Throwback Thoughts: Protecting Your Vulnerable Position

It turns out I’ve been thinking and talking about sex for some time but experience and reason have changed the way I look at scripture and tradition on the matter. (Whether it is for better or worse is still to be determined.) Nevertheless, Thursdays here for the next few weeks will be for Throwback Thoughts–posts on sex and sexuality re-published from my old blog which was active from 2007 to 2010–and Fridays I will share where I currently stand on the issue(s) taken up in Thursday’s post. Let me tell you, 4-7 years makes a difference, whether it is for better or worse is still to be determined. So without further delay, here is a post from October 21, 2008 about my trip to the gynecologist which prompted a reflection on vulnerability and purity. See you tomorrow and enjoy or be confounded by the me of yesteryear.

_____________________________________________________________________

This afternoon I incurred the wrath of the speculum. It was my annual “special woman doctor” appointment. I don’t ever, ever, ever look forward to these appointments.

This is not me.

This is not me.

So there I was laying on the special recliner and mentally freaking out at the sight of the stirrups. They were menacing and the thought of putting my feet up in them and spreading made me sick. The moment had arrived when I was told to scoot down and put my feet in the stirrups. “This is it,” I thought to myself. “This is the moment when I am at my most vulnerable, feel most scared and all my defenses are let down all because of the way my legs are positioned and my life is exposed.” I thought about the profound implication of being in this position.

This is the position we assume when we are creating life, the position we assume when life is coming out of us and the position we assume to make sure our life is secured. This position is based on our lives as women and yet so many of us take it for granted and freely put our legs into hypothetical stirrups for people who can’t even guarantee us anything beyond that moment. It’s such a serious matter and in that moment I acknowledged the importance of protecting my womanhood and my purity at all costs. I found it interesting that though this woman was being paid to examine me and ensure I am healthy I was still spazzing out as if she were a rapist coming to take it by force. I was open in front of a perfect stranger and although I knew she meant no harm, I couldn’t help but be nervous and scared. But it also spoke volumes as to how much more we put ourselves in danger when we offer such an intimate and sacred part of ourselves to people who God hasn’t ordained or even deigned for us to be with.

There’s always a scripture that comes to mind for me when I consider purity. Psalm 5:16, “Why spill the waters of your springs in the streets, having sex with just anyone? You should reserve it for yourselves. Never share it with strangers.” (NIV) I always think about that scripture when I hear about the countless numbers of men and women, believers and nonbelievers alike, who see no problem with spilling their waters into the streets. It’s just another past time. Some think they are entitled to it. Some think it’s impossible to abstain from it. Some think you’re a prude if you won’t even entertain the idea of spilling your waters. I think about this scripture when I think about myself some behavioral traits from my past that I had to let go of in order to step into a better and right relationship with God.

In considering all of this, I just feel very convicted and felt compelled to share with anyone who might read this that it’s of the utmost importance that we protect our purity. Everyone may not believe in abstaining from sex until marriage or even keeping themselves away from fornication, but I believe that for the livelihood of our spirits, we must. The temporary pleasure of operating in impurity just because you can is just that, temporary. After you’re done feeding your flesh and taking your feet out of the stirrups, the sweet taste in your mouth will turn as bitter as gall. And unfortunately, you’ll be left with a part of the person you gave yourself to and they will have a part of you, that you can’t get back.

My being in the doctor’s office, in those stirrups scared me (and maybe it’s because I tend to be a naturally scary person) and made me realize that I cannot ever afford to be caught in that position with the wrong person doing the wrong thing. Inasmuch as you can make it possible, see to it not to find yourself in hypothetical stirrups spilling your waters in the street to people who are here today and gone tomorrow. See to it that the only time you find yourself in the vulnerable position is when you must submit to your practitioner or to the person who God has joined you together with.

Playing the THOT: A Reflection on a Moment of Dress-Up

Last weekend, over the Labor Day holiday, I was in Miami for my best friend’s bachelorette proceedings. There was plenty of indulgent eating, drinking, partying, and of course a bit of scantily clad dressing because that is de rigueur in Miami. But there was one night that would raise the eyebrows of many, a themed night called, “So You Think You Can Dress…Like a THOT.” To quickly fill you in, THOT stands for “That Hoe Over/Out There” and has swept the nation for the last year or so. You can pretty much consider “THOT” the millennial slut. She is classified as such by her questionable and high quantities of men, “ratchet” behavior, too revealing and tight clothing, and even her teeth. I decided that since my bride-to-be best friend loves dressing up–she met her soon-to-be husband at a Halloween party and she loves dressing up for galas, parties, etc–it would be fun to have the group compete in a THOT dress-up contest complete with prizes for “Most THOTful outfit. I also figured that the act of dressing up  this way would be ripe for social commentary and ethical reflection. What can I say, I love a good social experiment and I’m a slave to my research interests.

I was hesitant about this idea at first because I didn’t know if it would offend the sensibilities of a group of young, professional black women. Surely we have enough odds stacked against us that donning our THOT apparel may not help us. But, much to my surprise, the group was for it. The original plan was to dress up the night we went to Miami’s–and possibly the nation’s largest strip club, King of Diamonds, but a last-minute change of plans resulted in us modeling our outfits for an impromptu photo shoot in the lobby of our hotel. Alas my social experiment was axed but it still left me with something to think about.

Days before this themed night I spoke with a close friend about it and asked her what she thought about my posting the pictures on Instagram. Immediately she told me that it would be a bad idea because it would be a conflict of interest with my professional life. She suggested that the photo might fall into the wrong hands and I may be judged harshly for it. A few days after it was all said and done, I told another close friend that I wanted to post one of the pictures on Facebook to which he said, “I don’t think that would be a good idea.” He suggested that someone from work might see it and I might get in trouble. To the latter friend I responded that I wish I would get in trouble for posting a picture of myself in a revealing outfit when they know who I am as a person. I am confounded that this would even be an issue and that, once again, what a woman does with her body–independent of harming anyone else–would subject her to judgement.

We all know that the advent of social media makes it more possible to get in trouble for the things we do in our private time. We also know that photos of women in revealing clothing subjects them to harsher judgement than their male peers regardless of what is known about them personally. And of course, over the last few weeks, we have come to know that at this time people’s computers can be hacked and nude photos released for public consumption without permission. So the reality is, women are damned if they don’t and damned if they do. Our reputation can be put on the line for having scantily clad fun–or for being fully dressed because that’s what fashion critics do–or it can be put on the line during the involuntary release of photos of ourselves. We have no control over whose hands photos fall into and what people will think about those photos when they receive them. Right now it is my prerogative to release a photograph of myself in revealing clothing worn for fun. Conversely, it is another woman’s prerogative to release pictures of herself in revealing clothes that she wears because that is what she likes wearing. Neither of us deserve what could be coming to us in the way of condemnation, judgement, termination from jobs, lascivious attention, rape etc. I had to throw in the latter because before the themed night someone also suggested that we will get unwelcome attention from men and it may be dangerous for us to dress like this. I am personally tired of policing myself based on men’s lack of impulse control–thank you Daily Show’s Jessica Williams for that word. It is rarely other women we have to deal with but men who think they are entitled to certain behavioral outcomes because of the way a woman dresses or men who determine what is respectable and what isn’t. And this leads me to my concluding point, the politics of respectability.

At the end of the day politics of respectability is what this all boils down to. A woman perceived as a THOT or a woman in THOT clothing is not seen as respectable because she doesn’t conform herself to society’s–better yet, the patriarchy’s standard for women–and therefore it is assumed that she doesn’t deserve our respect. But this disregards the humanity of women and their right to choose for themselves whom they will be or in the case of this discussion, what they will look like, and still maintain full integrity of their being. Is a woman not more than the clothes she chooses to puts on her back? Or is she not more than what she chooses to do for money? I am well aware that I speak with a certain privilege because I wore my outfit for entertainment purposes only and I have a certain reputation established, but most of the women we categorize as THOTs don’t have that luxury. And to take it one step further, the term “THOT” was contrived in the minds of men so isn’t it about time the women destroy it somehow? I’m with Madame Noir writer Veronica Well who said,

…as you may imagine the term was originally used to describe sexually promiscuous women. Of course that’s problematic and misogynistic because, once again, women are being punished for being sexually expressive while men, who behave similarly, are given a pass and a pat on the back.

I want to argue for a woman retaining her power regardless of how she chooses to dress. That we all owe women and girls that respect and I say this as a lesson I am teaching myself because I will not act like I haven’t seen a women questionably dressed and not judged her. Hell, I saw plenty of questionably dressed women in Miami, I’ve been appalled by Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” I’ve stared in disbelief as women got paid to dance on top of bars in little to nothing or pole danced…I’ve questioned the content of many a woman’s character for how they dressed or acted. Many are the judgements I’ve waged against those women and the pity I’ve had for them, but these women chose that for themselves with the assumption that they would still be treated with respect, just as much respect as the women who came out of the house or the hotel with respectable clothing on, and I get it. I get it. A few minutes of one night that I chose to dress as a so-called THOT, I expected to be respected and taken seriously because I know who I am at my core. This is what all women expect and are entitled to regardless of how much or how little clothing they are wearing because they too know who they are at their core.

picstitch

Same woman, different clothes, respect regardless.

 

Failing At Sex Ed

I took this Sex Ed quiz and I got 3 out of 6 correct. Not only am I embarrassed by my low score but I’m also disappointed that I couldn’t even find out the ones I got wrong. There’s no point in giving someone a quiz if you aren’t going to reveal the correct answers to them, there’s no education in that.

Take the quiz for yourself and see how you do.

Quiz: What grade would you really get in Sex Ed?.