[Quick title clarification – I’m referring to female bisexuality versus male sexuality in this article]
For the longest time, I knew I was bisexual and I did nothing about that. I had lots of relationships with men, and was happy for the most part, but avoided getting close to women because they were scary. I felt I didn’t understand women, that they were complicated, immune to me bossing them about (like I do with men), capricious, generally untrustworthy, and willing to shame me for transgressions against an idea of femininity that I didn’t understand or match. Most of this, of course, was borne out by my personal experiences with the women I went to high school with, who on the whole were really horrible towards me, mostly because I didn’t fit in as a geek, tom boy, and someone who wasn’t born in the town (Bendigo is an incredibly insular town). I think I might have gotten over particular subsets of women being horrible to me if it had been confined solely to school and hadn’t continued on the workplace, with several female coworkers and a few female managers acting in the same way.
I slowly cultivated female friends who didn’t play games, were trustworthy, and built me up, but it took a long time, and a lot of hard work on my behalf. There were a few women I was interested in, but each time I came to the conclusion that those particular were not safe for me, that they’d attempt to manipulate me, shame me, be capricious, or betray my trust – either through things they’d say or the way they’d act in relation to me or other people.
For the longest time, women were far too scary to be in relationships with. I developed a method of testing the waters (with everyone, not just women) to see if people were safe. I stopped having secrets (well mostly – there are some things that I tell very few people), and I started telling everyone everything that they wanted to hear. You want to know how I manage three relationships at once, sure, you want to know how much I earn, sure, you want to know my sleep arrangements, sure. I decided that if I didn’t have any secrets then it’d be a lot harder for others to attempt to shame me or manipulate me with information because it was all out in the open. It then became a case of who judged me or acted poorly towards me (or others).
I say all this because I know that I am not a lone bisexual woman who is or has struggled with all the societal messages that we’re fed about women, and as a result struggle to approach women for fear of back stabbing, shaming or something else. I’ve met, and am friends with, many bisexual women who are confused about what we’re told about other women, and don’t know where to start in relation to approaching other women.
I cannot actually offer much advice, sadly. There are many women out there that I am incredibly cautious of. I’ve slowly gathered a close knit group of female friends (mostly also queer) who have demonstrated their trustworthiness, their awesomeness, and I am incredibly blessed to be their friends. I would never have met my female partner had it not been for my husband talking me up to her and her up to me (he is lovely too), and us being wonderfully compatible.
Does anyone have any good ideas on how to get this to work apart from patience, courage and good judgement?
I thought, now that I’d spent a shift at Sexpo and the organising and grumping about the whole thing is over, that I’d write a list of the good and bad things about Sexpo, because there are some really fantastic things about Sexpo that a lot of people don’t realise under all the sleaze and heteronormality.
Let’s start with all the positive stuff first. This will be a little long because there is one really great thing that needs to be pointed out, with a whole lot of background.
The ACCSEX Coalition. With the permission of the activists at Sexpo, I’m going to reproduce their brochure below so everyone knows what Accsex is. The thing I love about Accsex is that it makes Sexpo a safe (ish) place for disabled people to be, to discuss their needs with vendors of sex toys, and to be sexual beings enjoying what is going on. The fact that the activists are also people with disabilities really brings the message home to people.
The ACCSEX Coalition
We are a network of people who aim to assist consenting adults with disabilities to access their choice of sex, friendships, sex education, intimate relationships and the adult industry.
We recognise those social attitudes and structures around disability and sexuality interfere with the fulfilment of this aim.
We therefore see changing community attitudes and influencing social institutions as a major priority.
We believe that dominant attitudes need to be challenged, the foremost belief that people with disabilities are asexual, unattractive and unsuitable social and sexual partners.
Issues being looked at now
Physical and financial access
Research and Sexuality Education
Legal and ethical issues & discrimination
How you can be involved
Contribute to our information sharing – we want to know about research, education and social support activities
Help us to identify key issues that we as a group can help to address through our work
“Sexuality is often the source of our deepest oppression; it is also often the source of our deepest pain” [Finger, 1992: 9]
You may benefit from being a member of Accsex if:
You are a person with a disability and you want to meet people and work with other to create change;
you are a parent with a disability;
you are a partner/parent/carer of a person with a disability;
you provide services to people with disabilities;
your organisation is interested in service improvement;
you are an advocate, or from an advocacy organisation; and/or
you are a researcher or educator interested in sexuality and disability.
The social institutions that we wish to influence are:
Governments, so that they can fund initiatives and support legislative changes that facilitate the sexual choices of consenting adults with disabilities;
The Media, who nearly always represent people with disabilities using two dominant stereotypes. We are portrayed as either the tragic but brave “Supercrip” who triumphs over adversity, or as the pathetic and passive victim, the object of pity. We are never seen as consenting adults.
Attendant care agencies, so that they can train their staff and shape culture and policies that facilitate the sexual choices of consenting adults with disabilities
Providers of commercial sexual services and the adult entertainment and retail industries, so they can make their venues, goods and services accessible, affordable and inclusive of consenting adults with disabilities.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the ACCSEX Coalition, come to our meetings and/or link up with our E-group listing.
I’ve left off the names and personal contact details provided by ACCSEX because I don’t want them to be spammed to death by bots. If you are interested in finding out more about them, I’d start with the yahoo group listed above.
The bodies. The beauty in seeing people of all sizes attend an event that is mostly about sex. The fact that there were people of all sizes buying sex toys, lifestyle products, and generally being sexual beings. This also includes the fact that there are several clothing (corsetry, bustiers, underwear, lingerie, etc) vendors who are selling clothing in what is termed “plus sizes”.
The costumes. There are a huge number of people that dress up to go to Sexpo in all sorts of clothes. Makes people watching at my stall lots of fun.
The event is quite queer friendly. I organised the Bisexual Alliance stall – the volunteering, decorations, rosters, etc (James did the paperwork with the Sexpo organisers). Although some people almost cause themselves whiplash when they read our sign and then immediately turn away. Talking to other vendors, they’re very supportive of our presence and happy to engage. Those who approach, wherever they are on the LGBTIQ spectrum, they’re happy that we are a queer presence at Sexpo. Generally I have experienced or witnessed very little homophobia/biphobia or at Sexpo.
There are bits of overwhelming sleaze. Some vendors (a very small minority) are very sleazy and make me feel really uncomfortable. Some of the products being sold are somewhat ick to me.
The co-option of queer women’s sexuality for the male gaze
How bored the (female) pole dancers are if you actually look at them
The fact that the event is quite heteronormative
The music is too loud to hold conversations with others at times
The airbrushed [and thin and white] women on posters/brochures advertising various products or services
Overall, it is a very positive thing for our community stall to be present. We’re a queer presence in a straight assuming event, and welcomed by many. Organising the event is tedious, and spending time there can be boring sometimes, but generally it’s good to be out, proud and active.
I participated yesterday in the comments section of an article on The Age about infidelity and again whether or not monogamy is the answer to everything (it is, but not for everyone).
The comments, on the whole, were quite positive, very little slut shaming going on and some people opening up about how infidelity has hurt them. Quite a few members of Australia’s poly community (myself included) spoke about being ethically non-monogamous, how expecting that one person can fill all your needs is unrealistic and that with trust and honesty, insecurity and jealousy can be reduced.
One commenter agreed that one person could not meet all your needs, but that was what friends and family were for and asked why it always had to be about sex. I suggested, in response, that because sometimes it was. I gave two examples, of which they responded to only one. The first (the one that wasn’t responded to) was about non-monogamous bisexuals who wanted/needed the sexual contact of the gender of partner they weren’t seeing right now or felt more balanced when they had partners with different genders.
The second, which was responded to, was about BDSM and what did you do if your partner wasn’t into BDSM and you wanted that outlet. I was told by the commenter that they were a BDSM practitioner and BDSM is all about freedom and not sex. And that’s where I stopped playing and went and did something else. Because, you see, it can be all about sex.
Prescriptive responses like that tend to annoy me. It leaves no room for someone who wants their sex rough, if we stick with the example above, and for whom BDSM does not cease on penetration (as I’ve read it is “supposed to” in some books). Clearly there are multiple groups in the BDSM community who practice their flavour of BDSM in different ways. There is, apart from safe, sane and consensual, no right way to practice BDSM. There are things that work for some people and things that work for others. Telling me what BDSM is, as if it applies to EVERYONE else on the planet who is interested, dismisses my beliefs and experience with BDSM as not being correct or right or pure… basically that I did something else that wasn’t BDSM even if I call it that.
There is no one way for most things that people do. There is no one way to be gay, there is no one way to orgasm, there is no one way to be trans*, there is no one way to be disabled, there is no one way to be white, there is no one way to be a person of colour, etc. Each of these things are customised by me, my thoughts, experiences and feelings. The people I tend to associate with get this, thankfully, so I do not have to constantly fight to identify certain ways or to use language that fits me best. I am privileged in that way and grateful for it.
Welcome to the 29th Down Under Feminists Carnival. Thank you everyone for your submissions which I have organised as much as I can. I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I did, and that you continue to submit posts to an awesome carnival. Thank you so much to Chally, of Zero at the Bone and FWD/Forward and Radical Readers and Feministe for organising this carnival and letting me host it.
Thank you to Chally, Jo, Mary and Deborah for hunting down and finding most of the great posts to include this month. Thank you to everyone else who submitted their or other’s writings.
If I have used incorrect pronouns to identify any of the participants please let me know so that I can correct them. Any misuse is unintentional and due solely to me being unfamiliar with the author of the post.
If I have misrepresented/badly summarised your post, please let me know and I’ll correct it.
So, this carnival is big and full of fascinating reading. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it all together.
This month’s optional theme was Awesome Women.
So, put your feet up, down, sideways or however you feel comfortable and enjoy.
Ilaeria blogged about the three people who have had the biggest impact in her life, her mother and two grandmothers and share the lessons she learnt from them.
tigtog writes about Bell Hooks week at Hoydon About Town. Deborah at In a Strange Land, during one of her Friday Womanist posts quotes Bell Hooks.
Deborah from In a Strange Land blogged about the anniversary of Sufferage for Women in New Zealand (17 September 1893) and the hard work that was put into gaining signatures for the petition that helped make is possible.
Mary at Hoydon About Town has been awesome and has developed a Firefox bookmarklet to make submitting blog carnival posts easier. Please go and install so it is much easier to submit posts for the next carnival.
Media and society
Wildly Parenthetical at Hoydon About Town talks about Sexting and Slut Shaming and how bad the Minister for Home Affairs’s new campaign is for young women.
I spoke about Rampant Sexism in an edition of the MX where it suggested the women were different than men, that women should earn less than men for the sake of their heterosexual relationships and that women can steal men and that men can do nothing about it.
Pickled Think writes about media and societal pressure on men to propose regardless of what their girlfriends may feel about marriage because it seems that their feelings aren’t important (all girls want to marry right?), and Pickled Think also discusses the patriarchal institution of marriage and the lack of the “big gay proposal”. (The last line on the first comment is also gold).
Blue Milk reviews Radical Act, a documentary about queer/feminist musicians in the USA, made in 1995
Ju at transcendancing has written a review of Glitter Rose, a short story collection by an Australian author doing interesting and challenging things with female characters. The collection is published by a press that is also doing interesting and challenging things with a feminist focus in publishing.
Kim writes at Larvatus Prodeo about feeling sympathy for Stephen Conroy and the ongoing debate about the internet filter being more complex than liberties or the rights of adults.
Mary at Hoydon About Town wrote about #groggate and the outing of Grog Gamut’s legal name by The Australian. The scary thing about The Australian’s justification is that they’re arguing for the outing of anyone who attempts to influence politics (or anything else) regardless of the wish for anonymity.
There are many ways that the less powerful are silenced, and conflating having something to hide or keep private with being not worth listening to is one of them, and insisting on identity disclosure is another. Not all pseudonymous writers are using pseudonyms to ethical ends, this is abundantly clear to anyone who has ever been on the Internet. But insisting that only those who name themselves and state their interest to everyone who lives in the country can speak is far worse.
Ariane at Ariane’s little world, adds to the discussion regarding #groggate by explaining that a person is not their job.
Bodies and health
Ariane calls bullshit on obesity being the root of all evil and society’s with focus on fatness as a health issue. Ariane also points out the negative health consequences of dieting.
Split Milk talks about why she doesn’t want to engage in discussions about dieting and how important fat acceptance places are.
Many fat activists also identify as feminists and in my opinion the most important tenet that those two movements have in common is a core belief in bodily autonomy. Advocating for fat acceptance is about asking for freedom from oppression and prejudicial treatment.
You know what? Fuck you. You’re not me. You’re not that other person. You don’t know the circumstances surrounding why someone is the way they are unless they tell you. Yes, we all make superficial judgements but does that give you the right to be abusive or phobic? No.
Fat Heffalump shared her paper that she presented for the Australian Fat Studies conference this month. She shares the effect that the “war on obesity” has had on her and most likely has had on others.
Sam at fat dialogue writes about her experience with Control Top Underpants and how important making people uncomfortable is as a really powerful critical and political intervention.
Julie at the Hand Mirror writes about Thin Privilege and how it isn’t all that great.
The Thin versus Not Thin dichotomy is yet another false division that just sets women against each other. We need to fight, together, against a culture which judges us on our physical appearance, whether that appearance is one that conforms or not.
Steph writes at LadyNews that although Christina Hendricks is great, and the media acceptance of her not typically represented body type is also great, having her body shape/type as one to aspire to is not a good thing.
Pickled Think shreds an article discussing a new sitcom hopefully not coming to a screen near you, and how fat really isn’t coming back to Hollywood.
Health and disability
Jo at Wallaby writes about Accessibility and Sydney’s public transport, focusing on Sydney’s buses.
Michelle at The Red Pill Survive Guide (*trigger warning – discussion of suicide*) writes about World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September, and talks about how she understands that level of despair.
Chally at Zero at the bone, writes about taking a sickie and how hard it is for people with disabilities to take a “sickie” for legitimate reasons let alone “bludging”.
Helen at FlyingBlogspot.com talks about her ordinary and what she does to manage day to day. Helen also discusses how her ordinary may change with a review of her medication and trying some new treatment.
Race and Racism
Hexpletive blogged about the NSW Parliament amending the NSW State Constitution to finally recognise indigenous Australians as the first people in the State.
I wrote a piece about Boat People and how it should not be an issue.
Queen Emily at An Army of Rabbits discusses the concept of whiteness and the difference between white in Australia and white in the USA.
Jo at Wallaby writes a post about an anti-violence march asking some very pertinent questions for you to answer before you read Blue Milk’s post below.
Blue Milk writes about the march in Alice Springs by Aboriginal men to “stop the violence” and the lack of media coverage about positive Aboriginal stories.
Steph at 天高皇企鹅远 writes about japan ken and barbie, how they’re in Japanese inspired clothing and not actually Japanese, leading to the fetishisation and exotification of non Western cultures.
Chally wrote at Feministe about one of her favourite bit of cognitive dissonance.
stargazer at The Hand Mirror wrote about how collective responsibility is not productive, and states that, “i still don’t accept that i have any responsibility to apologise for the actions of someone i’ve never met and have absolutely no chance of influencing.”
the news with nipples writes Another burqa blog post and reluctantly gives Sergio Redegalli some of her time while she discusses how wrong his latest “art” work is. Then asks why the debate about burquas is still being controlled by people who do not wear burqas.
Blue Milk talks about how Stephanie Rice’s apology to queer people was not adequate and points out all the flaws in that apology very nicely.
Steph at 天高皇企鹅远 went to WorldCon and discusses her experiences with two panels, one on queer themes in SF, which she had to walk out of and the other chaired by a trans academic which was a far more positive experience.
PharaohKatt at Distinctly Disgruntled (*trigger warning – discussion of suicide*) deconstructs Bob Katter’s comments regarding the apparently non-existent LBGTIQ population in his electorate, the high rate of suicide of LBGTIQ people and Bob Katter’s comments about suicide on a Q&A segment.
I think the dynamic is deeply conditioned by internalised queerphobia. Specifically, internalisation of the double standard that there’s a threshold of queerness that someone has to prove in order to be ‘really’ queer (when there’s no such threshold for heterosexuality).
Maia at The Hand Mirror discusses a proposed bill in New Zealand which would re-criminalise street sex workers and how the relevant political parties have voted.
It is specifically targeting street sex workers. Street sex workers do not generally have $2,000 to pay a fine. The fines, when they’re awarded, won’t have the magic power to stop someone being poor and working as a sex worker, it’ll just make them poorer. It won’t make street sex work disappear, it’ll just make it harder, more dangerous, and more marginalised.
Steph at vegan about town discusses how veganism, race and ethnicity intersect and how calling for China to be “wiped from the face of the earth” for the way they treat animals is hypocritical when every country mistreats animals.
Maia at The Hand Mirror also discusses how there is a connection between problems the way food is discussed and the problems with way food is produced and looks at this under a feminist framework.
Shiny writes about how she is all out of cookies and isn’t going to give them to people who meet basic human standards of decency.
Callistra writes about safety and safe spaces, what they can be and how they are created.
Safety and feelings of safe spaces are also a place of sanctuary. It’s an intimately known quality, where so much discussion has already occured that the system can meet your needs. It means when you’re miserable and need company to listen to, you have friends who can answer that need. Or if you’re miserable and need to talk; you know you can have these needs met. It means if you need to sit quietly and absorb group energy, you can do so without worrying what others might think, say or do. I noticed this as being ‘a place where you can exist without struggle of identity’.
Callistra also writes about what connections are and how they contribute to safe spaces.
Writing at The Hand Mirror, anjum writes about women in minority cultures, who as feminists want to criticise and change the culture, but who fear that it will only give ammunition to haters in the majority culture.
steph writes at vegan about town regarding exclusionary language in the vegan and animal rights movement in Australia and how veganism and the animal rights movement are often seen as white/Anglo-Saxon, middle-class movements.
Pickled Think writes about surviving the Christchurch earthquake and how she feels right now.
Blue Milk writes about breastfeeding and how she felt when she first started and how she feels about it now.
Hexpletive writes about the 9th World Indigenous Women and Wellness Conference she attended and presented at in Darwin and then goes on to discuss the other Conferences and Conventions that she is interested in for the remainder of the year. I’m going to have to look some of these up.
Spilt Milk shares an experience of encountering penis graffiti with her young daughter and recounts Helen Barne’s Young Adult novel ‘Killing Aurora’, in which the protagonist draws vagina dentata graffiti in response to penis graffiti.
Spilt Milk wrote about her childhood comforter and how that was taken away from her, and now how the childcare centre her daughter goes to wants to take away her daughter’s teddy bear.
Queen Emily writes at An Army of Rabbits, two (related) things that never happened to her in Australia, specifically the assumption that she’d been to church followed by an exhortation to keep god in her heart.
Chally wrote about how social justice can also be about staying silent and doing what is right for you versus the wider world (this post could fit under most categories, and I struggled to find the best fit).
Wallaby writes about how prioritising and choosing your energy drain is important for your wellness, and your choices in this regard should be admired, fostered and encouraged.
tigtog clearly states for the record why banning commenters and refusing comment publication is not censorship as blogs are privately owned spaces.
the news with nipples writes about the petition put together by Plan Australia to make September 22 the International Day of the Girl. You can sign the petition here.
Natalie at definatalie.com writes about her feral leghair and why she’s going to grow it. She includes a great discussion about The Gruen Transfer and their discussion about redefining femininity based on advertising.
steph discusses at LadyNews the current Jadelle (a contraceptive implant) furore in the media. steph advocates choice and education for women, which some of the quotes in the article also supported.
Megan at Craft is the New Black writes about the need for the ‘generations’ of feminism to recognise and celebrate each other’s worth.
In a post to mark Women’s Suffrage Day in New Zealand, Ele at Home Paddock writes of the need for us to exercise our hard won right to vote in the upcoming local body elections.
*Trigger warnings – posts in this section discuss violence against women*
The Dawn Chorus discusses Street Harassment and how when reporting it or writing down what has been said, the tone of what was said is missing which is one of the reasons why street harassment is often belittled or dismissed.
Blue Milk explains that asking is sexy and that without consent it isn’t sex and the comments are great too.
I don’t know why the idea has persisted that asking for consent is necessarily a clinical business – what is stilted about – more? do you want to? do you like? Because “mood-killer”? Are you kidding me? That moment when they close the space between you both and ask you to put your cards on the table – is this on or not, can I do this with you – is one of the most heart-flippingly exciting moments in all of existence.
Jo at Wallaby wrote about the treatment received by two women who had been sexually assaulted in different legal systems and how much those legal systems differed.
XY writes about why he won’t be walking in Reclaim the Night/Take Back the Night march and provides and excellent resource (if you need one) to explain to some men why they are not always welcome to march.
AnneE at The Hand Mirror takes some relevant material from a paper on people who abuse their partners.
blue milk at Hoydon About Town writes about the strange behaviour of the state and society when a mother whose daughter was victim of incest is upset and protective of her daughter when pornography is displayed at a 7-11.
And isn’t it a strange world where police can be called in to protect your right to display pornography? So unquestioning are we about it that the newspaper article actually describes what unfolded as a “bizarre incident”. It is the same strange world where it is estimated that up to one in four girls will be sexually abused during their childhood.
Both Deborah from In a Strange Land and I wrote about Brendan Black and his opinion piece in Fairfax media on breastfeeding and breasts. Unfortunately he fails terribly at being a feminist ally when he could have done very well.
Jo at Wallaby suggests that men should not go out alone otherwise they might, “be accused of, and/or commit, indecent assault, sexual assault, rape or other sexual violence.”