I Might Have a Nice Ass, But You’re Still an Asshole.

This is an article I wrote for Hollaback Philly, a non-profit dedicated to ending street harassment. They’ve posted it on their blog, which I really hope you go and check out. Hollaback is in many other cities as well.

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I distinctly remember walking down the sidewalk with my friends at the age of thirteen, getting honks and lewd comments hurled at us. I repeat: WE WERE THIRTEEN. Imagining ourselves cool and grownup, we would give offending drivers the finger and gleefully yell “Perv!” as loud as we could. After the shock of the first time or two, I considered it old hat in the nonchalant way that kids who don’t know better have. Maybe it had happened to me earlier even than thirteen, because I developed very early — but if it did, it was too traumatizing for me to not block out of my memory.

I’m in my early thirties now, and not much in the way of street harassment has changed. I’ve heard everything from “Nice ass,” and “Show me your tits,” to the relatively milder “You’re looking good today,” and “Hey baby.” I’ve heard it all, and I don’t care what the words are, I hate them all. I no longer have the blase attitude of laughing and yelling back, because no matter what I do, I’ll be called a bitch, or maybe worse. I hate that I have to fear speaking up, fear threats of violent confrontation, fear for my safety for the grave crime of being a woman in public. “What, I give you a compliment and you don’t even look at me? Bitch.” “You act like I’m not here? Bitch.” “I was being nice. Bitch.” Bitch. Bitch. Bitch.

Street harassment is not about compliments. It’s certainly not about being nice. It’s about intimidation and dehumanization, about objectification and making the recipient feel powerless and scared while the perpetrator feels powerful and aggressive. It’s about keeping its targets firmly in a place of submission and fear, and perpetrators (in my personal experience, they have invariably been men, of all races) in a place of power.

I’m a survivor of abuse. It happened early and often up through my early to mid 20’s, and I’ve spent years coming to terms with it and learning that healing is a journey, not a destination. For me, part of being a survivor and not a victim, part of continually healing, is speaking up — of ensuring that through my words and actions that neither I nor others are silent victims ever again. But even this is a journey, not a destination. It’s exhausting at times, terrifying, daunting; but also exhilarating, empowering, and deeply fulfilling.

Street harassment almost always catches you unaware. I am usually biking, concentrating on navigating Philly traffic and deep in my own thoughts. “Nice ass,” along with a jeering face staring back at me from a car as they drive ahead of me, violently tears me out of the present and can take me all the way back to my abuse — despite the years of therapeutic work I’ve done for myself. It doesn’t matter whether a flashback lasts for seconds, minutes, hours — or even if I’d never been abused at all, and there was nothing to which to flash back. Street harassment makes my heart pound, makes my stomach churn, and it makes me absolutely seeing-red livid. It doesn’t matter whether I’m wearing a potato sack or a ball gown, or even, as in the case of Philly Naked Bike Ride, nothing at all. You have no right to talk to me like that. Harassment is illegal in the workplace, at school, at home — pretty much anywhere that’s indoors. So why is it that when we’re outside, it’s like the Wild West? It’s violent, it’s wrong, and it needs to stop.

I am deeply passionate about fighting injustice with my words, which, paired with my intelligence, are the mightiest weapons I possess. I use words to reclaim myself, to reclaim my body and my soul. I write romance, and I write erotica, and I love that I am able to make a living at it. I write other genres too, and plan to eventually publish those as well. I love my queer sexuality, and I love that I am free inside myself to be able to claim it without shame or self-reprisal. I love that I can use words and verbal images in any way I like to reclaim my soul from my broken past, and to create my own future.

Despite what the children’s chant says, words can hurt you — but it fails to mention that they can also heal you. That’s why the growing Hollaback movement is so damn brilliant. It fights words with words, voices with voices, and shows the silent ones that it’s okay to speak up, that they are not alone. It empowers the victimized and gives them a constructive outlet for their fear and rage. Hollaback is a brilliant concept, one that I hope will soon create positive change in policies, laws, and cultures.

Not all words are created equal, and we all know it. You have a voice. Use it for positive change.

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A Death in the Family

I don’t have much in the way of family. My mom passed away unexpectedly four years ago this month. I’ve been estranged from my father since I was 14, and my younger sister for a number of years now.

I had helped Snicky’s mother give birth to him on June 30, 1999, and kept him warm inside my shirt when he was a tiny newborn kitten as his littermates were born. There were eight in all, with one stillborn.

When my mom died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2009, I took Snicky in. He was a beautiful Maine Coon-Persian mix. He was so scared, and he clung to me; I cooed to him, telling him it was all right and don’t worry. I don’t think he ever forgot that… he was devoted to me for the rest of his life.

Snicky was originally her cat, and one of the most loving, affectionate cats I’ve ever met. Snicky loved people, and loved to talk — very opinionated, in fact. He was quite dog-like in a way; he would always greet me at the door, and would hang out with me and my guests if anyone came over. He would jump up into strangers’ laps, and charmed everyone he met, even self-proclaimed cat haters. He invariably followed me around the house and always wanted to be where I was. He was a charismatic people person, for sure.

If I was doing a sewing project, or any kind of interesting unusual thing, he would sit right next to me, watching and supervising. I used to say he was my project manager. He spent a lot of time shoving himself between my lap and my keyboard, insisting on blocking my view and making it hard to type.

He liked to knock over the kitchen trash if there was anything interesting in there (he loved raw chicken and beef, and would go crazy any time he heard the pop of the vacuum-sealed containers. I’d give him the empty ones and he’d lick up the juices.

I had trained him to jump up on laps, and he loved to sit in my lap — especially when I was busy doing something like knitting or computering.

He used to be an outdoor cat when he was my mom’s, but when I took him in after her death he was exclusively indoors. He would sit in the window and stare at the birds. Pigeons were particularly daring, sitting right on the window sill while he made those anxious little hunting cat clicks and whirrs, flicking his tail. He was a great mouser, as well. When he was outdoors, my mom had said he would bring home 4-5 mice a week. In my apartment, he caught at least two that I know of, though it was probably more.

He loved to sleep in bed with me, and often he would curl up in my arm, just like a teddy bear. Many times I’d wake up to find him there. Sometimes he’d sleep on my chest, or if I were on my side, drape himself over my waist. He liked being picked up and cuddled, and had a bit of a ragdoll temperament. He was a huge purrball, and he loved to purr, often and loudly. When he was really happy, he’d give me little kisses (gentle licks with the soft tip of his tongue). He liked to “monorail” my arm; he’d lie along the length of my arm, his warm belly pressed against my forearm.

Snicky had kidney disease and some upper respiratory problems due to the slight flattening of his face, putting pressure on his sinuses. It’s a common thing with Persians, although he didn’t have one of those super-squished faces. He was very sick towards the end, and antibiotics weren’t helping. I was going to take him to the vet today, but when I went to get him, I found him dead.

He was the only family I had, and now he’s gone. I’m glad he’s not suffering anymore, and he knew he was loved, and loved unconditionally in return.

I love you, Snicky. I hope you’re with Mama now.

Snicky, 30 June 1999 – 30 April 2013

My not-so-helpful helper
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A Fragment From My Journal

March 12, 2013

Unfortunately, there will be people, many people, who say they love you and then will utterly shatter your love and trust. They will probably be vindictive and hateful about it too, for no reason other than deep inside, they feel guilty about what they did to you.

Fortunately, you are not dead, and you don’t need these people in your life. If they once served you, they are now as dead as last summer’s flowers. They lit your life for a while, and are now dead.

Find new flowers.

Going Viral…

I posted my article, “Why I Am a Feminist (or, Applied Examples of the Prevalence of Rape Culture)” on Facebook two days ago and it has BLOWN. UP. Over 9,000 views in less than 48 hours! Woot! Not to mention, the discourse it has caused in the comments has really made me happy. My deepest thanks to everyone’s interest, shares, and comments.

Philly Gay Calendar saw it and wanted me to publish it on their site, which is exciting and encouraging. Please go over there, and show it some love!

In other news, I’ve been working on outlining my novel which I started for NaNoWriMo in November. I think I was way too disorganized and didn’t really have a battle plan, and so I got discouraged and put it aside for a while. It was constantly in the back of my mind though, poking at me, wanting to be born, and I knew I had to figure out just how to go about this novel writing business!

I got a piece of software called Snowflake Pro and it is actually making a HUGE difference to my planning and workflow. In fact, what I originally thought was going to be a single novel is looking like an epic trilogy at this point, and I have the first well underway when it comes to outline and characters.

I’m tentatively looking at a length of 110,000-140,000 words. A good deal of what I wrote in November needs reworking, and I’m planning on writing 32,000 words next month for Camp NaNoWriMo. However, I am moving to a different part of Philly this week, so I hope I have time for everything. Anyway, it’s tentatively called Heart of Ice, first in the Aeternitas: Goddess of Time trilogy. Those titles may well change, but I’m happy with them for now.

Why I Am a Feminist (or, Applied Examples of the Prevalence of Rape Culture)

Here’s a true story. Last night, I was hanging out at a pretty chill bar, having some beers and just having a nice time. Three guys and a girl came in and sat near me. They seemed to be about college age, and I paid them little mind. One guy seemed to take notice of me, came over and started talking to me. I already had a good feeling where this was going, believe me.

“Who are you here with?”

“Myself.”

“Ohh!” he grinned smugly and reached a friendly arm around my shoulders. I stiffened, but attempting subtlety with this guy was like playing a Mozart concerto for a warthog. He continued to have a distinct lack of regard for personal space during this entire encounter. I pulled away, and kept having to, again and again, as he pressed his body “casually” against my side.

I had been talking to the bartender about how I’m moving to a different part of the city. The guy next to me started saying, don’t move, I’ll cry, we should hang out, we should get married, hahaha. You know, in that joking-but-not-really sort of way. I said no, I don’t think my girlfriend would like that.

He stared at me in disbelief.

“I’m gay.”

“Are you really?” he seemed dubious. You know, just because I don’t fit whatever the damn stereotype of a lesbian is, doesn’t mean this shit doesn’t piss me off after a while. But I was amiable enough still, even at that point.

“Yes, really.”

Then came the questions, the utterly unoriginal and predictable questions…

“Hypothetically, if you were straight, would you find me attractive?”

“Hypothetically, if you were gay, would you find your friend attractive?”

He guffawed and made a joke of it. I settled for telling him there is no hypothetical, because I’m not straight. He was good looking enough for sure, but he was also smugly self-assured to the point of intolerable cockiness, and that is SO unattractive in anyone, regardless of sex.

“How do you know you’re gay? Are you sure?”

“How do you know you’re straight?” I retorted. Another offhand joke.

“So you’ve never dated a guy?” I didn’t find this worthy of answering. And so on and so forth.

I shot him down, again and again. Apparently, though, “you’re so pretty” is a valid excuse to ignore increasingly not-so-subtle hints to go away. Because, apparently, pretty women NEED to be convinced, cajoled, and outfoxed despite what they may have to say in the matter. Too bad for him, it’s a rare person who can run any sort of intellectual circles around me.

“So can you give me tips on how to make girls like me?” I wasn’t sure whether this was some kind of facetious reverse psychology, though now, looking back, I really don’t think he was clever enough for that. I just sort of rolled my eyes in answer.

There were plenty more questions, liberally interspersed with complaints that I was mean, an asshole, and that I should be nicer to him. I pointed out dryly that no one forced him to come over to me, and that despite my “meanness” he was still glued to my side. Yet another hint for him to go away, and it was laughed off: “Yeah, well you’re pretty.”

I was there first, though, and other than him, had been enjoying my night, so I didn’t feel like I should be the one to have to move. Hey, I’m stubborn like that. He was annoying, but somewhat tolerable in a “look at this dumb asshat” kind of way. Until.

“Have you ever kissed a guy?”

I didn’t answer. It’s none of his business. (Yes, but I wasn’t about to encourage him. I know more than well enough from experience.)

“So,” he pushed, “would you like to try?” I’d had enough.

“You’re disgusting and rude. Get the fuck away from me.”

He tried to play it off as a joke; then, seeing that I was having none of it, turned to one of his friends and called me a “feminist” in a decidedly mocking tone. I tartly informed the lot of them that “feminist is not a pejorative, and neither is gay, for that matter.”

Blank stares. They didn’t know what “pejorative” means — big surprise — and I had to explain… yeah.

Then another guy in his group joined in on ganging up on me, saying condescending things, and I was really starting to get mad. Meanwhile, Douchebag #1 was making little comments about what an asshole I am, and that I didn’t need to be so “mean” to him and his friends.

Throughout this, their female friend meekly tried once or twice to tell them to leave me alone, with little to no effect. They ignored her, and the three guys kept up the hateful diatribe. The kicker was when Douchebag #1 called me “this feminist idiot.”

REALLY??

“Get the fuck away from me before I punch you.”

“I’ll call the cops on you if you touch me.”

“Oh, so a big man like you can’t handle a little ‘feminist idiot’ like me?”

He kept making little comments to his friends, just loud enough for me to hear. It was clearly a case of sour grapes, and I would have laughed if I hadn’t been so angry.

“No wonder straight girls don’t like you. It’s because you’re an insufferable douchebag.”

“Oh, I can get all the girls I want, it’s easy.” I raised an eyebrow, remembering the query for help with said girls not too much earlier.

“Ha, is that so? Why are you bothering me then? Go find one of them and leave me the fuck alone. You’re disgusting.”

He got pretty huffy at this. “Me, disgusting? You’re disgusting.” This from the charmer who was trying to make out with me ten minutes before. Sour grapes, indeed. I was fed up, and turned to the bartender.

“Get these fucking misogynist assholes away from me, please.” Thankfully, the bartender had my back at last and told them to get out. Douchebags numbers 1 and 2 went outside, along with their mouse of a female friend. Finding himself left alone, the third guy came up to me, vaingloriously trying to defend his comrades-in-misogyny.

“They’re not usually like that, they’re just drunk, you don’t have to be mean. Don’t take it out on me, I wasn’t saying anything. But I guess you’re in hostility mode now. But don’t be mad, they’re good guys.” I really had no patience for him and his lame apologies for his disgusting friends, and I told him as much.

“Maybe you should get better friends who aren’t assholes, drunk or sober. Ever heard of guilt by association?” He wouldn’t leave me alone, though, and bugged me for several minutes until I deigned to placate him with an offhand comment just to shut him up. Still, he kept at it until I flat out told him to go away and leave me alone. He didn’t like it, but at last he left.

There are more details I’ve left out, and choice epithets I was called, but I don’t really feel like typing out the whole play-by-play. Needless to say, this is probably the worst treatment I’ve had as a gay woman in Philadelphia in a long time.

After they left, I broke down crying. The bartender was very apologetic, saying nothing like that has happened there before, and that those particular people are regulars. Ironically, he told me, the owner is a gay man and he’s never had any trouble with them. Bitterly, I pointed out that the owner is not an attractive woman whom frat boys would just love to talk into bed in order to show her what a “real man” is. The bartender was nice enough, but I really think it was a case of too little, too late. I have to wonder if that is because they were, in fact, regulars. And I’m upset that this fact made a difference.

He walked me out, effusively apologizing, telling me that he hoped I wouldn’t pass judgment on the bar due to a few unruly patrons. He stayed with me as I unlocked my bike, looking worried. As I pedaled briskly home, I had to keep fighting back tears. Later, it was a long time before I could get to sleep, playing the whole scene back in my mind, seething with rage. It made my stomach turn. To be honest, it still does.

If there is any question in your mind that we are living in a rape culture, a culture in which young men think they can say and do anything to a woman in pursuit of sex, just because he finds her attractive, regardless of whether or not she is interested, and feels perfectly justified — nay, entitled — in hurling verbal (or physical, or sexual) abuse at her when rebuffed, simply because his pride and ego have been hurt, think again.

This is rape culture. This is why Steubenville and a million other similar and unreported cases happen. This is why the media has such crocodile-tear sympathy for the high school rapists for their lost scholarships and “ruined lives,” and not a word of concern for the victim, whose life is the one which is truly ruined.

This is what women and girls put up with, all the time, gay or straight; and by lieu of lifetime exposure, are led to believe that it is normal and right. This is what boys are taught is their due and their right. She was asking for it, she was drunk, she was pretty, she was dressed “like a slut,” she was alone, ad nauseam. Nor does it end at women — gay boys and men, as well as trans* people suffer parallel, if not completely similar, fates.

The worst part is that I feel guilty that I should be “thankful” that it didn’t end up far more tragic, far more dangerous, far more lethal. And that may be the most enraging piece of this whole scenario.

I am thoroughly disgusted. Rape culture must end, and it is everyone’s responsibility. Let’s start a revolution.

Exciting New Updates!

It’s official! I have a story that will be published in a print anthology, my first! The story is called “Icing on the Cake.” It’s a short-short femdom story, previously unreleased since I wrote it specifically for that call. The book is titled The Big Book of Orgasm, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. It will be released in September 2013 by Cleis Press. I’m so excited! I’m hoping to get a few more pieces in print this year, while still working on my own indie published pieces as well.

Even the Universe is helping me celebrate… I found out about the official acceptance yesterday, and guess what happened today? I got a call telling me I won a happy hour party at this amazing oyster place in Philly. Could it be any more perfect? I will use the opportunity to eat lots of oysters, drink lots of beer, and announce my status as a print-published author. *happy dance*

In other news, author Carl East has listed me on his website. He is helping build visibility for erotica and erotica authors, and I’m honored that he personally invited me to be a part of it.

Last but not least, I’ve also released a 2-Pack bundle of my popular gay erotica, Pumping His Iron parts 1 and 2. Hot cover, no? 😉

Sankta Lucia Dagen / St. Lucia Day

Being a Swede, today is one of my favorite holidays. Traditionally, the girls in the household dress all in white and the eldest gets to be St. Lucia, with a crown of lights, bearing coffee and buns to the parents. It’s a whole big thing. A few years back I fulfilled my lifelong dream of playing St. Lucia in a public performance. This is like being homecoming queen basically and it’s awesome, everyone wants pictures with you and you are the star. Anyway, I thought you’d like to see some pictures I totally googled and don’t own at all. I’ll link when applicable, or if you own it, I’ll take it down if you like.


 

The Lucia song with Swedish lyrics, if you're of a musical bent.

The Lucia song with Swedish lyrics, if you’re of a musical bent.

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Traditional St. Lucia performance in a Swedish church.

Very traditional Swedish "Christmas Greetings"

Very traditional Swedish “Christmas Greetings”

Lucia and her attendants

Lucia and her attendants

Traditional lussekatter, saffron buns.

Traditional lussekatter, saffron buns.

Now for some more sobering photos. Here’s some history.

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The martyrdom of St. Lucia. Apparently the artist is unknown, but it looks early Renaissance to me.

The martyrdom of St. Lucia.

The martyrdom of St. Lucia.

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This is pretty metal. Not Swedish at all, but I liked the image. After her mother was healed on a pilgrimage, Lucia was inspired to give money to the poor. Her fiance was outraged and turned her in for being a Christian. She cut out her eyes and sent them to him.

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This has nothing to do with St. Lucia but came up in the image search. Apparently she is a character on “Spartacus: War of the Damned” which I haven’t seen but now feel a burning urge to hunt down post haste. There is just something about female warriors that drives me wild.

Hope you enjoyed my interesting visual foray through the story of Sankta Lucia.