VIRGIN issue October 2009
Let’s talk about sex. It can be exhilarating, traumatic, wonderful, euphoric, heartbreaking. It can bring life, death, money, poverty. Sex is as complicated as life itself. Media constantly feed our minds with sexual messages to entice us while social norms remind us that sex is dangerous and sometimes even deviant. It’s no wonder we spend most of our adolescent and adult lives grappling with the ins and outs, the backwards, forwards and upside downs of sex. This ‘zine is for us. All of us. The scared, the lonely, the confident. Those of us already running and those of us just beginning to crawl. And in honor of crawling, this issue is The Virgin Issue. And we wanted to talk about it all: the mythological stature of the virgin, the gender disparity and implications of virginity, your disappointing first time, your totally banging first time. All. We have some amazing contributions from a wide array of students; we do not represent one viewpoint, one ideology or one sexual narrative. In fact, we will strive in each issue to compile the greatest diversity of perspectives that we can. We are a collective voice, and we’re here to talk about our sexual lives frankly, critically, unapologetically, respectfully but always on behalf of our own personal experiences. Not yours. If you want to talk about yours, then you should submit. (Please!...See how at the end. But not yet—keep reading.) Without further ado, we are incredibly proud of what we have created, and we hope you find what you need and much more. Welcome to BODYTALK. bodytalk 3
Lost & Found
by erin horth
This may seem confusing, but as someone who identifies as a lesbian, the lines for what constitutes sex and the loss of virginity are incredibly unclear. When I thought I lost my virginity initially, I was operating under the opinion that sex between two females meant oral sex. However, as my horizons broadened and I was exposed to new viewpoints, my opinion on what constituted sex changed drastically. As this process occurred, I gradually began to realize how ludicrous the concept of “virginity” truly is. In application to my life, under my current definition of sex, I lost my virginity at seventeen. According to the heterosexually-dominated world, I didn’t lose my virginity until I was nineteen. Along with this discovery, I also realized that the stigma and importance attached to virginity is rendered rather meaningless when there is no clear definition of when a relationship is truly consummated. The traditional definition of sex as penile-vaginal penetration alienates and de-legitimizes both an entire portion of the population as well as many non-procreative sex acts. I like to think of virginity as something that each person must define in a way that makes a specific moment meaningful. The importance of losing one’s virginity is not to be found in any social narrative but in the personal experiences we relate to it. bodytalk 5
FIRST TIME by ben
Virginity wasn’t that big a deal to me.
I didn’t care whether I still had my virginity or whether I had lost it, and there certainly wasn’t any religious pretense to the issue. Losing my virginity was a milestone, but it wasn’t a bigger deal than any other milestone. For my partner and I, it was a matter of maturity: I wanted to make sure that we were both ready. Not that we thought that we were ready, or that we suspected we might be ready, or that we were so curiously, lasciviously impatient that it didn’t matter. I wanted to be sure that we were both actually, truly ready to have sex. We waited a long time – we had been together for several years before it happened. We talked about it for a while leading up to that moment. Talked about it for weeks; not in an obsessive way, but explored the topic. Became comfortable with the idea. When the moment came, we were excited. I asked her if she was sure. She said yes. So I asked again. And she said yes again. And we went for it. We were both nervous, and it was, unsurprisingly, a little awkward but it was fantastic. Neither of us was very satisfied sexually, but that didn’t matter – we had time to work that part out. The important thing was that we both went through it together and that we both were ready together and that it was a wonderful, intimate experience. Losing my virginity was not a world-changing thing. It was interesting, sure, and it was fun, of course, but it wasn’t a huge deal and life didn’t feel any differently after it happened. I’m grateful to my younger, less wise self that I did it in a responsible way with someone I cared for deeply, and that my reminiscence will not be imbued with intoxication, irresponsibility, or regret. It will always be a beautiful memory for me. 6
by lauren carter
The loss of my virginity can accurately be summed up in one word: anticlimactic. Anticlimactic, indeed, though it can also be described as the very foundation upon which I slowly began to build my sexual identity. I had sex for the first time roughly one short year after a bloody visit to the bathroom marked my entrance into supposed womanhood. Fifteen years old & the product of abstinence-only education, I lost my virginity at a point in my life when the only understanding of my pubescent female anatomy came from an obsolete insert found in my box of tampons. To be honest, I don’t really even remember how it went down but distinctly recall being disillusioned that a Chiefs’ game provided the soundtrack for the much-anticipated event. I do remember thinking there must be something more. It would be a number of years before I’d embrace a handheld mirror & disrobe with the intent of self-exploration. It would be a number of partners before I experienced my first orgasm. Six years have passed since I “lost it.” I am reassured with each passing experience that gone are the days of anticlimactic, unfulfilling intercourse that defined my loss of virginity as well as the greater part of my adolescent sex life. In retrospect, the only thing I would change about losing my virginity is that abstinence-only “education” left me ill informed and unable to make educated decisions about my body. (Insert comprehensive sex education plug here). bodytalk 7
The 21-Year-Old Virgin by YantĂŠzia Patrick
We have found ourselves in an overly sexualized culture. Just take a look at anything related to the media: what really stays with you at the end of a commercial or reality TV show? Look at our politics, and see how abstinence only education, sexual health, and, my age-old favorite, abortion are still being debated. The only difference between now and the time of our parents is that we no longer have to talk about these things at sleepovers with our friends. We can talk about them openly and freely. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not the budding topic of every conversation I have, but I’ve somehow surrounded myself with a group of like-minded critical thinkers. We’re constantly questioning sex. What is sex? Who’s having sex? What’s queer sex? Do the straight kids know they have queer sex too? Sometimes we laugh at those bashful of their embarrassing, drunken, meanderings between the sheets. And sometimes our conversations take a serious tone. Regardless, we never undermine the importance of sex. Truth be told, the closest I have come to the missionary is at church. But I don’t feel so much that my virginity sets me apart as much as it makes me feel lucky. Some people walk around campus with this sex deprived monkey on their back. I get along just fine, biding my time, getting the grades, and getting that degree. Sometimes, though, I feel like I’m on the outside of what seems to be the epic thing that everyone is always buzzing about, and it’s awkward. It’d be a lie to say I never think about sex. I do. But talking about it and hearing about it just makes me want to crawl within myself and hide. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my desires or lack an understanding of sexual mechanics. I think my personal hang up is my lack of interest. To me, sex and feelings are directly connected, and I’m just not sure I’ll ever take my head out of a book long enough to allow myself to truly know someone in that way. It’s like throwing myself into my greatest gift to avoid my greatest shortcoming. I’ve spent my entire life finding solace in the world of academia; an outlier escaping the overwhelming feelings I have about almost everything, and the often oppressive woes of a world that attacks and constantly questions who I am. To open myself up to something that so many people treat so casually just unnerves the serious and studious undertones that meld into all aspects of my life. Still, the idea of sharing in an act that’s so beautiful and so defining might trump these fears and cause me to stop fearing falling in love and fall into bed. I use to feel the overwhelming need to justify my V-Club membership to everyone. But I’m not a slot machine, letting some lucky winner hit “the jackpot.” Sex is different for everyone. It’s emotional and psychological relevance varies, but one commonality my close peers and I share is the importance of physical sexual health. And when the right girl comes along, I’ll know. Until them, I’m not droppin’ it like it’s hot for anyone. bodytalk 9
BY SHAPE Sexual Health Advocate Peer Education sponsored by the Student Health Center, 882-1417
What does being a virgin really mean? Never engaging in vaginal-penile intercourse? Never having oral sex? Never touching someone sexually such as fondling, deep kissing, or having oral/anal sex? Really, the question relies not on how society defines virginity but on how you define virginity for yourself and in your relationship. Historically, being a virgin means never having engaged in vaginal-penile sex. But if you’re a lesbian, are you always a virgin by societies’ standards? Or if you identify as a gay male and engage in oral/anal sex …do you still consider yourself a virgin? What if you are a survivor of a sexual assault and your first time having sex was nonconsensual--are you still a virgin? Unarguably, virginity is a very complex concept, one that encompasses many cultural, sociological, religious, and familial influences. As a result, defining your “virginity status” depends on your individual views and definitions of your own sexuality. 10
From a truly sexual health definition, virginity has many common myths associated with it. Take these, for example: Being a virgin means you cannot share intimate moments with your partner. FALSE. Depending upon how you define virginity there are many opportunities to feel close to someone you love without engaging in penetrative sex such as snuggling, kissing, fondling, or just hanging out and talking. For a woman to be a virgin she must have her hymen intact. False. Although some cultures and religions place an inordinate amount of emphasis on the hymen, scientific research shows the hymen can simply break from inserting a tampon, riding a horse or inserting a finger into the vagina. If a person decides to engage in sex for the first time, it will be perfect. False. Oftentimes there is pressure to perform and recreate the tone portrayed in the media. For example, making the first experience memorable. Unfortunately, this pressure creates such high standards for our first sexual experiences that it pales in comparison to the roses, champagne and candlelight depicted in the media. Everybodyâ€™s doing it. False. Almost 17 percent of MU respondents have never had sex (defined as vaginal-penile, oral or anal) and 30 percent of MU respondents havenâ€™t had sex (vaginal-penile, oral or anal) in the last 30 days.
28 1 7 30 P ER C ENT
At Mizzou, approximately 28 percent of students reported being a virgin.
P ER C ENT Almost 17 percent of MU respondents have never had sex
P ER C ENT
30 percent of MU respondents havenâ€™t had sex in the last 30 days 11
On the other hand, how do you know when and if you are ready to have sex? Know that engaging in sexual activity is a choice and is different for everyone. The first step is to examine your cultural and religious beliefs, your relationship with your partner and the potential outcomes of having sex. Then you need to ask yourself the following questions:
Can you say “penis,” “vagina,” “anus” or “condom” without laughing? penis
If you can’t, you probably aren’t ready.
Do you feel pressure or coerced to engage in sex?
If you answered “yes” this is probably not the right time.
Have you discussed STI (sexually transmitted infections) testing and barrier methods with your partner?
If you haven’t done this, you probably aren’t ready.
Why do you want to engage in sex? Are you engaging in sex to fit in or to make someone else happy?
If you answered “yes” you probably aren’t ready.
Having open and honest discussions with a partner about sexuality is important to have healthy relationships and demonstrates respect for yourself as well as your partner.
Are you sober? Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol inhibits decision making ability, obscures formerly established sexual boundaries, impedes physiological arousal, as well as prohibits a personâ€™s ability to use contraceptive methods effectively.
Is there mutual consent? Consent CANNOT be given by: A person who lacks mental capacity to consent; A child; A person so intoxicated or so mentally distressed or defective as to be unable to make a reasonable judgment; or By force, duress or deception.
The joys of sex come with responsibility. We are each responsible for how we express our sexuality in a healthy, safe and caring way. Being sexually responsible means openly and honestly communicating with your partner, knowing and asserting your sexual rights as well as preventing unintended pregnancy and STI by consistently using a barrier method such as a male condom, a female condom or an oral dam.
Muslim. Virgin? by nabihah maqbool Dangers and Double Standards in the Muslim World 14
The practice of Islam entails more than a profession of faith; it prescribes conduct for every aspect of life. Practices of daily worship, laws for business, and standards of behavior are all enshrined in the religion. So when it comes to sex, there is also a religiously legislated way by which Muslims conduct themselves, namely abstinence before marriage. While sex is considered to be a natural part of life, the religion ascribes seriousness and responsibility to it, assuming the value of the individual can be preserved by restricting intimacy within recognized committed relationships. The implications for abstinence are also practical, such as the avoidance of unwanted pregnancies and STDs, issues that would have been doubly dangerous 1400 years ago. Religion never exists in a void. The societal and cultural contexts in which Islam is practiced become entwined--sometimes confused--with the religion itself. So though I don’t doubt the functionality of abstinence, I have great qualms about the politics surrounding it that have sprouted up in the Muslim world. The main issues are the double standard of virginity, and the difficult position women are placed in as a result. Some cultural practices dictate that brides must prove their virginity with bloody wedding night sheets, destroying boundaries between public and private life in the process. Worse than revealing intimate information about a woman’s sexual history, though, are the ensuing consequences that accompany such revelations. For example, in rural regions around the world, like tribal Pakistan, the punishment for a woman who loses her virginity before marriage or who is even suspected of “sexual impurity” is the so-called “honor killing.” These heinous murders are committed by the woman’s own family for the sake of preserving the family’s reputation. Honor killings are remnants of tribal customs so ingrained in cultural practice that Muslims themselves have mistaken it for a religiously condoned action. The crimes have no basis in Islam as they violate protections given to all civilians, and particularly protections placed upon women. It’s a shameful admission for myself and Muslims to make, but unfortunately honor killings do occur in Muslim-majority countries and show what is at stake for women who lose their virginity before marriage. So, when some women take to drastic measures, such as hymen reconstructive surgery it is understandable-perhaps even necessary for their survival. bodytalk 15
My additional frustration with the standards for Muslim women’s sexuality is that there is rarely onus placed on men to preserve their own virginity. Many cultures place little or no importance for men to remain virgins before marriage, despite Islam’s mandates for both genders. The fact that there is no cultural imperative for men to adhere to abstinence, while women must, sometimes for their own safety, displays the hypocrisy in the expectation of virginity. All too often I’ve seen communities and families make excuses for sons that may wander: “she tempted him” “they’re serious,” “he’s young.” But rarely have I seen the same level of leniency for women. Some may argue that the standards for women’s sexual morality must be higher since they inevitably pass these morals on to the next generation. In contrast, I find it difficult to believe that one gender must act as the society’s moral ambassadors while the other gender is exempted from sexual morality altogether. Excusing men from the standards of virginity that women are held to only allows other acts of sexual immorality to become more culturally acceptable later, resulting in a huge gender bias. For example, men in Saudi Arabia often drive to Dubai for the weekend to exploit the sex industry, returning to their families on Monday without any fear of consequence. It would be ridiculous to claim that every one of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world has avoided premarital sex. People have different priorities and have made different choices. Calling oneself a Muslim doesn’t mean a person has followed every aspect of the religion. I don’t believe the goal of the religion is to have other persons judge and punish those choices if a person is really only accountable to God. While some may interpret the existence of these laws as authorization to enforce them, I recognize them as commands that only individuals can accept and put into practice. Ultimately, people are free to follow or not follow religious laws. I can only hope that that one of two things may occur in the future: 1) that people are able to keep their private sexual lives between themselves and significant others, or 2) that the standards of virginity are evenly applied to all people. I wonder how long acts like honor killings would continue if men began receiving the same punishment.
Iâ€™ve been looking forward to my sweet sixteen. You know, a big party and a band, with tons of people. And a big Trans Am in the driveway with a ribbon around it. And some incredibly gorgeous guy that you meet in France. And you do it on a cloud without getting pregnant or herpes.
â€” Sixteen Candles
I Got My Bell Rang in a Frat House BY MS. LOVELYEXCEPTION
I lost my virginity in a fraternity house. On a couch. With black sheets hanging in the windows, and a mirror attached to the ceiling above a lofted bed. I know it sounds horrible, but it wasn’t. For being something I’d held on to so delicately for 20 years, I didn’t expect my virginity to be something I’d lose so unattractively. I had envisioned the encounter to be wonderfully romantic, elegant and even grandiose: hotel room, large comfortable bed, rose petals, vanilla scented candles and some great music. I told myself I was worth all this--because I was different. I was classy; I didn’t want to sleep with just anyone for my first time. At this point my virginity had become something I was used to holding on to. I grew up in a tight-knit, big, fat Italian family. Did I mention that we were Roman Catholic? Oh, and my parents were high school sweet hearts who abstained until marriage (or so I was told). I had been instilled with the fear of God since grade school: sex before marriage was a sin, it was wrong, it was dirty and it was not what God wants for us. I pretty much believed this for a long time. Or at least I trusted that whatever I was being told was true. So I listened. I listened for 20 years. Slowly but surely my perspective on sex shifted from thinking it was wrong, to thinking it was okay for other people, to thinking it was okay for me. By age 20, I realized I was an adult. I was a woman and I was smart. I was informed, and I knew the risk factors. Most importantly, I realized that this was my body, and my decision to make. So once I had found the perfect person, I couldn’t help but make the informed decision to lose my virginity. What else could I possibly be waiting for? He was reliable, smart, caring and loving. I had known him almost my entire life, and as a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure we may have sat together at Sunday school…. Anyway, I’m not going to say that the loss of my virginity was pre-meditated because it wasn’t (entirely)-but a lot of thought went into whether or not this was the right person. I decided he was, and one night while fooling around on his couch I asked, “Do you want to?” First he look dumbfounded and incredibly surprised, then he said, “it’s whatever you want--whatever you feel comfortable with.” So I said, “Okay, do you have a condom?” He didn’t. I guess he wasn’t too experienced with this either. Luckily, in a frat house, a condom is just a couple doors down the hall. Looking back now, a few years later, the fraternity house, the couch and the black sheets don’t really matter to me. Because it’s not about the room anymore, or how it happened exactly. It was about the person, and he was the right one. bodytalk 19
I went to my first party with him. There were bright little fireflies all around the room and smoke filled our lungs. After spending several hours drinking, we finally decided to go home. The Wallflowers were playing on the CD player, and it reminded me of another first only a few months prior: the night of a church retreat, after talking for what seemed like forever, he moved his sleeping bag closer to mine and leaned in to give me my first kiss. Now, I was ready to lose my virginity to him. I controlled myself because I did not want to be drunk for this. I had planned it for several weeks. When we got to his room that night, we lay in bed and talked. I was shaking with fear as we lay there, just talking. I was so eager. I wanted it to start: I did not want to be a virgin anymore. He started to kiss me, and I tried to recall every great sex scene from the movies. I wanted to be sexy, sensual; I wanted to give him everything that he wanted. We stopped kissing and messing around for a bit, and I asked him what was wrong. I was so worried: “Does he not want me; did I do something wrong?” He simply responded, “I just want to hold you for awhile, is that ok?” I said it was fine but wasn’t really looking forward to it. I wanted to get rid of this virginity. A few minutes later I asked if he was ready yet. Years later, I wish that I would have savored the moments in his arms. I still think of it today, how warm and safe I felt for that fleeting moment. When we started, he told me to relax; just relax. It was hard to relax as my body was tense with anticipation. It hurt so badly. I wanted to scream, but his parents were just down the hall, and I had to bite my tongue. The pain eventually eased, and we were able to continue. The best part was the look on his face before he kissed me, looking deep into my eyes, piercing my soul. The next morning we went to church, and I had never been more uncomfortable in a pew. I was not ashamed, I did not pray for forgiveness, I simply thanked God for bringing this person into my life.
Questioning Concepts of
Virginity by anurag
Oh, virginity. I remember being so worried when I came out as a lesbian, because I wasn’t “experienced.” It’s usually assumed that most women come out as lesbians after having had a sexual encounter with another woman. Of course that isn’t necessarily true, and it wasn’t for me. 22
I had never had any sexual encounter with any women and I was a gold star lesbian (lesbian who has never had sex with a man). If I could rate awkwardness on a scale of one to ten, my first sexual experience with a woman would have been a one hundred. It was a one-night stand and she didn’t know I was a virgin. Disclosing virginity seems trivial but I found out that it was actually pretty vital in my situation. The night consisted of a series of miscommunications and awkward silences. Looking back, I feel a bit guilty and I feel it may have gone better had I told her. But I never told her I was a virgin because I just wasn’t sure if she wanted to know. After this horrendous experience I figured I probably didn’t want to sleep with “strangers” anymore. I’m pissed off at the culture that tells lesbians that random hook-ups are better. Maybe they are for some people, but I feel that it is a concept produced by a misogynistic society that objectifies lesbians: these random hook-ups between women are often more for heterosexual men’s sexual pleasure than they are for women’s. Now, I’ve kind of forgotten what the word “virgin” means. I had never had intercourse with a man but does that mean my sexual experience with a woman wasn’t significant? Does that mean any sexual encounter between two or more women is not meaningful? I think “virginity” is just a term used by the majority to invalidate the experiences of millions of people who stray from traditionally heterosexual or procreative sex. Women can be stigmatized by the term “virginity” if they “lose their virginity” at the “wrong time.” Sexual minorities can also be oppressed by the term, being destined to lifetime of virginity if they do not put the “right” body parts in the “proper” places. I don’t feel I need to use the term virginity anymore; it is not relevant to my experience. I no longer identify as a lesbian and I’ve come to terms with the word “queer”. I am with a man, and we’ve been together for over a year. When I started dating this guy, it was strange because I had to come out as a virgin again. I had to come out as a virgin in the heterosexual world and face new firsts. It was still weird but a little easier this time because I forced myself to tell him what I had and had not done before; I realized nothing good would come out of not telling him and silencing my past experiences. Moreover, I’ve told him my critiques of sexual gender relations and it sure is nice to have sex with someone who understands and agrees. I don’t feel so much like I’m in a porno video. These situations are different for everybody. Some people are fine without declaring their virginity, and I am so jealous of them. While I don’t particularly value virginity I still tend to give it credit out of habit. These days I prefer to talk about what I have or have not done, rather than what I am or am not, but it takes practice. At the same time, after having a crappy first time, I understand women who want their first time to be special. But it’s our turn to define what “special” is for us as individuals, and to critique the lifestyles that are sold to us. bodytalk 23
status as a
“are you still a virgin?”
my former roommate whispered to me, somewhat randomly, in the middle of a pleasant conversation. It was really about the first time we’d had a chance to catch up since parting ways after freshman year. Although she spoke quietly, there was no judgment in how she asked. It wasn’t “Are you still a virgin?” or “Are you still a virgin?” The question seemed more just a general curiosity about whether I’d made my foray into the sexual world. It didn’t bother me that I was a virgin coming into college until I realized I had entered a new climate that to me seemed obsessed with sex. We were all away from our parents and could do whatever, and whomever, we wanted. The more people around me felt comfortable talking about their sexcapades, the more uncomfortable I became. As time wore on I felt like a rarity, stigmatized by the assumption that surely I was no longer a virgin. I dodged questions about past boyfriends; I supplied vague answers to questions about dates; I changed the subject—anything to take their minds off the question I thought was none of their business. But as things with my first college boyfriend became more serious, it occurred to me I would have to ask him the same type of questions I was avoiding from everyone else. Had he had sex? How many people had he slept with? As I hesitated in asking him, I realized the thing that plagued me the most about myself was also one of the things I valued most. I cherished my purity, not in the sense of innocence, but in my lack of STDs, my sexual health. So we talked about it. I put him on the spot as others had done to me. It was awkward; it was funny, and in the end, I felt closer to my boyfriend and enlightened about my decision. Now, it’s a conversation I have with anyone I’m seriously dating. I’m not ashamed of what I do—or don’t do—in my bedroom. But I have learned to ignore the fixation on my sexual status, virginal or otherwise. Other people like to or need to talk about sex. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, and if they want to share, I’m happy to listen. But for me, my sexuality is an area of my life that I’ve chosen to keep private and special with the person I’m seeing. So when my roommate asked me if I was still a virgin, I answered her honestly: That’s between me and my partner. bodytalk 25
ON THE ORIGIN OF IN-BETWEEN
by sean jarvis
I’m not sure that I can place the time that I lost my virginity. To me, it was a process that began when I was thirteen, with my first sexual experience. It was completed when I was nineteen, when I first had what heteronormative patriarchy has determined to be “real” sex (that is, penetrative intercourse). What interests me is that in-between space. For most of my adolescence, I was unsure of the status of my virginity, a problem that was heightened by the inability and/or unwillingness of most of my friends, even the progressive ones, to talk about queer sexuality. Most of the people I knew in similar situations were able to get together and reach a consensus, but the fact that straight women largely comprised my social circle, coupled with social dynamics between queer men, in which the specter of sex was ever-present for me during that time (sort of like Billy Crystal’s argument in “When Harry Met Sally” that straight men and women can’t be friends), precluded any similar group decision in my case. So it was mostly my responsibility. I navigated the space myself, using the resources I had (primarily media discourses, which were of little help; and my sex partners, who were the only people with whom I talked about sex). It became quickly apparent to me that this process was unlikely to be fruitful, because any idiot can tell that the corporate media is not to be trusted with basic arithmetic, let alone complex and personal issues such as sexuality. On the other hand, my sex partners were, more often than not, oneoffs who had little interest in me as a person, and so had little credibility. There’s an idea, that has been very popular in the social sciences since shortly after the publication of On the Origin of Species, of evolutionarism. It basically says that we are all getting better, either at the basic activities of social maintenance and civility, or at the very specific skills needed to perform our individual duties. I would contend that time periods like the in-between space that I’ve been talking about challenge this concept. I will say plainly that I made little personal progress between the ages of thirteen and nineteen. The process of adolescent sexual negotiations making the way for adulthood did not happen for me. I was no more comfortable in relationships at any given moment within that time period than I was at any given previous moment. I was no less selfish near the end of it than I was at the beginning. In many ways, I have yet to make any progress, even now. I don’t mean to imply that I’m defective in some way. I think that many of my past decisions have been perfectly rational, considering my lack of support system for the majority of this navigation. To appropriate some linguistic algebra, had things been different, they would have been different. But, ultimately, I’m satisfied with the way I was, with few regrets. Knowing, in many ways, is overrated. Moving forward without knowing is sort of like being in a room with low visibility, hands outstretched, fingertips acknowledging and brushing away obstructions, feeling my way forward. bodytalk 27
words & illustration by evan amarante soares & alysha v. baratta
to bodytalk Now, it’s your turn. Become a part of BODYTALK by contributing to our next issue, The Medical Issue, scheduled to come out in December. Remember when you realized your body was no longer completely private because it had transformed into an object of medical discourse: “What is the date of your last menstrual period?”; “Are you currently sexually active?”; “How long have you felt this way about your gender identity?” Did you find this collaboration with medicine empowering: an adult—a medical expert—had taken an interest in how you felt and was willing to accommodate your body in a way that was comfortable to you? Or did you find it oppressive: perhaps you felt even more trapped, uncertain how honest you could be with a person of such social esteem and power? This is your chance to share! Write about getting tests, prescriptions, operations, advice. Write about the times that medicine helped you feel better about your body and the times it made you feel worse. Nothing is too insignificant to share. BODYTALK understands that The Medical Issue will encompass topics that tend to be culturally sensitive. We also understand that everyone’s medical matters are extremely private. However, we believe that instances in which bodies and medicine intersect often produce the most profound effects on how we feel about ourselves and on the decisions we make regarding our bodily health. Thus, our stories should not go unnoticed. Do not be silent. Submit to BODYTALK at email@example.com. Use your real name, use a pen name, use no name. Just submit.
Submission Deadline: Friday, November 13. [If you need an anonymous address to send from, use firstname.lastname@example.org, password: talktalktalk.] 30
Published on Oct 14, 2009
Welcome to Issue One of BodyTalk, an e-zine that speaks frankly about sexuality, bodies and reproductive health. It is rooted in the belief...