Tag Archives: sex ed

Gender complexity: Male/Female/Other

Gender isn’t as simple as male and female. Even purely biologically speaking there is more natural variation than that. Sex seems to be more of a spectrum rather than two neat categories. And it’s a social construct. Nature hasn’t given us clear distinctions, obvious characteristics of what should be considered male or female. Instead, we’re presented with a great variety in reproductive and sexual anatomy. It’s humans who try to fit this complexity into two groups.

Intersex conditions are then defined as natural variations that deviate from cultural norms concerning male and female bodies, including variations in chromosomes, hormones and sexual organs. Take these ladies on the right, for example. Would it make any sense to say they are men, just because they have XY chromosomes? Of course not. It shows how amazingly diverse human bodies really are, and how silly it is to insist sex is a simple thing. We should recognise it for the sociale construct it really is.

And that’s just biologically speaking. Gender is so much more than that. Part of it is gender identity, whether you feel like a man or a woman or maybe neither or both. Gender identity is a personal thing, it’s how you feel about yourself, how you perceive yourself. Your gender identity can match the cultural norms associated with body characteristics, so for example I feel like a woman and my body looks like what we call female. If I felt I was really a man, I would be considered transgender and perhaps I’d feel the desire to change my body to match my gender identity.

And then there’s gender expression. The way we’re supposed to look, how we are supposed to present ourselves to the world, is deeply connected to ideas about femininity and masculinity. People want to know, when they look at me, ‘what I am‘. If I’m a man or a woman. If I felt like a woman and my body matched what we call female but I yanovskacomwould get a short haircut, stop removing facial hair and would wear clothes we associate with men, people get… confused. Annoyed, Angry, even. Because I’d be messing up their nice boxed up ideas of how you’re supposed to look, what a woman is supposed to be.

I love it.

And I love this project by Lana Yanovska showing the variety of gender expression.

Violent Agreement

When Robin and I were in Australia I met up with this great guy that I just couldn’t stop agreeing with. Ever have those conversations where half of the time you’re going “exactly!”? Yeah, it was like that. He called it violently agreeing and, obviously, I couldn’t agree more.

I get that when I watch Esther Perel and Dan Savage. Violent agreement.

Sometimes I just get so happy knowing the world is inhabited by numerous great people who are doing and saying amazing things, and although I know I won’t get to meet most of them, it just feels so rich. I could go anywhere and there’s people there, amazing people, everywhere. Connections to be made, things to be learned, experiences to be shared, violent agreements to be had. It’s like knowing your fridge is stocked when you’re not hungry. My friends are amazing and so many other people are too. Violently loving <3.

When Someone Is Wrong On The Internet

This is now happening so often I feel I should take some time to clarify: I am a psychologist, specialised in sexology. Talking about sexuality and writing about sexuality, educating others and providing help is my job. It’s what I do for a living. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy talking about sexuality in my free time or that I’m unwilling to provide information without payment, but when you’re asking me to give my opinion as a professional, you’re asking me to do work for you. And if you don’t intend to pay me for my service, you’re asking me to work for free.

wrongontheinternetI get regular mentions on Facebook when someone I don’t know says something silly about sex work. “There’s no such thing as truly voluntary prostitution!” this person will say, and one of my acquaintances will comment with “Marijke Vonk” and I’m supposed to show up and explain why they are wrong. Just my name, usually, not even a sentence or two to explain why they’re dragging me into this. I don’t care if this random person I don’t know and who has no influence on my life holds an incorrect opinion, I really don’t. If you want to explain why they’re wrong, do it yourself. A while back someone posted “why do some women not like their vagina’s?” and I was mentioned in a comment by someone I’ve never talked to. “You’re a sexologist Marijke, I’m sure you have an opinion on this?”.

If you’re asking me to give my professional opinion on something, you’re asking me to do work. If there’s a topic on Fetlife about research or sexology and you think my knowledge would be relevant in that topic, and you’re asking me to write a whole post explaining the subject, you’re asking me to do work. Unpaid work.

fixcomputerIt’s like asking your friend who knows a lot about computers to help your cousin’s co-worker’s friend fix theirs. It’s one thing to ask your friend to help you, but when someone you hardly know posts on Twitter that their software is giving an error, you should’t post “hey Emily Smith, you’re good with computers! Go help this dude I don’t know fix theirs!”. Asking your friends to do unpaid work for you is sometimes problematic but can be okay, if you’re my friend you can ask me. I’ll even help your mom. But there’s a limit.

I’m willing to do work for free if I think you or your group are doing great things, I give lectures for students for free, I do voluntary work in my local kink scene, I’m not a greedy person. I’ll argue people who are wrong on the internet if I think that conversation would be educational for me, or if I think they have political influence and it’d be a form of activism. Sometimes I hang out on Fetlife because it’s fun.

But don’t mention me on Facebook, just dropping my name in some comment so I’ll come over and do unpaid work. Don’t email me telling me to contribute to a discussion just because you think my knowledge would be relevant. Offer to pay for my work, or leave me out of it.

 

From the Web

Gone are the ridiculous Dutch laws that demand transgender people be sterilised before their ‘official’ gender could be changed. Previously, transgender people were required to take hormones and undergo surgery, including irreversible sterilisation, before their official identity papers would show their correct gender. The Dutch Senate approved of the new laws that would end these intrusive and abusive medical requirements on December 18 2013, and the new laws have gone into force on July 1st 2014. We still have a long way to go, though. Only people over age 16 may file a request to change their gender, and it must be accompanied by an expert statement. In an ideal world the government would not consider sex, gender identity and gender expression any of their business. They would leave us and our genitals alone, stop registering our gender and abandon the false belief in a simple male/female classification. But this is not an ideal world, and this new law is an important step towards equality for transgender people in the Netherlands.


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All prostitution-permits were withdrawn from the proprietors of the Zandpad area in august 2013 because of false trafficking allegations, effectively ending all Red Light Districts (window prostitution) in Utrecht.  Around 230 sex workers lost their workplace and had to move to the streets or hotels, resulting in loss of income and more dangerous working conditions. The mayor lied that he hoped the sex workers would unite and become proprietors of the Zandpad area themselves, after which Utrecht repeatedly changed the requirements, rejected proposals from sexworker unions and prohibited sex workers from speaking at counsel meetings. Realisation of a new prostitution area is postponed until at least 2016.


Feminists have driven some of the most violent and dangerous legislation against sex workers’ rights, health, and safety worldwide“.


4.yes


“When we relayed Xander’s preference to the teacher, she indicated that this was precisely the reason for her concern: He didn’t want to join in the boys’ activities. And so it seemed our son’s “problem” was not merely his shyness but that he didn’t behave like a typical boy or conform to the teacher’s notions about how boys ought to act. [..] Rather than question her own assumptions about what boys could and should be like, this teacher decided there was Boyhood is a battlefield: The dangerous expectations of early masculinitysomething wrong with Xander. [..] The growing realization that pressures for boys to conform to masculine norms may negatively impact their development — coupled with concerns about young boys’ susceptibility to behavioral and learning problems—suggest our need and readiness for a new way of looking at boys and thinking about their development that both emphasizes their agency and awareness and considers what factors influence and motivate individual boys as they respond to their gender socialization.” – Boyhood is a battlefield: The dangerous expectations of early masculinity 

 


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