Tag Archives: Bodies

Post the Fifty-Eighth or My Body is NOT Public Property

Before my transition, when I was presenting as male, I could walk down the street or take the train late at night relatively free of fear. No one turned their heads as I walked pass or undressed me with their eyes. No one made unwanted or unreciprocated advances. No one followed me home. Unless they were homophobic and read me as gay, I usually walked through the world free of the fear of harassment.

Now, 3+ years years into my transition, I am almost always read as a woman. I have a lot of passing privilege and a lot of pretty girl privilege. And I’m certainly not complaining about that. I love the way I look, the way I present myself today and I know that it is only because of my relative class privilege that I was able to transition early and have access to the health insurance necessary to transition safely and effectively. Not to mention the fact that my family didn’t disown me or kick me out of my home, which is a HUGE blessing. I don’t know where I would be today if that weren’t the case. I have been very, very, lucky.

What I am complaining about, and what frustrates me to no end, is the fact that now that I am read as a woman, I’m getting harassed nearly everyday! I can’t tell you how many times someone has assaulted me with their eyes or made unwanted advances all with the unspoken assumption that I MUST reciprocate, validate and want that attention. I cannot enumerate for you all the occasions in which some cis, straight, man (both white and brown) has harassed me in public. Obviously, some are worse then others (I’ve only been followed home once but being stared down happens almost everyday) but they all contribute my general sense of dis-ease and wariness when I’m out and about. What, then, is the under lying cause of this?

It is because brown women’s bodies are considered public property.

The reason for this is because we exist in a racist, sexist and cissexist society that places ownership on, and strips agency from, anything that is not white, male, cisgender, straight, able-bodied etc. From the exotification of Black and Brown women in the media (you know, the Foxy Brown Lady who constantly oozes sex and wants to sleep with EVERY white guy) to the majority of sex workers being Black and Brown, it’s clear that our bodies are free-game to whomever wants a grab.

If you are a brown transwoman, then you are doubly fetishized not only as “exotic” but also as “freaky” or “strange” or that you are not truly a woman, so that the man that you have to sleep with will get “best of both worlds”. On top of that, if a white person is dating a brown woman then  he has “jungle fever” and will eventually leave her for a civilized, marriable white woman.

And we must never forget the long, brutal, history of white slaveowners raping their black slaves. The long brutal history of white conquistadors abducting and raping Native women. All of them thinking that this was the right and proper order in “God’s” world because brown people are inferior and white people must manifest destiny.

This is not a thing of the past, either. This system that is alive and well today strips us of our agency and appropriates our sexuality as it’s own. In the minds of most white men, especially in a subconscious level if they haven’t interrogated their own privilege, our sexual agency and freedom of choice is in their hands and they call the shots. And to deny them results in retaliation and physical/sexual assault. This all might have gone underground but it still manifests in subtle, insidious ways.

And while the sex-positivity movement and the sex worker rights movement has done a lot to challenge this and articulate the need for consent, most of these primarily white movements have failed to incorporate the effect of white supremacy into their power analysis. Many women of color can’t find power in the world slut, for example, because of what racism as wrought on their bodies. Claiming the identity of slut will put us in greater danger because we are sluts by default and our sexualities are not our own. Much of the sex worker activism is done by white, hotel- or home-based sex workers who are, in many ways, free of harassment and are able to take only the clients that they want. Little is done to reach out to poor, street-based sex workers of color, both transgender and cisgender, or to represent and advocate for their needs and concerns.

How, then, do we interrupt, interrogate, and begin to dismantle this system of power? The first thing is to shed light on to this unspoken problem. We start by talking about it, with each other. We share our stories with one another for solidarity and healing. We share our stories so that we know that we are not alone and we can begin to organize. And by organizing, we can start to manifest a world in which EVERYONE can walk through this world free from harassment.

I would invite all of my brown sisters of any gender to share their stories in the comments, if they so choose. I would also encourage everyone to watch the video below and visit Meet Us On The Street to find out how to get involved in International Anti-Street Harassment Week.

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Post the Twenty-Second or On Why Sluts are Awesome

I am a slut.

There. I said it. I said the unspeakable and admitted to the gravest of sins. I admitted that I enjoy sex. I admitted that I enjoy sex with many people, sometimes at the same time! I admitted that I have ownership over my sexuality and that I can choose who I have sex with and, more importantly, who I don’t have sex with.

But being a slut is more about than just enjoying sex. It’s about enjoying pleasure and my body for its own sake. It’s about recognizing that pleasure is good and allowing myself to enjoy pleasure. It’s about denying a sex- and body-negative culture that teaches us every day to hate our bodies and the beautiful things it can do.

Being a slut means that I prize consent. It means that I know yes only means yes and no always means no. It means that when someone says no, I don’t ask or cajole them to change their minds. It means that no is a complete sentence and requires no justification or explanation. It means that I always ask permission before hugging someone. It means that I know that consent is fucking sexy.

Being a slut means that I am honest about my emotions and where I am coming from. It means that when I’m angry or upset with my sexual or romantic partner, I tell them. It means that I disclose any pertinent sexual history that I have to my sexual or romantic partner. It means that I make sure that I communicate my boundaries and limits clearly. Being a slut means that I advocate for myself. Being a slut means I take care of myself.

Being a slut means that I know how to keep myself safe. It means that I know how to put on a condom and use a dental dam. It means that I know the risks involved in certain acts and I can revaluate whether I want to take that risk at any point. It means that I take the time to protect myself and my partner and still enjoy myself.

Most of all, being a slut means that I love myself.

At this point you may cry, “But Morgan!! How can sluts love themselves? They are indiscriminate slatterns who wreck homes and only have all this sex precisely because they don’t love themselves! They use sex to boost their self-esteem!”

To which I would reply that yes, people like that do exist. People use sex to harm themselves and others. Just like some people use alcohol to harm themselves and others. I’m not denying that. What I am denying is that all sluts are like that. What I am denying is the heterosexist, monogamy-centric culture that tells us that the only healthy way to have sex is in a committed monogamous relationship. What I am denying is the erroneous assumption that sex should only be had as a means to an end. That sex should only be used to get a relationship. What I am denying is that I can’t be a healthy, well-adjusted (whatever that means), young adult and also have a lot of sex and enjoy it.

What I am affirming is that sex is a means in itself. What I am affirming is that I love myself because by making the conscious decision to have sex with who I want, I am affirming ownership over my own body. I am affirming that I can do what I want with my body. Conversely, by consciously making a decision to not have sex with someone, I am reaffirming that ownership by withholding sex when I want to. I am affirming that I won’t let anyone have ownership over me, unless I consent to it.

Don’t get me wrong. If monogamous relationships work for you, then I encourage you to follow your bliss. I merely would like to motivate you to think critically about the narratives that you have been given by society, and question whether those narratives reflect what you truly desire. If they do, fantastic. If they don’t, that is also fantastic and I would say that it’s time for some exploring and experimenting. Its time for all of us to create our own narratives.

For can we truly consent to something if we don’t know all the options?