Department, and Winston’s friends are all accomplices by not reporting it, not investigating it properly and essentially covering it up — and that these people did this because money, football and winning are more important than the victim.

In all honesty, we were not that familiar with the Winston case when the piece came to us. We skimmed Orlando’s post, thought it was relevant to all the recent revelations of football industry cover-ups, and posted it without much thought and without any intro or commentary from us. Admittedly, not ideal.

We agree with Robert that the open letter format and the tone of the post did not subscribe to the “innocent until proven guilty” presumption our justice system affords every citizen; it was definitely judgmental and condescending. We also agree with Robert that if Orlando had instead written a calmer, more general piece about what’s wrong with football culture, it would get less attention, generate less discourse. And we just appreciated — perhaps a bit myopically — a man expressing outrage over the larger, very real institution of sexism in our culture which keeps sexual harassment and assault, rape, and domestic abuse against women at epidemic levels despite this being the 21st century. We think it’s important to keep these topics — the football industry’s cover ups of crimes, America’s rape culture, issues of money and power and (in)justice, etc —  open for discussion and debate. And we trust our smart readers to be able to engage with this kind of piece, even when they don’t agree with it 100% (or at all). Finally, while our justice system is a model for the world, it doesn’t always get things right, and sometimes gets things very wrong, so people are free to form opinions that may not square with judicial outcomes. For all those reasons, we just went with it.

Other thoughtful readers chimed in, including our MVP commenter Johnny (natch):

Robert’s right that everyone should just stay out of this and let the law run its course. Dave is right that the law needs to actually step up and do just that. Which they might have if the accuser had aggressively pursued the issue.

But this is talking about an ideal world, not the real world. In our current situation, the law is not adequately dealing with this and other related cases because of so many issues: sexism, secrecy, shame, power imbalance, advertising dollars, etc. Let’s take another example: Should African Americans be profiled by the police? No. Are they? Yes. Should football players get special treatment when it comes to crimes committed? No. Do they? Yes. So people can’t and shouldn’t stay out of these things (even the reactionary loudmouths).

We will say this: we definitely did not decide to run this rant because a black man had sex with a white woman, or because we believed this fueled Orlando’s motivations for penning the piece in the first place. We didn’t even know what color Winston’s skin was until after we had decided to post it and went looking for an image of him. Nor did we know what color the alleged victim was until Robert mentioned it in the comments. What this makes us guilty of, at most, is not being very responsible or professional bloggers. As a feminist site about sex and love, EMandLO.com’s first concerns with this story are sexism, sex crimes, and sex just gone horribly, horribly wrong. Both racism and sexism are alive and well in this country; the focus of this site happens to be on the latter. And as anyone who’s ever read our site  (Robert?) knows, we are big supporters of love in any combination of colors, orientations, and numbers, so long as it’s safe, sane, respectful, and consensual.

We’re sorry we disappointed you, Robert, and we hope you’ll reconsider your decision to break up with us. Not everything we post by someone else — be it a writer or a commenter — perfectly represents our own views and philosophies. We appreciate your detailed response, and are grateful for the conversation it generated and the questions it has raised (even if we don’t have the answers!). Please consider coming back every once and a while and helping to keep things interesting and challenging around here.

Sincerely,

Em & Lo

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Comment of the Week: Blow Jobs Aren’t an Inalienable Right

October 16, 2014

2 Comments

In an impassioned response to our post, “Your Call: She Doesn’t Like Going Down,” reader Sara doesn’t pull any punches when discussing those who prioritize sex acts over actual people. She really gets going in the fourth paragraph!:

You know what makes it easier to like something? Being able to choose freely whether to do it (or have it done to you). That means being pressured is not helpful. Whether it is “but everyone else loves it” peer pressure, some jackass saying you owe them, or some well-meaning person telling you to try try again.

I found this thread seriously f*cked up. The amount of guilt tripping and the suggestion to the OP that there’s something wrong with her, she needs to get over it, that she’s being “unfair” – what the actual FUCK?

Do you people realise that coercing someone into a sex act they are not willing to do is a form of rape? That people are different and some people just don’t like certain things, and it’s not your right to tell them they are abnormal because they’re different to you? Threatening to find sex elsewhere or leave someone if they don’t give you oral sex is emotional manipulation of the most insidious, despicable kind. My man doesn’t like giving oral sex much and even if I loved it (I don’t) I would NEVER coerce him into it because it’s sick to make someone you’re supposed to love do something sexually that they are not willing to do.

I don’t like giving blow jobs and there is NOTHING wrong with me. There are a lot of unpleasant things about having a dick in your mouth. Even freshly washed, it doesn’t taste or smell great. Seeing as my tongue happens to be covered in taste buds and my nose full of olfactory receptors, there is little I can do to block this out. Putting food of any kind on genitalia makes it even more gross. Getting your gag reflex stimulated is massively unpleasant too – it can be painful if it’s violent, my eyes water, and I don’t feel very sexy with tears streaming down my face. After about 2 minutes my jaw aches unbearably. I find the idea of bodily fluids hitting the back of my throat disgusting, and every time I’ve ever swallowed I’ve felt sick and mildly traumatised for a couple of hours afterwards, and if you think there’s something wrong with me for that how about you take a swig of your girlfriend’s period blood and see how it makes you feel. Most people can’t even handle the idea of drinking human breast milk and that’s actually supposed to be food, so why am I supposed to enjoy the salty bitter slime that comes out of a man’s penis?

Couples can have great sex that both partners enjoy without throwing their toys out of the pram when they don’t get everything they want. I like anal but I also recognise that it’s not for everyone, and I’d never accuse another girl of being weird or uptight or somehow at fault for not enjoying it. Similarly my man has no interest in being penetrated anally by me, and though I’d quite like to do it it would be messed up to coerce him into something he’s clearly not comfortable with, and even more messed up to suggest that him not being comfortable with something I want is some sort of personal failing.

There should be more to a relationship than getting pleasured. If you care more about getting your dick sucked than you do about the girl who’s doing it, then you probably don’t deserve a relationship anyway. Fuck… this thread has seriously depressed me.

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Comment of the Week: Your Breakup Advice Sucks!

October 8, 2014

1 Comment


photo via flickr

This week, reader Ultraviolet took us to task for our “ten easy steps” break-up advice in response to a post, “Your Call: How Do You Get Over Long-Term Heartbreak?” Consider her words a cautionary tale about holding onto bitterness and regret, living in the past… and not listening to yours truly, Em & Lo!

Yeah, three years is NOTHING. I’m on year twenty and counting. (And for the record, I think the 10-step program advertised on this website is laughable and insulting.) And to those readers suggesting therapy, yeah, I’ve tried that too over and over and over again and it doesn’t do any good, and antidepressantants didn’t help either. I don’t want therapy or pills, I don’t fucking want to cut my hair or reinvent myself (I like myself fine, thanks) or travel or date other people, and I shouldn’t have to. I just want my boyfriend back and that’s it.

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Confession: Binge-Watching Saved My Marriage!

October 3, 2014

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by YourTango  |  photo via flickr

It didn’t matter what we were binge-watching; it just mattered that we were binge-watching together.

I sat at my desk waiting for the clock to tick just close enough to 5:00 p.m. so that I could duck out early from work. My man was waiting for me at home, and I didn’t want to keep him waiting any longer than necessary. I was excited to get home, throw on some comfortable clothes, and curl up on the couch with my favorite man of the moment, Walter White. Granted, I wasn’t so much physically curling up with him as I was spending my evenings peering inside his mind, but either way, I couldn’t wait to find out what else was going to happen on Breaking Bad. After all, my marriage depended on it.

Sound strange? It shouldn’t. My husband and I had been slowly drifting apart for a few months. After work, he would often retreat to the basement to work on the non-profit he recently started. I’d flip open my laptop and continue to work after he went downstairs, knowing I’m a lot more productive at night when nobody’s around to respond to my emails. (I’m also more productive when I’m not wearing pants, but that’s neither here nor there.) Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like our marriage was falling apart, but our closeness was definitely drifting. We didn’t notice it at first. After all, we both lived under the same roof every night and we weren’t cheating on each other or spending too much time with our friends. But still, there was distance.

I vowed to fix it. I knew my husband and I needed to find something in common that we could unite over. Our interests are very different, so I knew there was no chance of successfully enjoying dance lessons or going to the gym together. We needed something we could enjoy together that would spark discussions and give us something to look forward to every night, TOGETHER. And then it hit me: binge watching Breaking Bad was the secret to saving our marriage…

Read the rest over at YourTango.com: Breaking Bad Saved My Marriage (No, Really)



Telling People Not to Get Married Young Makes Them Narcissistic

September 23, 2014

1 Comment

Reader Joseph recently took us to task for our advice to a twenty-four-year-old woman who said she likes her co-worker more than her boyfriend, but feels like maybe she should stay with her boyfriend because they have a “solid” relationship and her friends and family adore him. Our advice, in a nutshell, was, “Be twenty-four.” Have fun, flirt, date around, don’t settle down, etc, etc. But according to Joseph, it is exactly this approach that is causing young people to be so narcissistic and immature. Here’s his comment; what do you think?

Yes she is 24! So she should be mature enough to not think like a 15-16 year old kid. The problem with today’s society is that it keeps young men and young women in the ” kids” status by claiming you are too young to settle, in other words today’s philosophy is ” your too young to take on responsibility. No wonder today’s society is so narcissistic and immature, people back then at 16 plus where mature and forced to take on responsibility for their own live, stop using you are only 24 years old excuse to keep people in the Peter Pan syndrome, she is 24 she should be an mature adult and if she is not is time to become one. Grow up article writer.

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Comment of the Week: An Easy Trick to Avoid Ruining Your Relationship Forever

September 17, 2014

1 Comment


photo via flickr

One reader emailed us their best relationship advice, not in response to a specific post, but just ’cause. So we wanted to share:

Me and my girl broke up after 8 years together. She was wonderful and I was a fool. I did everything wrong. So my advice is:  if you’re thinking of doing something wrong towards your other half, close your eyes, imagine your life without her/him and if it looks better, do your thing. The heartache and depression I’ve been feeling is awful. It’s like being punched in the gut every minute of the day. Def would do a lot of things differently if I had it to do again.

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I Took My Kids to the Jeff Koons Retrospective (Oops)

September 10, 2014

2 Comments


from the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney

My family had an opportunity to visit New York City for a full week recently. It was the longest my husband and I (the Lo half of Em & Lo) had been there since having kids. Before breeding, we’d lived there for years, gorging on the countless cultural opportunities at our disposal. Post-spawn, we moved to the Hudson Valley and have only managed the occasional day-trip back. But thanks to friends whose summer plans left their kid-friendly Brooklyn apartment empty, we got to live the life of city parents, complete with a borrowed Maclaren (natch).

I was determined to pack it in:

  • MoMA – check!
  • Off-Broadway show with discount tickets from TKTS – check!
  • Row boat ride on The Lake in Central Park – check!
  • Outdoor family movie at South Street Seaport – check!
  • Visiting all 9 playgrounds of Brooklyn Bridge Park…in one day - check!

The only thing left was a visit to the Whitney to catch the popular Jeff Koons retrospective. With its bright bubblegum colors, its larger-than-life scales, its cartoonish sensibilities, it would be perfect for kids, right?

My husband had to work that day, so I hauled my daughter, 6, my son, 3, the snack bag and the stroller from Carroll Gardens all the way uptown on the F, and then the 6, in sweltering August heat. By the time we got to the Whitney, the kids were done. Not one to let something like my kids’ exhaustion get in the way of their cultural education or my own artistic enjoyment, I was determined to visit all six — count ‘em, six — floors of the show (it’s the first time a single artist has taken up so much real estate at the Whitney).

I felt a cool breeze coming off the ticket salesperson. Was it the poor fit of my mom jeans or my sensible shoes? Could he tell I was dragging these poor kids along against their will? Or did the fact that I failed to donate money to the museum beyond the cost of my ticket irk him? (Hey, kids tix are officially free. Plus, this new economy can be brutal on bloggers.) When I asked which floors were must-see for kids, I got no friendly warnings.

We started with what would be the surest kid-pleaser: the 4th floor, with its ginormous, metallic, balloon-animal dog; the rainbow-colored mountain of Play-Doh poop; and the oversized kitten hanging in a clotheslined sock. As we rode up the crowded elevator, I imagined my children’s eyes widening with wonder and their jaws dropping open with awe at these sights.

The elevator doors opened, we took a look around, and within 30 seconds they both told me they were ready to leave. This was going to be a challenge.

I kicked it into high gear, breezing through each gallery, swerving around patrons’ toes, wrangling the kids and reminding them about 20 billion times not to touch anything — all so we could get in and out without any meltdowns from my kids (or me). In my haste, I must have missed the small plaque that apparently gives a warning to parents and those with delicate sensibilities about the graphic content of the works around one corner.

So there we were, suddenly face to face with Elvis, a painting depicting a plastic blow-up toy in the shape of a lobster flanked by two images of topless (and, for all intents and purposes, bottomless) Playboy Playmates, with their silicone breasts and impossibly smooth skin. Kind of funny, if I’d had a second to think about it, but my visceral reaction was, I don’t want my daughter to think that this is what women are supposed to look like. I must have made some involuntary groan. It was the first time during our visit that my daughter really looked at the art. (Fortunately, my son was more interested in the intricacies of his belly button than the pictures on the walls.)

Pressing on — quickly, quickly — we turned another corner and found one of the mural-sized works from his 25-year-old “Made in Heaven” series, featuring a naked Jeff Koons and his Italian porn-star soon-to-be-wife (now ex). His penis and testicles and her pube-free vulva were at kid eye level. A woman behind me told her friend rather sternly — and loudly — “This is not appropriate for children.”

I panicked, mumbling something to my kids like, “Nothing to see here!”, and bee-lined it to the next, less scandalous room.

We made it out alive. The kids hopefully made it out unscarred. But I sure didn’t help matters. One might think a person who writes about sex for a living, endorses comprehensive sex education, uses accurate anatomical terms with her kids (e.g. wash your vulva; boys have penises, girls have clitorises), answers questions about where babies come from honestly and without shame, and tries to exude a positive body image in all states of dress (even if she has to fake it) would be able to handle her kids seeing nude artwork with aplomb and grace. But my fear of being perceived by strangers as a bad parent, along with my own deep-seated embarrassment, won out.

I realize now that my frazzled reaction made this nudity a bigger deal than it was, made it instantly taboo, and therefore gave it more power, mystery and allure than it would have had otherwise. After all, we all have bodies — and genitals — that come in different shapes and sizes; just as everybody poops, everybody is naked under their clothes. The most offensive thing about the painting of the couple was actually the incredibly tacky ’80s accessories the woman was wearing. (I mean, white lace thigh highs and a floral headband? Come on!) Even Elvis‘s fake boobs — which I am generally not a fan of, for both philosophical and aesthetic reasons — weren’t as offensive as some of the violence portrayed (and thus condoned) in contemporary kids’ cartoons and movies. But I’ve certainly let my kids watch those without as much guilt. (I mean, machine guns in Disney’s Cars 2? Come on!)

What I should have done was acted normal and unfazed, gotten through the museum in a calm and orderly fashion, then asked my daughter what she thought of the show and if she had any questions about what she had seen. Probably not a teachable moment on the ills of the cosmetic surgery industry or the benefits of pubic hair. But maybe something a little less Nudity = Shame.

Actually, what I really should have done was bitten off only what I and my kids could realistically chew, been content with seeing just the 4th floor, and then taken them to get ice cream, stat. But that’s another parenting article altogether.

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(Atrociously Ignorant) Comment: Bisexual Is Just an Excuse Gay Men Use

September 9, 2014

3 Comments

Sometimes, a comment on our site is so out there, so ill-informed, so close-minded, so staggeringly wrong that we feel compelled to share it, simply so that all of you can join in the chorus of disapproval. Please tell us, dear readers, that this commenter is in the minority amongst you! This post on bisexuality was submitted by reader Bobby B in response to the article, “Your Call: I Can’t Handle My Boyfriend’s Bisexuality”:

Your boyfriend is not a bi sexual (there is no such thing having sex with a person of the same gender makes yo a homosexual bi sexual is a word that homo’s have made up to lessen the sting of the fact that they can’t admit just what they are even to themselves) he is a straight up queer who has sex with men.

Your best bet would be to find a man who is not a queer and only has interist in sex witp persons of the opposite gender and then make sure that he does not run off and have sex with every menber of the opposite gender that he meets.

The likelyhood is that you will have a much better outlook on your new boyfriend if you were to stick to faithful hetrosexual males who are attracted to you rather than remaining with a homosexual who needs to have a woman around to convince himself that he is not queer only”bi sexual”.

Get rid of him and move on

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Comment of the Week: Give Your Spouse More Credit

September 4, 2014

0 Comments

photo via Flickr

When a reader asked ”Is Intellectual Inequality a Deal Breaker?“, Henry’s response concisely showed how having a better attitude — i.e. being more generous, looking at things from a more positive perspective — can make all the difference in a relationship: 

I’ve been married 14 years. I’ve always thought my non-college educated woman a bit “simple.” Recently though, she explained some things about the work she does in such an eloquent way that I realized that perhaps I was all along judging her on my experiences and priorities, not hers.

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Comment of the Week: How to Really Talk About Sex with Your Spouse

August 27, 2014

1 Comment

photo via Wikimedia

Reader Nikki dropped some serious wisdom this week in response to our post, “BDSM Saved My Life, But Is Ruining My Near Perfect Marriage” (we’re thinking we may have to start a Kinksters Anonymous support group to help out all these kink-stressed marriages):

Oh, damn. This is a tough situation. It sounds like you two are sexually incompatible and have some communication problems.

Some of what isn’t working sexually for you is a kink issue and part of it isn’t a kink issue. I’m going to address these separately, because I think they are distinct issues. The non-kink issue first. It sounds like you are missing things from the “vanilla” part of the menu, like more foreplay.

First, what I’m reading in your letter is that your wife hears requests for more of what you like as failures on her part. That needs to stop. The two of you need to work out a way to communicate about your sexual needs and desires without it becoming a source of tension or argument.

Second, it sounds like your wife is being rather sexually selfish. She refuses to have more foreplay, or allow you to go down on her, and only wants the kind of sex she likes? Relationships are about compromise. If the BDSM stuff freaks her out, that’s one thing. But would a little more vanilla kissing, touching, or oral sex really be all that difficult for her to indulge you in once in a while? I think not. Again, this is a communication issue.

For these issues, I suggest having an honest conversation about your sexual needs, and perhaps seeking a marriage counselor. Again, I reiterate that it’s important to separate out your kink from your vanilla sex life because there are distinct issues going on here.

The kink issue is a little less complicated and a little more complicated. It sounds like your wife just isn’t into BDSM, while you really miss it. If she’s just not into it, doesn’t like it, and it actually upsets her, you can’t expect her to do it. I say this as a kinkster myself. So you have three options: (1) resign yourself to giving up BDSM for good (which sounds unrealistic, given your fears about cheating); (2) end your marriage and search for a kinky partner; or (3) open the relationship on terms that you are both comfortable with. If your marriage really is as good as you say it is, it doesn’t sound like it’s worth blowing up your home for the sake of monogamy. You don’t even have to break monogamy to open your relationship sufficiently to satisfy your kinky needs. Lots of BDSM doesn’t involve what most people consider to be sex.

These issues might also be best addressed with the help of a therapist, because again, I think you guys have communication issues. If you do want to talk about the kink aspects of this problem with a therapist, I suggest you find a kink-friendly one, because otherwise, the therapist may fixate too much on the “pathology” of your kinks (despite the updates to the DSM). The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom has a Kink Aware Professionals directory you can use to search for therapists and marriage counselors in your area who are BDSM-literate and sex positive.

Best of luck to you. I hope you and your wife can reach a solution that makes you both happy and gets your relationship into a better place.

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