So You’re Having An Abortion (in Halifax, Nova Scotia)

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pro choice

On October 5, 2011 I had an abortion in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
I had an abortion and it was a surreal, confusing, and alienating experience. The lack of information and resources was mind-boggling. The silence and sense of shame I felt was isolating.
You should know that when I had my abortion, I already had an exceptional amount of experience as a patient under my belt. As a person with a (dis)ability I had been navigating the medical system for 16 years at this point. I knew how to access the healthcare I needed – knew how to talk to doctors and how to assert myself. And when I had my abortion, I had been working as a sex educator for 3 years. I knew all about the resources available to me. And when I chose to have my abortion I made my decision without any uncertainty or regret. I was entirely confident in my decision. For an array of reasons (I am an urban-based, formally educated, middle class, white cis-woman) I am in a position of privilege. And still, with all of these tools on my side, I came through that experience feeling totally bewildered and unsupported. To this day it remains one of the hardest things I have ever done, not because I didn’t want to do it but because it felt like the rest of the world didn’t want me to do it. It was fucked up. It was a wake up call about how hugely important the pro-choice movement is, and how remarkably powerful the anti-choice movement remains.

The abortion debate has been raging forever. Today we’re seeing anti-choice ads all over the Halifax Metro Transit buses and bus shelters. (If you find them as hurtful as I do, you can donate money here to a pro-choice group soliciting funds to put up counter ads). I do not want to humour that debate here. The following essay WILL NOT question a person’s right to choose. If you have stumbled upon this post and you do not (and are unwilling to) believe in the right to choose, then stop reading now. But, if instead you are reading this because you are interested in sex and everything related to sex (pregnancy and abortions being two such things); if you are a feminist; if you have found yourself pregnant by mistake; if you have had or may in the future have an abortion; or any myriad of reasons that have made you an empathetic person, then please continue. The following aims to be a helpful guide to having an abortion in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I will tell you all about what to expect: the appointments, the procedure, the stuff you may hear and the things you may feel. Or at least my experience of it all.
When I went through my abortion a veritable coven of powerful women showed up on my doorstep. They had each had abortions of their own before me, and they gave me invaluable pieces of wisdom and advice. I would love to be able to pass some of those golden nuggets on. If you are seeking out an abortion and are feeling afraid & confused, then I hope this information can provide some reassurance and guidance. Trust me in this – you are not alone.

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The Test:

Acquiring the test and having the courage to even seek it out is one of the most difficult parts, or at least it was for me. It requires a certain level of acceptance. But once you got it, it is all yours and it can be almost relieving to feel so proactive. I got my pregnancy test at a Shoppers Drug Mart. It cost me $29.95. If this doesn’t fit in your budget, pregnancy tests are also available for free through the South House, here in Halifax. If you don’t happen to live in this city, check out sexual health centres and women’s advocacy groups in your area to see if they offer this service. Once you have it, you can take it home and pee on it. Peeing on the stick is fairly easy and the box provides helpful instructions. (Though to be honest, I did accidentally piss on my hand.) Wait two minutes and you will have an answer, YES or NO, in all caps. Typically, the kit comes with two testing sticks, so you can double check. The test does not give false positives. If you get a yes, it is a yes. However, it may provide a false negative, so keep that in mind.

The Appointments:

Typically, there are two appointments that you have before you have your abortion. The first is for an abortion referral. The second is for a blood test and ultrasound.

The First Appointment

Once I knew for sure that I was pregnant, I immediately called the Halifax Sexual Health Centre (HSHC) for my referral. I called them rather than my family doc because I had been there before and I hoped they would be able to get me in to see a doctor faster. Plus, I liked the anonymity of the HSHC. I didn’t really want my family doctor to know. But you can also get a referral through your family doctor if that is what you prefer.

If you go with the HSHC, when you call to book an appointment, ask for a “T.A”, which stands for Therapeutic Abortion. The receptionist will ask when your last period was. As is explained on the HSHC website, if your period was less than 3 months ago you will be booked in for an appointment in probably about a weeks time. But, if your period is more than 3 months late the receptionist will most likely put you directly through to the nurse. In Nova Scotia abortions cannot be performed after 15 weeks and 5 days of pregnancy. So, if you are over 3 months late they will try and help you move through the process more quickly.

When you arrive for your appointment, you are first brought into a room with a nurse to talk about your decision. The nurse will ask you some questions about yourself, mostly things like: when was your last period, when did you take the test, and are you making this decision with or without a partner. It is mostly logistical questions. The nurse then explains your options (T.A, continuing the pregnancy, adoption). They will detail what exactly having an abortion involves, and give you some pamphlets with information about the procedure.

Next you are brought into a second room. This room is an examining room and you have to get up on a bed and take off your pants and underwear. A doctor comes in and examines you. In my experience, the doctor put her gloved fingers inside my vagina and told me I was about three weeks pregnant. I remember finding this really disconcerting. If she could put her fingers inside me and know that, would everyone be able to somehow tell? It made me feel weirdly visible.
After this, you are almost done your first appointment. You go to the receptionist and they book you in for your second appointment to get blood work and an ultrasound done. This happens at the hospital, not at the HSHC. At this time they also book you in for your abortion, which also happens at the hospital.

My experience at the Halifax Sexual Health Centre was a positive one. No one ever tried to convince me not to go through with my procedure, nor did I ever feel like judgement was being passed on me unfairly. I did have to argue against getting an IUD, something which was strongly encouraged by the nurse, but this was easy enough for me. I am adding this caveat not to imply that the HSHC is not always a positive space, but simply to point out the truth that this situation is rarely an easy one. No matter how helpful and fair the medical providers may be, you may have to rely on your own strength and will at times.

The Second Appointment

The second appointment for the blood work and ultrasound happens at the hospital. I had to wait about 2 weeks in between my first appointment and this second appointment.

The point of getting the blood work and ultra sound done is to tell exactly how far along you are, and to make sure there aren’t any complications (for instance, is the pregnancy in utero or ectopic).  When you go to the hospital it will say on your chart that you are terminating the pregnancy. This ensures that no one congratulates you or tries to show you the ultrasound, if seeing it makes you uncomfortable.

In my experience these procedures were quick and painless. I brought two friends with me and they were able to stay with me almost the whole time, except when the ultrasound was being performed. For the ultrasound you are brought into a quiet, dark room. You lie one a table and a nurse rubs the ultrasound machine all over your belly. It is cool and wet and I found it kind of soothing. For this you need to pull your pants down a bit, but you don’t have to remove any clothing. When you get blood work done they just take blood out of your arm. You don’t have to lie down, or go in a separate room or anything at all. All you have to do is roll up your sleeve.

The Way Your Body May Feel :

In Nova Scotia there is legislation in place (which I still can’t understand) that states that a person must be at least 8 weeks pregnant before an abortion can be performed. This is to ensure that the abortion procedure “takes”, though I know that other provinces do not enforce this seemingly arbitrary waiting period. In my experience, this is the hardest part of getting an abortion. To be forced to be pregnant for two months felt like a total bullshit punishment from the state. I am sure that this waiting period is also a symptom of Nova Scotia only having four hospitals that will perform abortions. With few resources, many people end up waiting in line as I did. This lack of resources is also bullshit.

I was pregnant for nine weeks in total. Those nine weeks were one seriously intense roller coaster. It’s strange to write about them now because that whole experience all seems very far away and resolved. But at one point I felt totally shamed and out of control and alone. I remember wanting to Google the symptoms of being pregnant to see if everyone felt the way I was feeling, but I was too afraid. I tried to once but the congratulatory nature of all the pregnancy blogs made me sick to my stomach. In fact, everything made me sick to my stomach. Vomiting was something that my body loved doing when I was pregnant. Here is a quick list of some physical symptoms you may be experiencing if you are pregnant & waiting for an abortion:

  • you may be sick to your stomach in the morning, or at other times of day
  • you may feel more tired than usual and require more sleep
  • you may find the smell of cigarettes and alcohol really repulsive, even if you are normally pretty into consuming these things. If you do consume them, you may find yourself feeling really nauseous
  • you may find your sense of smell is heightened (for me this part was actually kind of cool)
  • you may find you want to eat strange foods (I fell in love with mac n’ cheese)
  • you may find your junk smells different/stronger

The Procedure:

On the day of the procedure, you have to get up really early. You must be at the hospital at 6:30 in the morning (!). They don’t schedule you in a specific time for the procedure, you just show up and wait along with the other people having an abortion that day.

You are first brought into a waiting room where you can wait with your friends/partner/parent/whoever. It’s just a regular waiting room, like any other. You wait there for awhile, maybe 30 – 45 minutes, and then they take you to another waiting room. You must go to this second room alone. You are separated from your people and led through a maze of hallways to another section of the hospital. This is for the protection of those performing abortions. It may feel very scary, but don’t worry, you are just one step closer to it all being over. You wait in a second waiting room for awhile, and then a nurse calls your name. She brings you into a tiny room and asks you questions about how far along you are, if you have a support system, how you are feeling, etc. I remember I really liked this nurse and she made me feel safe. However, I was also really frustrated that I was going over all the same information I had already had to tell so many other people. I wish I knew what the value was of this mini pre-abortion interview, but I still feel confused about it. Anyway, when it’s over and you are done chatting, you return to the waiting room. There you may wait for one hour or a few, depending on how many people are in line before you. Eventually, your name will be called again. You are led into a room and given a dressing gown to change into. When you’re all changed and ready, the nurse will offer you Ativan, opiates, or both. These drugs are to help you stay calm and endure physical pain. I chose Ativan, which was an oral pill that made me really loopy for the whole day. Next, you are led into the room where the procedure takes place. You get up on the bed and put your legs in the stirrups. A nurse comes in and sits with you. This nurse will stay with you throughout the whole procedure. In my experience, the nurse let me hold her hand and squeeze it very, very hard at times. She was very kind. But before this, the doctor comes in and explains to you what is going to happen. They tell you that it won’t take long (between 5 and 10 minutes) and that it may hurt. They put a speculum  inside your vagina and use a needle to inject your cervix with a local anaesthetic. Then they use a series of rods to gently dilate your cervix. Next, a hollow tube (about a millimetre wide) is inserted through your cervix and into your uterus. This tube is connected to a suction machine which will empty your uterus of its contents. Once this is inserted the doctor walks off behind you to operate the machine. You can’t really tell where they are going, or at least I couldn’t. (For me, I was very glad that the nurse stayed and sat with me so I did not feel so alone.) Then the doctor turns the machine on and there is a loud noise and it hurts. It may hurt a lot. It feels a little like menstrual cramps but more extreme. But it does not last too long.

Now, you have had the abortion. The nurse will put you in a wheelchair and lead you into a room to recover. She will give you a pad to put on because you will be bleeding a lot (I brought my own reusable cotton pad and you can too, if you like). You sit down in a big, comfy chair and they bring you snacks – cheese, crackers and cookies. They keep you in there for around 30 minutes to monitor your bleeding and make sure you are ok. Other people are in the room with you, also recovering from their abortion. When I was in that recovery room I cried A LOT. I cried because it was sad and hard and it hurt a lot. It also seemed like a safe place to cry. I am sure they see a lot of tears there. The nurse’s acknowledged and normalized my reaction, and responded by telling me I was brave and bringing me extra cookies. There are also counsellors on hand who you can immediately go and speak with if you need to. I chose not to do this. (I did however contact the HSHC a week later and ask to be referred to a counsellor to talk about my abortion. The person I saw was nice, and it was free, but I only saw them once. I think there is a maximum number of visits you are allowed before it stops being free). When enough time has passed the nurses say you are good to go, and you are reunited with your friends. (I can’t say what would happen if there was more bleeding than usual and the nurses deemed you were not “good to go”. I think this is pretty rare. I assume you would be admitted into the hospital and they would try and sort out whatever complication was occurring.) Depending on the drugs you took, you may feel very loopy and strange all day. You are told not to take a bath, so that bacteria does not get into your body. You are also told not to have sex for three weeks.

After your abortion, you will bleed for awhile. I bled for about seven days, just like I was having a period. So don’t be alarmed by the bleeding. If it feels excessive though, than you should probably make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

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If it was not already obvious, I am not a doctor. I am a woman who had a surgical abortion in Halifax two years ago, and all of the above information is based on my own experience. Nothing I have said is a hard and fast rule nor a universal truth. Having an abortion is not often easy. Those of us who have done it may have each felt vastly different things about it and had vastly different experiences of having it. For example, in other provinces (such as British Columbia and Alberta) medical abortions are an option, which means you can take an oral pill to cause the abortion. Or some people may choose to have a herbal abortion, which is a whole other style of doing things. But while there is no one, single, universal abortion experience, I believe it can always be helpful to have an idea of what to expect.

These resources have more information about having abortions in different parts of Canada:

The Morgentaler Decision
Regina Women’s Health Centre
The Kensington Clinic, Alberta

If you have had an abortion and would like to share your story, check out this website.

Doing It Again

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your body amorsexus
It is a new year. We are actually seven days into the new year by now, but I have never been on time. I’m just getting around to all this now.
The clock ticked, the calendar’s flipped, and we all kissed and made resolutions and swore we would be better. Personally, I resolved to finally use Twitter (follow me @TheFuckingFacts), to develop a more refined palate (olives and black liquorice, here’s looking at you), and to get back to blogging.

2013 was one full on year. I was too busy – busy making a parody music video, busy doing fun interviews, busy actually fucking (which always feels like time better spent than writing about fucking). Mostly, I have just been busy writing things other than this blog. In particular, a book (!!!). I was awarded the theoretically sweet deal of writing a creative non-fiction novel for Invisible Publishing. I say “theoretically”, because if any of you have ever tried to write a book then you know that the process is a very special kind of pain. True, “writing a book” gives you some additional authoritative professionalism at dinner parties and when meeting parents. But at all other times it is a particularly awful activity. It causes your back to ache and your shoulders to hunch. It will lead to a plummet in your self confidence. Essentially, it will make you want to give up writing anything at all, ever.

But, it is a new year. The calendar flipped, the clock ticked, and I set aside my insecurities and decided to get back on the horse, the bike, the condom-clad cock, if you will allow me an alliterative safe-sex plug.

I have weighed my topic options. I have considered critiquing sex-positivity, writing more erotica,  and exploring anal. But at the end of the day it always comes back to this: “Hot Tips for Fucking Girls” . Way back in February of last year I wrote a post with that as the title. And by far it has been the most popular thing I have ever written. It has been clicked on by 1000s. Search terms relating to how to please a woman are what almost always lead earnest interneters to my blog. And while I would not necessarily consider myself an expert on the matter, I do consider myself a woman. And sex is my bread and butter.

So, let me provide you with some guidance. May 2014 bring us all the answers we’ve been Googling for (and better sex.)

“Hot Tips For Fucking Women”, Part 2*

1.The Front Hole & The Back Hole

 In part one I drew your attention to the clitoris, a friend to many. A lot of fine folk like their clit being loved up and rubbed down because it’s chalk full of nerve endings and is subsequently pretty sensitive to touch. It is a great area to focus on, but not the only one. A lot of people like some internal stimulation too. Enter The Holes (I know some of you may be thinking “Ew! Holes!”. To some it isn’t the most sexy term. But I like using it because it’s nicely gender-neutral.) There is one in the front and one in the back.They may also be referred to as the vagina and the anus, the pink sink and the rosebud, or the dragon’s lair and the back door. The list of synonyms goes on and on, so it is best to ask your sex-friend what they like to call it before diving in.Some people like penetration because it creates a nice, woozy-inducing feeling of fullness. Some people like it because there are a lot of nerve endings at the entrances of both the front and back holes. And some people like it because the G-Spot and the P-Spot can both be found internally. When consensually providing some internal play for another person some great ideas are to: start slow and use lube, because the skin around both of the hole’s openings is thin and can tear if thrust into without proper preliminaries; curve the fingers upwards in a “come hither” motion to stimulate the hole’s respective entrances (and maybe even find the G-Spot and the P-Spot); and pay attention to the person’s body! Often when someone is aroused their hole will expand to accommodate penetration. If you feel the body ballooning around you, it may be a good sign that you’re on the right track.

2. Toys are your allies, not your enemies.

Based on my work in a sex shop, I get the impression that many people are nervous about sex toys. Fair enough. Sex toys and exploring our bodies can be a really nerve-wracking endeavor for a lot of valid reasons. But let me attempt to dissipate one fear here & now. Sex toys will not replace your partner. It is unlikely that you will become more in love with the feeling of a vibrator, dildo, or butt plug than the person you are fucking. It is true that our bodies can become accustomed to coming in certain ways (in one position or with a particular stroke), so changing things up frequently may be wise. But typically toys are not a replacement but an accessory. They can provide added vibrations and pressure and whole new sensations. So try going on an ultra fun shopping trip with your lover. You may find something to make the back hole feel full, the clit feel buzzy, or the nipples feel pleasantly pinched.The options are endless.

3. Just Ask!!!!!

I know this was my advice in Part One, but it is so important that I have to repeat it. If you really want to get someone off, the best way to do it is to ask them how they like it. No two humans walk the same, talk the same, or orgasm in the same way. This means communication is key! Ask the person you’re getting down with things like “Do you like it harder or slower?”, or “May I put my mouth on your cunt?” or “Does this feel good?”. Add in some adjectives, like “Your so fucking hot. Can I try and get you off?”, or some more direct statements like “Fuck, I want to touch you everywhere. Are their places you don’t want me to touch?”. Talking about sex, both asking and answering these kind of questions, can feel uncomfortable and vulnerable in the beginning, but it is a great thing to practice again & again & again. To help with feeling more equipped to ask questions and know what you like, check out the book “What You Really, Really Want” by Jaclyn Friedman, or “Exhibitionism for the Shy” by Carol Queen or some of these handy   resources.

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* I can’t write that title without quotations for good reason. The terms “fucking” and “women” are just too subjective to use literally. As I have written before, the act of having sex/fucking is something that is pretty open to interpretation. Fucking can refer to absolutely anything that makes you feel erotic pleasure, not just one particular act. And the identity of “women” is also a personalized thing. That gender binary is bullshit. The world is not simply divided into two groups. Instead, our gender identities can be fluid and unrelated to what parts we have. Someone may be born with a body assigned as male, but identify as a woman. Or someone may have been assigned female at birth but chooses to identify as a masculine-presenting genderqueer person, for example. I have chosen to stick with using the term “women” in this article because it is what most people seem to be Google searching. When I write “woman” I am referring to anyone who self-identifies as such. When you yourself are navigating the world of human relationships, please keep in mind that gender is something that should never be assumed. Here’s a video with more information.

Halifax Dyke & Trans March

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dyke&trans

This past weekend I spoke at the Halifax Dyke & Trans march. The march is an especially rad event, one of my favourite parts of Pride week. It is such a radical and important action because it happens outside of those events which are “permitted” by the city. It happens of its own accord, without extending any invitation to the police. And it began happening out of a need to make Pride a more radical and inclusive event, one not centred on pink dollars but instead on building community and taking back space.

When I was asked to speak, I felt unsure. I wondered about whether or not I was “queer enough” to speak at such an important, queer event? I wondered about who I am, what I call myself, how and where I fit in, and what these labels all mean? I wondered and I wondered and I wondered and I realized that the word queer fits. It fits because its broadness allows me space to wiggle in. I can take the five letters of ‘queer’ and spread ‘em open, making them fit to my body and desires. They can cover all my curves, can name all my needs. Queer lets me redefine love, and beauty and my sense of self. It leans left with my politics, and fits right in between my legs. It’s beautiful and fluid and it is defined in all sorts of ways, as evidenced here.

In the end, I felt good about being welcomed into, and participating in, the Dyke & Trans march.

Below is my speech.

I spend a lot of time thinking about labels. They direct and inform everything I do, from adding the spice carefully labelled “Paprika” to my soup, to reshelving the books in the section labelled “Queer Culture”. They act as guide posts. They tell you where things go and they tell you who people are. They are powerful, helping us find community. They are potent, letting us find a place that feels right and a love that feels safe. If used incorrectly, they can be dangerous, leading to exclusion and hurt.

I have labelled myself carefully. It has taken a long, long time.

When I was nine I was in a car accident. This accident did not give me the label “person with a disability”. I spent years denying that label actually. I was not “disabled” I was just different. I did not want to be a person with a disability because in the world that we live in that label too often means “weaker than”. It means “less able”. It means “not as good as”. I did not want to be those things. But eventually, after many years of thinking and being in this world, I chose the label “person with a disability”. I chose it carefully and with pride. I looked at it and I held it and I loved it. I realized that being a person with a disability is powerful. It means that I get to think about everything critically, from the complexities of getting down the street to finding an apartment. It means that I am inherently exempt from an able-bodied and hegemonic standard of being. It means I am constantly aware of, in touch with, and in awe of my body, grateful for the way it supports me.

The label queer is one I flirted with for a long time. I have stuck it on my body and then peeled it off again, over and over. Choosing labels is not easy. I have wondered if I am queer enough. I have wondered about the way that I look, the way that I pass. I have considered the cis-men and cis-women I have loved, and all of those people who don’t conform to that restrictive gender binary who I am so often attracted to. I think about the politics I subscribe too, the way they bend to the left and are so very far from straight. I have spent a lot of time working on my own internalized homophobia and preconceived ideas of who I should be.

Today, I stand in front of you with the label “queer woman with a disability”  proudly displayed across my chest. I have metaphorically sewed it on tight, as it is not to be reconsidered. After a lot of time spent thinking, I have figured some things out. I have looked at queer, just like I once looked at “person with a disability” and I have chosen it with intention. Like disability, queer is powerful. To quote Ed Ndopu, a queercrip femme men of colour from Ottawa: “Queer makes room for my femmeness and disability embodiment. It means radiant darkness, radical love, and a million and one ways to resist and decolonize.”

The labels queer and person with a disability fit well together and I am honoured to hold them both. They fit together because they both involve resistance – resistance against those tired ideas of what and how one should be, resistance against presumed and ill-fitting “truths” about the world. And in this resistance, both of these words work to create a much-needed space – space for bodies to be whole and valued in and of themselves, space for beauty and love to be redefined.

Today, this coming together of bodies, of people who are queer, who are dykes, who are trans, who are gay, and who are allies, this is powerful too. We have each of us, I imagine, gone through our own process of self-identifying. We have sifted, or are still sifting, through our options. And we may have each arrived at different conclusions. We may each have different words that we use for ourselves. Some of us may be able-bodied, some of us may be trans, some of us may call ourselves people of colour, some of us may call ourselves gender queer. Each of these labels are very different and they speak to very different experiences and ways of being in the world. But in the act of choosing them, or in coming to hold them with pride, we have each of us gone through our own process of resistance. We have each of us in our own ways worked against systems of oppression that would otherwise call our bodies “other” or “not as good as”. We have each of us chosen to love ourselves boldly, to hold our labels strongly, and to defiantly be who we are.

It is important that we come together, like we are today, and support each other in each of our individual defiances of the norms. When we support one another  we are allowing our resistance, in whatever form it takes, to flourish and to grow. When we gather as a group we can remind one another that we are working together against systems of oppression, that we are not alone. When we march together, at our own various paces and in our own ways, outside of an officially “permitted” parade, we are resisting together as a collective and that has so much strength.

#ASK FIRST

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So, this is what happened.

I heard Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ (who hasn’t?) and had one of those visceral reactions that you aren’t sure what to do with. My fists clenched. My stomach churned. That acrid taste of vomit reached up into the back of my throat.
Then I saw the music video and actually barfed in my mouth. Actually.
The extreme objectification of women, the laissez faire attitude about crossing women’s boundaries (“you know you want it”?!?), and Thicke’s smug expression were absolutely unbearable. Something had to be done.

Many rad folks have been critiquing Thicke and his shitty, smash hit. The ways in which it legitimizes sexual assault, degrades women, and further upholds rape culture have been written about all over the place. And still the song has continued to top the charts and burrow into our ears. So I wanted to do something different. Rather than write about all of my outrage, I instead went to my pal Mary with the inkling of an idea. She, using her extreme intelligence and amazing vocal skills, took Thicke’s song, rewrote it, and envisioned  a way better, sexier music video. Our friend Brendan shot and edited our vision, and all of our friends danced in it.

To quote Mary:

Art is powerful, and we are in awe of rad artists who write political rhymes. Writing this song and making the video is one of the ways we’re doing our best to promote enthusiastic consent and sex positivity in a shitty, heteronormative, patriarchal culture that objectifies women, normalizes rape, and blames survivors for their assault because they had “blurred lines” or because something they said, did, or were wearing made their perpetrator “know they wanted it.”

We don’t want to have to listen to Robin Thicke tell us he knows we want it over such a damn catchy beat. We wanna dance to music that’s sexy and radical.

The woman is a fucking genius. I can’t say it any better. So, I will leave it at that.
Enjoy! Please consensually get down to our version as often as you see fit.
See the original vid here, and download the song to play at all your sexy parties here.

(Lyrics & Credits below)

Lyrics

Everybody listen up
Everybody listen up
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

If you can’t hear what I’m trying to say
If you can’t read from the same page
Just watch this video
Baby and then you’ll know
To respect your lover’s lines

So he is popular, played on the radio
Makes money in rape culture by degrading you
But we don’t have to take it
Hey, hey, hey
No we can recreate it
Hey, hey, hey
Just let me demonstrate it

And that’s why you need to ask first
No way to know I want it
No way to know I want it
Unless I say I want it
Ask first
Consent is sexy
Shows you respect me
I’ll tell you what I need

Ask first
No way to know I want it
No way to know I want it
Unless I say I want it
Ask first
Cause if you grab me
I’ll get nasty
I’ll break your fucking knees

Why do fucking dudes think
a skirt means I want their dick?
I can get myself off
Keep your penis in your pants, Robin Thicke
Are you compensating?
Hey, hey, hey
You think you’re x-rated?
Hey, hey, hey
This what you teach your babies?
Hey, hey, hey

So he is popular, played on the radio
Makes money in rape culture by degrading you
But we don’t have to take it
Hey, hey, hey
No we can recreate it
Hey, hey, hey
Just let me demonstrate it
Hey, hey, hey

And that’s why you need to ask first
No way to know I want it
No way to know I want it
Unless I say I want it
Ask first
Consent is sexy
Shows you respect me
I’ll tell you what I need

Ask first
No way to know I want it
No way to know I want it
Unless I say I want it
Ask first
Cause if you grab me
I’ll get nasty
I’ll break your fucking knees

One thing I ask of you
Could I be the one who goes down on you?
Love the taste of you, the smell of you
But if you’re not into it that’s cool too
So just let me know if you want me to
Or tell me other things you like to do
Strap ons, butt plugs, back rubs and lube
If it’s consensual then it’s all cool
If you’re not feeling it, babe it’s fine
Then we can just go out to dine
Take you to the movies or for a swim
And you don’t owe me a single thing
You know I love when you ask what I want
And what I want now is your mouth on my cunt
Suck hard, lick soft, slip your fingers in
I want them all, but thanks for checking in!

Pass the vibe, get down, get up
Does that feel good? Does that feel good?
Baby like it should
Hey!

Don’t worry, I got dams, condoms, gloves to use for later
It’s good to come prepared, I like when sex is safer
Here’s my confession
Hey hey hey
I like these check ins
Hey hey hey
‘Fore we get sexin’

And that’s why you need to ask first
No way to know I want it
No way to know I want it
Unless I say I want it
Ask first
Consent is sexy
Shows you respect me
I’ll tell you what I need

Ask first
No way to know I want it
No way to know I want it
Unless I say I want it
Ask first
Cause if you grab me
I’ll get nasty
I’ll break your fucking knees

Everybody listen up
Everybody listen up
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

Credits

Dance Dance Revolutionaries:
Alia
Beige Taupe
Brendan Anckaert
Cat
Emily “Bass Face” Davidson
J. Mary Burnet
Kaitlyn Ruth
Kaleigh Trace
Ma’am Stash
Rebecca R.
Smarzipan
Swayback
Tamara Huxtable
Vee

Directors: J. Mary Burnet & Brendan Anckaert
Videographer & Editor: Brendan Anckaert
Written & Performed by: Kaleigh Trace & J. Mary Burnet
Thank you One Block Barbershop and Venus Envy

To All Perpetrators of Street Harassment: Fuck You

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I know I gave my official notice and said BRB and all, but this felt so pertinent, and it is all such fucking bullshit, that I had to write a thing. Even if I am on blog vacation. Even if this isn’t about sex.
Because, it is the season.
Finally, the sun has shone for a full 24 hours in this city on the edge of the world, and pale, pimpled legs are poking out. Our layers are shed. Our knees are exposed. And it feels so fucking good. Striding down the street, sun on shoulders, strappy summer clothes exposing soft skin, and for a minute you feel beautiful and alive and safe. And then it happens. Again and again and again.

“Slut!”
“Girl, you’d look good on me.”
“Your ass is so fat!”

Etc., etc., etc. Cat calls from cars. Verbal harassement from stoops. The intrusive, hurtful, and damaging hollers. They are commonplace, status quo, predictable, and expected. They do not vary much in their intention, nor their intonation. The intent seems to  always be to objectify your body. The tone seems to always imply shame. It happens every time I leave the house, and it has worn me so far down that I want to write about it, scream about it, kick about it and cry about it.

When I leave my house, I am usually wearing whatever I want. My little yellow house full of rad women is a magic safety zone. It is easy to feel safe & supported & in love with my body when I am in between those old, crumbling walls with my roommates. So I walk out the door fearlessly, in dresses and lipstick, and I hop on my tricycle to bike to work.
I ride a tricycle because I am a person with a disability (PWD, for short). My tricycle is BEAUTIFUL. It is red and worn. It has two “normal” wheels, and then two smaller wheels affixed on the back to keep me balanced. It was built for me a few years ago by a friend. It was built out of a place of love, and it was built just for me, just for my body. It is my prized possession, my point of access to the city, the thing that gets me going and keeps me moving. I ride it because it feels so good. I ride it because it gets me to where I need to go and it gets me there fast. I ride it because I am not ashamed of being different.

However, based on the reactions that I get, I presume that many people believe I ride this red tricycle because I want to be taunted, harassed and verbally assaulted. I guess people think that because I look so different that I am asking for it. I guess people think I should be more shameful and less brazen. It feels like they are always trying to back me into a corner and out of sight with their words.

“Those are the biggest training wheels I’ve ever seen.”
“Gotta get rid of your training wheels some time, girl.”
“You look like a big baby!”

I hear this all the time, every day. I never know what to say. Should I stop and explain to every person I bike by that yes, I know I have “training wheels”, yes they are big, no I will not get rid of them, and by having them I am not soliciting your commentary?

I don’t have the time for this kind of dialogue. If I tried to explain to every single person who I am, why I am different, why they do not have the right to comment on my body, then I would never get anywhere on time. And on top of that, I would be exhausted and probably broken, because facing ignorance and engaging it in conversation takes a whole lot of energy.

So I just smile and keep biking. If it feels safe, I flick them off or tell them to eat my asshole. Most often, I just try to let it slide off of my thick skin and not hurt me. This is easy enough for me to do. I have been a PWD since I was 9, and so have had to develop a pretty serious hide. It envelopes the softer me and protects me from ableism. It lets me love myself even though I am not like anyone else, allows me to know I am sexy and smart and valuable even if I don’t conform to a hegemonic, able-bodied standard of being. And it lets me get yelled at without getting hurt, most of the time.

But not everyone has this luxury. Not everyone has a skin as thick as mine, nor a support system as broad and strong as the one I have. So, when I was yelled at by three men a couple of weeks ago, I decided to yell back. Not for myself, necessarily, but for all of the people who want to walk past their house without getting assaulted. I yelled back because I am strong and it was safe and it felt so good. It happened like this:

I biked up the empty street to a breakfast date. I saw the three men huffing smokes and crushing cans on their stoop up ahead. I had a pang of concern, as I often do when I see groups of men and I am alone, but what could I do? I kept going. And as I approached them it began. Taunts about my “training wheels”, pointing and jeering. I paused and considered saying something, defending myself. But the facts were this: they were three men who were all big and broad. I am one woman who is small and (dis)abled. I can not fight or kick, nor even bike away quickly. My body keeps me slow. So I paused but said nothing, and as I passed them their words got louder and as I biked away, vulnerable with my back to them, I looked behind me to see them mocking me, imitating the way my body moves.

It stung, of course. But I could shrug it off, right? I always do.

But then it hit me – this time I did not want to fucking shrug it off. Every time I shrug it off, I allow it to keep happening. It can feel like when I say nothing what I really say is “It’s ok, you can say what you want”. But I did not want these assholes to be allowed to say whatever they want. I did not want them to hurt people. I did not want my body to be policied or mocked and I did not want that to happen to anyone else either.

So, I got to my breakfast date and then I gathered a Girl Squad. Within an hour, I was on my way back to the men’s stoop with three tough-as-fuck female friends who fully support me by my side. It was daytime, and the streets were busy, and due to a marathon happening nearby there was plenty of cops around. (Normally I do not trust the police, but in this instance it felt sort of o.k to know they were nearby.) When we arrived, the stoop was empty but we knocked on the door. The men came downstairs and I told them I wanted to speak with them about the way in which they had verbally assaulted me earlier that morning. At first, they denied the incident, as though I would really have made that up. At first they slammed the door in our faces and told us that they didn’t have time for our shit. But, we did not want to give up. We banged on their door and called them cowards and would not leave until they faced us.

Eventually, they came back down stairs and opened their door. Eventually, they looked at me, in all my difference and all my anger, and apologized. They stood their silently while I told them why yelling at me is a fucked up thing to do, why yelling at anyone is a fucked up thing to do, and why feeling the entitlement to take up so much space that you think you are allowed to comment on how someone else looks is a fucked up symptom of some seriously patriarchal bullshit and they should work on their shit and not be such cowardly assholes. And then they said they were sorry. And we left.

That situation was incredible. I have never before faced the people who yell at me . I have never before confronted someone and forced an apology. I have never before felt so victorious. The conditions were perfect – I had a crew of strong women with me who did the perfect job of having my back but letting me have the verbal space. It was daytime and their were lots of people around, so we felt more safe. The cops were nearby, limiting what kind of serious violence or trouble could arise. Situations like this are rare, and though it was terrifying and difficult I am glad that we did it.

However, this does not mean that things are forever changed. My body will keep getting yelled at because it looks different. And this is ableism, without a doubt, but street harassment has all sorts of roots. It draws on all the “isms” and “phobias”- sexism, racism, and homophobia, to name a few. My roommate has slammin’ curves and tight clothes. She can’t get two feet from our door without getting called out. She looks how she looks because it makes her feel good, not because she wants the general public to ask her for a blow job or  tell her she looks fat. But she has to endure this kind of commentary either way, as if she asked for it. She, like myself, and like so many women and LGBQT folks, has to have her sense of safety compromised because she looks how she looks and walks where she walks. Our mobility is limited, our routes are changed, and our outfits are reconsidered if only so we don’t have to deal with other people’s words. Street harassment is a form of gender-based violence that affects so many of us that it is almost normalized.

But I do not want it to be normal. I do not want to let it keep happening. I do not want to shrug it off. I do not want to have words hurled at me, or to feel as though I should change my clothes or be ashamed of my beautiful bike.

I want to yell back. I want to scream a big fuck you at all perpetrators of street harassment. I want to school all of them, so that they take up less space and stop using their words with such cruelty.
Of course, this is not realistic. I can not go around hollering back at everyone, and neither can you. It would be tiring, redundant and most of all dangerous. However, there are some things we can all do:

1) If you are currently someone who yells at people on the street: STOP. It is not a compliment. It does not feel good. It is a fear-inducing reminder of all of our collective vulnerability and it makes us feel ashamed and angry and unsafe on our streets.

2) If you can be an ally, be one. If you are a big, strong, intimidating person (or if you are with a group, because there is often power in numbers) and you see someone getting harassed on the street, stand by them. Ask them if they need help, or just be nearby in case they may need help, and so that they feel less alone.

3) If you are harassed on the street, you can Hollback on this website. Remember that though it may feel good to scream back in person, throw eggs, or do whatever, this may limit your safety, especially if you are alone. Yelling back is fucking great, and if it feels right go for it, but if it doesn’t, share your story online.

4) Read more about street harassment and how we can work together to make it intolerable. Check out this and this.

BRB.

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tooth

Shit has been happening in 2013.
The result: I haven’t been blogging.
And despite my fascination with my oral health (as evidenced above), I haven’t been spending all my time worrying about tooth decay either.
I’ve been doing that part time, for sure, but I have also been preoccupied with all sorts of things.

For one, the sex shop I work at is getting older and bigger and better, and to celebrate we are throwing a big old party. I am honoured to play the role of Host. I am going to wear fake eyelashes for the first time ever. If you are in Halifax you should come and check out how silly they will look, and even better, dance to the wild beats of DJ Regalia and DJ SWAYBACK. It’s gonna be a time.

For two, I have been doing fun and exciting things that sex experts get to do. Way back in March I was part of a round table for HuffPost Live called Bringing Sexy Back, where me and three other professional sex educators, professors, and sex toy designers talked about the sex toy economy. When watching this video you should know that though I may look semi professional in my fancy glasses, I am actually sitting in my bed in my tiny attic apartment, and below the waist I am only wearing boys underwear.
Oh, and, I am going to Guelph, Ontario in June to speak at the 35th Annual Guelph Sexuality Conference. Brilliant sex educators like Tristan Taormino and Cory Silverberg will be there doing their things, teaching us stuff. I am speaking about sexual health and (dis)ability, which is my absolute favourite topic. So I have been busy with that, worrying over what I should say & wondering over what I should wear. What does one wear to a sex conference?!

For three, and I think this one is the biggest deal of ‘em all, I am writing a book?! It is actually, honestly and truly, one of the most exciting & terrifying & nerve-wracking & honouring projects with which I have ever been tasked.
In February, I signed a contract with the very impressive independent publishers Invisible Publishing. Check out their books. They are beautiful and brilliant and so fucking cool. And, within a year, a book written by me will be amidst their roster! Woah.

So, in sum, I am busy as shit. And as happy as a pig in shit too. And to continue with the various uses of the word shit: I don’t how the shit I am going to do it all.

To help with this, to narrow down my responsibilities,  I am gonna say BRB! to blogging.
I will be back, saying (hopefully) helpful and funny thing soon. As soon as I can.

Until then, please find your sex information from other resources. Personally, I would avoid Cosmo and all of their 69 Tips To Make Your Man Go Wild. They are always so redundant and boring.  Instead, some smarty-pants sex talkers can be found here and here and here.

I’ll miss you!
I’ll BRB!
Wish me luck!

On rape culture.

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Trigger warning: This article talks about rape and sexual assault.

Yesterday* I sat down to write a blog post. It has been a long time. I have been busy, and things have been happening that I have felt unsure how to comment on as someone who writes about sex. Specifically, there was that fucked up Girls Ep (spoiler) where Adam has sex with a woman that she does not want to have, that does not make her feel good. But we, the viewers, are somehow expected to empathize with him because it’s not his fault that he’s fucked up and hurts people? And then there was Steubenville, and everyone was talking and talking and talking  about it. And it felt like so many people and journalists and media outlets were doing such a fucking bad job of talking about it. It seemed as though sex and consent, partnered with rape and sexual assault, had become super hot topics and everybody was throwing in their two cents. And while such public discourse around rape made me feel good, it also made me feel weird. It feels powerful to engage in a discourse of consent with all sorts of different people. It felt hopeful to watch women and girls, such as Steubenville’s Jane Doe, come forward and share their stories with such strength and bravery. But, it also felt hard to look at. It also felt difficult to talk about. Talking about rape hurts me. It hurts a lot of people. It is not an easy conversation and the way that it seemed to be happening everywhere made me feel conflicted.

So, yesterday I began writing a blog post about the importance of talking about consent, and the importance of talking about rape, but also about the importance of remembering that these issues are delicate. I wanted to write about how we should always give trigger warnings before we start talking about rape. I wanted to write about how we should consider people’s histories before we engage in heavy discussions about sexual assault. I wanted to write about how hard these conversations can be and how they should happen softly.

And then the story of Rehtaeh Parsons came out and filled my news feed. And I stopped writing.

Rehtaeh’s story is so heartbreaking that it is hard to talk about it. Part of me doesn’t want to look at it. Part of me wants to pretend that these stories don’t happen. So, I stopped writing that blog post. I felt fully unequipped to write about rape in the face of such a painful rape story. I went to the sex shop I work at. I spent the afternoon talking about sex. The conversations were light and easy. I taught a man about his prostate. I helped someone pick out a dildo and harness. It felt good. It felt important. Sex education always does.

I finished my shift and went to the pool. I had been actively trying not to think about Rehtaeh all day. I did not want to think about Steubenville. I did not want to imagine the ways in which women’s bodies are hurt and demeaned and policed and degraded. In the change room, another woman recognized me. She was naked and so was I, and we stood there in our naked bodies, bodies that are strong but that can be hurt, bodies that are subject to violence, bodies that for all their beauty we are taught not to love. She thanked me. I had given a lecture to her class about the sexual health needs of persons with disabilities. I had brought in sex toys that can be adapted for folks with different abilities. This woman had never touched a sex toy before, and she thanked me for the opportunity. She told me she had never had an orgasm before, and sex made her nervous but excited, and she was so grateful that she had been exposed to sex toys in such a safe space. She wanted to come to the store and talk to the staff, to learn more about her body.

And that’s when I realized that if it is important to talk about sex lightly, it is just as important to talk about it with weight too. If I am sure that fun and informative sexual health education is important, than I am sure that talking about rape, and sexual assault, and violence against women & trans people’s bodies is important too. Even when it feels hard. Even when it hurts.

Rehtaeh’s story is unfortunately not an anomaly. In Canada, one in every seventeen women is raped at some point in her life. And girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 24 are the most likely victims. This happens because we live in a rape culture. To borrow from Force:

“In a rape culture, people are surrounded with images, language, laws, and other everyday phenomena that validate and perpetuate, rape. Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words and imagery, that make violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is inevitable. Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think about the persistence of rape as “just the way things are.”

When a woman is raped and people imply that she was asking for it because she was drunk, or because of what she was wearing, that is rape culture. When someone says “Man, I totally raped that exam” to mean that they did well on it, that is rape culture. When comedians make rape jokes, when girls and women are called sluts, when police officials and other systems of “justice” don’t protect women; that is rape culture.

Our society normalizes rape. It normalizes violence against women. The structures of patriarchy that inform our societal belief systems are dangerous foundations. Patriarchal and misogynist ideas teach boys to hurt girls, and teach girls not to love their bodies. It teaches us that women’s bodies are objects of sex. It teaches us all that men can’t control their “natural” urges. It teaches us all that there is a gender binary, that men are one way and women are another and that there is nothing in between. It teaches us to not speak openly and shamelessly about sex and pleasure, though we see it every day, on T.V and on the internet.

And so stories like Rehtaeh’s will keep happening and keep happening and keep happening because no one is being taught otherwise. Media outlets will talk about the criminal justice system failing  but this doesn’t account for the fact that the criminal justice system is a failure as a whole. Of course it is a failure,  because it too is informed by sexism and racism and classism. It too lays atop a foundation of patriarchy and oppression. If these boys who hurt Rehtaeh go to jail, will they learn how not to rape there? Will the Steubenville boys ever be taught that their actions were wrong? Will prison really teach them this? I don’t believe that it will. I don’t believe that the criminal justice system will deconstruct rape culture and tear down patriarchy. These systems will fail us time and time again because their basis is not one of equality but is one that perpetuates oppression. And, to be clear, I am not saying that the boys who hurt Rehtaeh should not be punished. I am saying I would not rely on the criminal justice system to dole out justice at all. I am arguing that we need alternatives.

And so I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t know what to do with Rehtaeh’s story, with so much heartbreak.

But I do believe that words have power. I do believe that when these stories happen, if we talk about them and talk about them and talk about them, and talk about them fairly, our words can affect change.

And so, I am sitting here, rewriting this blog post because I believe that part of annihilating rape culture is talking about it. And I know that it is hard to talk about. I know that even the word “rape” has the power to cause pain. Sticks and stones may break our bones but words may break our very hearts. Words have weight. And so I think we should use the strength of our words to talk about rape culture, to talk about patriarchy and misogyny.

Let’s talk about consent. Let’s teach our children and our lovers and our friends about respecting boundaries and respecting one another’s bodies. And let’s talk about how women should be treated with respect at all times, from when they are walking down the street to engaging in consensual sex. Let’s talk about what sexual assault can look like and who perpetrates it. And as we talk, as we speak without shame, lets hope that we are building a culture of consent. Let’s hope that we are creating an awareness around how sexual assault happens. Let’s hope that we are working to support survivors and let them feel love.

And as we speak, let’s remember to be gentle with one another. Let’s remember that these conversations are important but not easy. Let’s remember that survivors walk amongst us, with all their strength and courage, and let’s take care of each other. Let’s give trigger warnings. Let’s ask if someone feels like talking about rape right now, before barreling into the conversation head first. Let’s take care.

Some more resources:

If you would like to learn more about practicing good consent, go here and here.

If you are a survivor of rape and/or sexual assault and living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, go here and here.

……………………………..

* I began writing all this days ago, but talking about rape culture is difficult. It took awhile.