The Cycle of Abuse, Celebrity-Style with Rihanna and Chris Brown

28 02 2009

When I first heard about Rihanna’s attack, I braced myself for the rumours to come. Here is an obviously very public relationship and I knew the mixture of such a private issue (domestic violence) with such public figures would either be really good or really bad. Mostly bad.

One thing that has consistently pissed me off is the commentary that celebrities have been saying about the incident known as “Domestic Disturbia.” First of all, I never understood why OTHER PEOPLE should comment about someone’s relationship, especially when they are in such prominent positions that they can’t really say anything. The support for Chris Brown was appalling. I don’t know how many times I read some male celeb/artist saying how they were friends with Brown and would support him and know he just made a bad mistake. THIS IS WHAT HELPS ABUSERS TO ABUSE. There is no reason to stop. Many abusers are prominent in their communities and very respected; they care about what others think about them. This is why they put so much effort to looking good in public, but don’t hesitate to do what they want when no one is watching. Unfortunately, we have become so concerned with losing a friend or hurting someone’s feelings that we’d still support someone who obviously does not know how to treat someone else.

Another issue that has annoyed me is that oftentimes people would say things about Chris’ character. “He’s a good guy” they say. But when asked about Rihanna? “She’s a beautiful girl.” Is there nothing else to be said about her? Is there nothing valuable about her other than her looks and fame? Would this incident be less upsetting if Rihanna wasn’t beautiful but society’s standards?

Anyway, the cycle of abuse has proceeded to the next step in front of us. Reading through the posts of Ohnotheydidn’t (yes, I am guilty of reading it every so often), I see the progression of the relationship’s public cycle of abuse (we don’t know how things have been behind closed doors). Things have been going well between them. Things escalate to an act of abuse. They break up. Brown sends Rihanna gifts (jewelry, flowers, etc) and calls her to wish her well on her birthday. Apologizes. They finally get back together.

As upset as I am that they got back together, I must say that I am not surprised. The LAPD has been reluctant to officially charge Brown because it’s a high profile case (let’s be serious, it would be difficult even if it weren’t a high profile case) and Rihanna didn’t press charges. It must have been heartbreaking to go through such a horrific ordeal publicly and then to not be able to be comforted by your significant other. The overwhelming loneliness makes it difficult and I’m sure both parties are thinking over the incident repeatedly, thinking that they could change and keep the incident from happening again.

A lot of people are surprised by her actions. People have even gone as far to say she deserves it now or they hope she gets beaten again. Shit like that only helps the abused to stay with their abusers. The cycle of abuse varies. The abuser can convince the abused that it is their fault; perhaps the abuser says that the other started it and if they behaved differently the abuser wouldn’t “have” to hurt the other. Oftentimes people have the misconception if they’re not beaten on a “regular” basis (whatever that means) that they are not in an abusive relationship.

There are so many factors that many cannot relate to, yet people are choosing to put in their two cents. Well, here are my two cents. Watch what the fuck you say. And don’t fucking judge. We need to educate ourselves. The ignorance about abusive relationship needs to end. We need to speak out. Instead of putting the burden on Rihanna to be a spokesperson/model for all abused women out there, how about we take on responsibility ourselves and strive to do our part.

We can start by learning and understanding.

Ooh Boobies! And more boobies!

28 02 2009

In “Stupid Boob Behavior” Cosmo wonders why there seems to be an increasing trend of young women exposing their breasts in public whenever and wherever they want. In the second paragraph author Michelle Stacey writes:

At concerts, festivals, college parties, and athletic events, chicks are grinning and baring their boobs. Which begs the question: Why are so many young women making their breasts public property? And who really ends up getting the best end of this deal – the girls who say all this flaunting makes them feel empowered and free or the men ogling them?

Calling women “chicks”? It’s supposed to be a cutsey word but it’s just belittling, condescending, objectifying and offensive. The questions that she poses are legitimate and relates to the whole issue of whether women are being active, autonomous agents when they exhibit their bodies. However, there are many things about the article that irk me and I do not think that Stacey does a good job of critically addressing the questions she asks.     

Also, as I scrolled down while reading the article I couldn’t help but cringe at the side bar that linked articles like “30 Things to do with a naked man,” “What his body language is telling you,” “What men really like in bed” and “How to snag a rich guy.” Not only is this extremely heteronormative, but it also completely eliminates female desire from the picture. For a magazine that’s supposed to be for “fun, fearless females”, one of the most popular magazines that women read for sex advice, why is there nothing about female pleasure? (And don’t they run out of ways to drive him wild? It seems like there’s always something about how to please your man on every cover.)

Under the heading “Why Girls Go Wild” Stacey writes, “All you have to do is turn on the TV or cruise the Internet for a few minutes to observe the current exhibitionistic climate.” What she completely forgets to mention is you know, just browse through Cosmo. If you look at their cover models or just the models in the magazine, the women are generally hypersexualized and bare their cleavage. A professor cited in the article also notes that women these days “are exposing themselves more, with very low-slung pants and very skimpy tops that show the belly”. Again, open any issue of Cosmo and you’ll see models wearing exactly what he describes, and sometimes even less than that.

Stacey does a poor analysis of how alcohol factors into the equation. She writes:

…there is no question that being “drunk and stupid” is indeed often another key element in the process of “going wild.” The AMA [American Medical Association] spring-break study firmly put the blame on booze for girls’ misbehavior during what the AMA’s president characterized as “a dangerous binge fest.” But which comes first, the alcohol or the desire to flash? “Alcohol may partly enable some of this behavior,” says M. Lynne Cooper, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Missouri at Columbia and an expert in alcohol use and risky behavior.

 There have been many conversations about the role of alcohol in hook-up culture and boobie-flashing culture, but one thing that hasn’t been mentioned is how many young women feel the need to alcohol as a social license in order to be sexual. The larger issue here is that we live in a misogynist culture that not only simultaneously devalues and overvalues sex (sex scandals always make headlines and it’s what sells, yet why is abstinence-only sex education dominant?) but also sends women contradicting messages about their sexuality (like the whole virgin/whore dichotonomy). Women may feel unable to explore and pursue their sexual side unless they are under the influence and may use alcohol as an excuse for their sexual behavior because women aren’t supposed to be sexual anyway (we’re supposed to be sexy but not sexual, we’re supposed to be desired and desirable but “pure” and virginal).

Perhaps the best part of the article is the part that says:

“Young women today are children of the sexual revolution,” says Donna Lisker, PhD, director of the Duke University Women’s Center, “and many have grown up with the explicitly feminist message that they should be proud of their bodies. So they can cast their behavior as a form of feminism — as girl power, being in charge of their own sexuality.”

Are you really in charge of and owning your sexuality when your actions are influenced by patriarchal, heteronormative, misogynist, objectifying ideas that equate a woman’s beauty and worth to simply what your body looks like? Are you really in charge of and owning your sexuality when you flaunt your body expressly for the male gaze and to get male attention?

Don’t get me wrong – I wear make up sometimes, I wear high heels sometimes, I even wear skimpy clothes sometimes, but I don’t think that you can equate feminism with buying into patriarchal standards of beauty and offering your body up for (male) objectification and consumption. Is it feminist to consign yourself to being just a sexual object to please the ogling eyes of men? It’s feminist to love your body and embrace it the way it is without objectifying it as a way to get sexual attention.

My main problem with this article is the hypocrisy in it: how can Cosmo question why women are so into publicly baring their breasts when the whole magazine is basically all about telling women (even the ones who go around flashing people in public, the very women whose motives they are questioning) that it is empowering to display themselves as sexual objects. The whole magazine is dedicated to the public consumption of female bodies which makes it so hypocritical to feature an article that so innocently wonders gee, why do women like to show their breasts so much? Well Cosmo, take a good look at yourself and you’ll find out why.

OMG, Just Say the M word!

28 02 2009

Menstrual cramps.  Many women dread the arrival of our periods because of painful cramping, headaches, bloating, and a variety of other symptoms.  Menstrual cramps are thought to be related to natural hormone-like substances called prostaglandins which cause contraction of the uterus.  Women use Tylenol, Midol, chocolate, heat pads, and a plethora of other home remedies in an attempt to get rid of cramps.

Go ahead and look it up online.  Ask your friends how they relieve their cramps.  You will probably get a ton of semi-useful advice.  Regular physical activity, yoga, balanced diet, herbal remedies, oral contraceptives, chocolate, bananas, and even socks filled with rice and heated in the microwave are said to be effective ways to relieve cramps.  It is rare that you will find a site or book that recommends sex as a relief for cramps.  But many women find sex while on their periods (especially when experiencing abdominal pain) to be thoroughly unappealing.

Why does sex relieve menstrual cramps?  An orgasm causes your uterus to contract.  This enables it to use up excess prostaglandins.  Some say that sex can relieve pain by stretching out the contracting uterine muscle.  Others argue that cramping is caused partially by blood pooling up in the abdomen, especially in the uterine/cervical tissues, and sex with orgasm clears up some of the congestion that causes cramping in the first place.  Whatever the reason, many women find that sex during menstrual cramps completely relieves their symptoms!

But when the few internet sites that recommend sex for the relief of menstrual cramps discuss the topic, the conversation is disturbingly hetero-centric.  Plus, some sites say that sexual intercourse can at times actually worsen cramps if you are in a position where the uterus can become disrupted.  It really seems to be the orgasm, not the act of heterosexual intercourse that is effective in cramp relief.  Even the rare sites that are comfortable recommending sex seem to completely leave out the lesbian and bisexual population, or the huge population of women who do not achieve orgasm in heteronormative sexual intercourse, and only achieve orgasm by clitoral stimulation.  Some sexologists have suggested there may be ways of moving your body during heterosexual sex so that the tip of the clitoris comes into contact with your partner’s pelvis, and you can achieve orgasm during intercourse.  But this has not been confirmed, and as many as 75% of women have never had orgasm by penile thrust alone.

Well, here comes the M word….MASTURBATE.  I am absolutely perplexed as to why nobody ever recommends masturbation as a relief for menstrual cramps.  One of the closest recommendations I have seen is a veiled comment by user elizabelis on  “I don’t think intercourse is necessarily the best way to go about relieving cramps through orgasm. We’re all grownups, I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate…be creative!”

Many women report their most intense orgasms as occurring during masturbation.  It has been repeatedly suggested that women achieve orgasm more quickly and more pleasurably during masturbation.  Face it, most women know best how to please themselves.  Female masturbation is often necessary to know how to achieve pleasure in other forms of sexual activity.  And female masturbation is a completely healthy and safe way to achieve sexual pleasure and relieve tension without a partner.

But female masturbation seems to be a huge taboo in our society, so it is not surprising that advocating masturbation in relief of menstrual cramps is virtually unheard-of.  Masturbation could be a great way to relieve cramps safely and naturally, without a partner.  Of course, partner sex with orgasm also works, but many women do not have sexual partners at all times or do not feel inclined to engage in sexual activity with a partner during their period.

There are more than twice as many nerve fibers in the clitoris (about 8,000) than there are in the entire penis.  The most orgasms ever recorded in one hour in a research setting is 17 in the case of male orgasms.  In the case of women, the number is a shocking 134.  For lack of a better way to put it, we’ve got this really cool thing down there, and it is sad that so many women are so afraid to talk about it, or even to use it at all.  Just say the M word!