Saturday, 11 February 2017

To the girl who will be dating my ex husband

I’m separating from my husband. We are married now about 8 months. We’re separating, because he suddenly changed his mind. He no longer wants to be a husband. 

I’m dedicating this to his future girl, so you know who you’re actually dealing with.

You’ll hear terrible stories about me. You’ll hear that I’m mental. You’ll hear that I was abusing him. You’ll hear loads of stories.

None of them are true.

The truth is, that I haven’t done anything that warrant this kind of treatment and what he put me trough. And whatever happens, I want you to know, that you haven’t either. Because sooner or later he’ll do the same thing to you.

I used to hear the stories about his ex and I used to hate her. But now, I don’t think those were true. Now when I see who he really is, I don’t believe anything what he said about other women.

Probably you are attracted to him because of his charming nature. He’s funny and dorky and nice. He’s hard working. He’ll make you feel special. He’ll kiss you with passion and make you melt in his arms. And he’ll make you feel desired and loved.

Until it doesn’t.

It won’t be obvious at first. He’ll just grew distant. He’ll say that he’s tired. You’ll just try harder to accommodate his needs - because when he’s happy maybe he’ll make you happy. But you soon notice that your needs are not a priority in this relationship anymore. And maybe you’ll do like I did, you’ll reconsider the relationship. But after telling him this, you’ll have this long talk, maybe you’ll get drunk in order to talk. And he’ll tell you the thing that’s bothering him. And it’ll be some bullshit thing that’s not even an issue. But you’ll feel guilty. Because you shouldn’t have said that. Maybe if you were more considerate, it wouldn’t happen.

Maybe he’ll tell you how much he loves you. And you’ll believe him. And you’ll forget everything, because it was in some way your fault. It doesn’t matter that if he told you what’s bothering him earlier you would’ve solved the problem earlier. But you still feel guilty.

You’ll have nice time and have a few drinks until he tries to rape you one time. And then you’ll be terrified of him when he’s drinking. And he’ll feel so sorry for doing that. And that he didn’t know it will bother you so much. You ask him to stop drinking. But later on you’ll find out that he’ll resent you for that. Because you can ask him for anything, but don’t touch his right to drink.

Maybe you’ll be like me - traumatised by whole thing. I used to froze and have a panic attack when he came near me smelling with alcohol. Even with one drop. People will be looking at you like you’re crazy and restricting girlfriend. And he won’t do anything to explain to them why you don’t want him to drink. But he won’t be able to stop drinking, even just one drink every now and then. Even for you. Because you’ll find out later, that for real you’re not that important. For sure not important enough to stop drinking.

Whatever he did he’ll be sorry for a moment. Later on he’ll make you feel guilty that you still remember the way he hurt you. Because he haven’t done anything like that recently. So just get over yourself. 

Probably you’re admiring his confidence now. You know how he get it? Because I did everything in my power to help him with self-esteem. I showered him with compliments. I told him how unique he is. I told him that none of his dreams are silly and he can have a dreams and I’ll help him to fulfil those dreams. But you have no idea how many times my self-esteem took a blow in a process. Because for him to feel powerful he needs to bring you down.

Of course, it’s not obvious. You won’t notice it at first. Those will be those small sarcasms and pinches and pins and needles that he’ll say. But if you tell him - you’re being meaner than usual, he’ll just gaslight you.

You’ll notice after some time that he’s a master of gaslighting.

But the good days and good moments are brilliant. You’ll have so much laugh and fun. So you will hold on to those moments, because you think that’s really him. And it is in a sense. But just be aware that this sad, bringing you down and neglecting you side of him is also true. And you’ll see more of it.

Probably after some time you’ll notice that his family is abusive. That they manipulate him so he bends to their will and does whatever they think is best. But not necessarily for him. And he’ll religiously admire them still. You’ll notice that the more they push him away, the more he longs for their acceptance. 

So you maybe say something. Because it’s not right. And that will be your mistake. Because no matter what you did for him, you’ll never be important enough to him to hear this hard truth from you.

And as it’s easier for him to blame you than to face his demons and get help for all the trauma he survived in his life - he’ll start resenting you. And whatever his family do, it’ll always be your fault. His sister stops talking to him? She doesn’t like you so it’s your fault. His brother don’t want to come over and spend time with him? Your fault. His family never visiting. Apparently, your fault. Their decisions are never their fault. So you will be the one to blame. 

But you won’t know that until it’s too late. Until you’re married or worse, have kids with him. Luckily enough I didn’t get pregnant with him. I really thank God for that.

After all this how I ended up marrying him? Because I believe that he changed and grew up. Because he’s a great partner. He seems like a good friend. Because he told me how much he loved me. Because he said that he can’t wait to be my husband. And I stupidly believed him. 

Then he’ll abandon you on your wedding night. Because he’s brother is around and he just wants to spend time with him. But his brother doesn’t like you. So it’s either you or the brother. And obviously, there is no choice. You’re never a choice. 

After some time you’ll notice the small signs and you’ll try your best to resolve them. You’ll be going around like me and asking: “are you okay?”, “are you angry at me?”, “did I do something to upset you?”, “you know you can talk to me, right?”. But like I told you, he’s a master of gaslighting. So he’ll make you feel like you’re crazy, because everything is alright. Everything is fine. 

But he’ll make you feel neglected, unloved. Your self-esteem will be a disaster. But probably your response would be to shower him with love. Because maybe if you show him how much you love him, he’ll show it to you in return. But he won’t. So you’ll try harder, but your mood and self-esteem will be taking more and more blows. You’ll be more irritable and sometimes angry. Because you deserve some affection.

He’ll use that against you. And one day, when you say something in anger, you’ll find out what’s been going on. But that won’t be over. He can’t just leave and separate in peace. He’ll drown you with his neurotic behaviour at the same time deflecting the blame to you. Because you’re emotional one.

I’ll tell you how exactly did our break up went.

First, he said that he’s thinking about leaving. That he thought about it for few weeks, actually. When I told him that if he leaves we will never be back together. So he decided that he wanted to give us a try. But he didn’t make an effort. I realised then, that actually he never made an effort in our relationship. 

When he realises that I wasn’t going to change and accommodate his needs, because I was still angry from the emotional turmoil he put me through, he decided to leave. Funny enough, a day before he just told me how much he loves me and that I’ll see - we will be a happy marriage again. And then next day he’s all cold and distant. Because I didn’t say “oh wow, it’s awesome, I love you so much!” Because I dared to be angry that he’s playing with my feelings.

But I wanted to know what is in his head, so I asked him if he wants to go back together. He says yes. So you both make a plan that in months time, you’ll get back together and try to work on your marriage. Because it’s been only 6 months. You can fix that.

And then, when the time was near, he just sneaked into the house when I wasn’t around and took some of his remaining stuff. He just then told me that he wanted to talk to me. And that he thought through and he don’t want to get back. That there are things that he can’t forgive me. 

But can he borrow duvet and pillows? Because there’s none in his new apartment?

He says that he’ll continue to drive my car. Because it’s more convenient for him. I say that I want to sell it. Doesn’t matter - he does what he wants.

So you see what he did? Working on the relationship is too much, but still using the privileges that this relationship gave him - not a problem. Giving something from himself? No. Taking everything from me - sure thing. 

The reason for break up is that he felt restricted by me. The truth is, he was really restricting me. The parties I didn’t attend to, because he was too tired and I wanted to spend time with him. But when I was too tired and wanted to stay with him, it’s restricting. It’s unreasonable. 

He told me that he felt that he has to wear a mask around me. But his true colours he showed me after he took it off, simply terrifies me. 

So that’s kind of a man you’re dealing with. Just take care of yourself and be careful. 

Written by Hanna Mroczek

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Fresh New Hell For Polish Women

Poland for few years now is slowly walking towards nationalist and right-wing tendencies. Catholics are feeling oppressed, because of the drive for equality of people they don’t feel worthy - homosexuals, transsexuals and unmarried people - and as a result are pushing for radicalisation of many aspects of social life.

First, the current ruling party - Law and Justice, was against Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, claiming that it goes against traditional catholic values. Main reservation was that it expands the definition of family outside of traditional view, i.e. married men and women with children.

Second, Poland is one of the few countries that has no legislation for same sex couples. There are some ways that same sex couples can tie themselves together legally, but recently it has been made more difficult if not impossible. Government reserves right to forbid couples from getting married abroad, doesn’t accept valid marriage certificates and makes it more difficult to obtain citizenship for children of same sex couples.

But it wasn’t enough. Now there are making moves to threaten women’s reproductive rights, women’s right to health and women’s right to bodily autonomy.

The anti-abortion organisation proposed the bill to totally ban abortion. The right would allow only for actions to save woman’s life when there is immediate threat and there is no other option. It plans to introduce new crime: “prenatal murder” and punish women and health care providers who terminate pregnancy for up to 5 years in prison.

Right now, we have some kind of “trade-off” regarding abortion rights. Abortion is legal, but only in three cases:

1.     Rape and incest
2.     Danger to mother’s health and life
3.     Serious fetal abnormalities

However, Poland also protected “conscience” of doctors by introducing “conscience clause”, where doctors are allowed to refuse medical treatment if it’s in disagreement with their moral compass. Furthermore, current law doesn’t require the doctor to indicate another health care provider who could terminate pregnancy, leaving women stranded, on their own, in a limbo, unable to find the doctor to provide the service and going against the clock to be allowed abortion on the legal grounds.

This situation led to serious human rights and patient rights abuses: from harassment of raped girls and refusal of abortion up to women having to give birth to seriously ill babies, which died an agonising death shortly after.

There were cases, when women were refused abortion in pregnancy defects that rendered them sterile.

Babies were born without bones, with hydrocephalus and other abnormalities. All of those instances qualified for legal abortion in Poland, but the choice was taken away from women and instead there were forced to see their babies die in pain. If abortion is murder, then I don’t know what kind of sadistic satisfaction anti-abortion people can have in this situation.

There is a controversy regarding abortion on down syndrome fetuses. Although there is a huge amount of people living with Down Syndrome who are fully functional in our society, but having such child poses serious problems to families: men usually cannot handle handicapped children and leave mothers to raise their child alone; children that end up in foster system are at serious threat of abuse and neglect; parents are constantly worried of how they can provide for their children and who will take care of them after their died. Those are serious issues that many families are facing daily without almost no support from government.

At the moment, if we compare and analyse maternal deaths and infant deaths both in Poland and Ireland, one begs the question of the consequences of anti-abortion legislation. Right now, Poland have one of the lowest maternal mortality in Europe. That’s something to be proud of! While Poland rate for maternal mortality is 3 per 100,000, for Ireland is 9 per 100,000 (Human Development Index, 2015). In statistics the numbers are negligible. In real life? Not so much.

However, if we look at child mortality, the numbers are more grim. In Ireland child mortality is 3.2 per 1,000 while in Poland its 4.5 per 1,000. So let’s imagine this in numbers. It’s estimated that in Poland 360-380 thousands babies are born each year. So it means that each year 1620 infants die each year (Human Development Index, 2015). Looking at the numbers above, it means that yearly around 10 women are dying at the childbirth (fun fact: during 12 year of Polish involvement in Afghan war, 43 soldiers died).

Every life lost is one to many.

The reasons for sure vary and it’s not all due to abuse of women’s rights, but it begs the question why Polish government is so fixated on saving a fetus, when there is clearly much to be done in saving already born babies and complete grown-up human beings.

We are afraid that restricting already strict abortion laws in Poland will result in more maternal deaths and more infant deaths. We are afraid that the legislation will lead to doctor’s reluctance to start life saving procedures faster out of fear of prosecution. We are afraid that the criminalisation of abortion will lead to investigation and (God forbid!) prosecution of miscarriages.

Although the legislation has been proposed by anti-abortion group it has been now widely supported by politicians from Law and Justice party, including our prime minister Beata Szydlo and the leader of the party - Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

The legislation has been widely supported by Polish Catholic Church and the letters from Episcopate supporting “Stop Abortion!” initiative had now been read in every church in Poland. It is also widely known that the current government is under pressure from the Church to introduce legislation highly abusing and restricting rights of women, non-binary people and other-than-heterosexual relationships.

If you encounter any news saying that the government is backing out from their statements - their not. It’s a lie. They are very much against abortion and they are very much against women.

As a result of this situation, social activist group emerged - Dziewuchy Dziewuchom. Although the group has been set up on 1st April 2016, it already have 100,000 members and supporters. Polish Women from around the world are organising protests and manifestations, everything what’s in our power to stop this all from happening.

We are working alongside various groups such as Ratujmy Kobiety (Safe the Women) and their initiative Moje Cialo, Moja Broszka (My Body, My Business) not only to stop the legislation, but also to abolish “conscience clause” and maybe even liberalise the current abortion law.

We are fighting so that women’s right to health and bodily autonomy is respected and protected.

Written by Vespertillio

for Dziewuchy Dziewuchom Irlandia

Thursday, 4 February 2016

We Are Back!

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Bad girls and bad boys!

We are proud to announce that... we are back!

Our lives have been hectic recently that's why we didn't wrote anything for ages.

Between being unemployed, self-employed, semi-employed or full time employed, we just didn't have time to write. And the inspiration wasn't with us.

Some of us were battling our own demons.

Some of us were enjoying themselves traveling and meeting new people.

Some of us change their plans and were building new careers.

Some of us are preparing for marriage.

We were just busy being busy and living our lives.

But we are back now.

So stay tuned and keep an eye on our new posts!

Write to you soon!

Equal is the New Sexy Team

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

When It’s Not Always Clear That It Was Rape

Before you lynch me and burn me at the stake, let me explain first, please.
Let’s make something clear: I don’t want to argue about definition of rape or perform victim blaming or excuse perpetrators. It’s not about claiming that “well, if she kissed him than she really wanted to have sex with him” or “she shouldn’t have wear that” or “she brought it on herself” bunch of crap. I really applaud the modern day definitions of rape and sexual violence and the more inclusive of some sexual acts (not necessarily penile – vaginal), the better.
If it includes rape on men, than it’s really great. I’m all for clear definition and swift and punitive actions when the rape gets reported. I would really love to see more prosecution for the rapes when victims speaks up and more of society’s support when rape survivors are at their lowest.
I really dream of a day when I wake up and see in the news that some rape victim reported a crime and EVERYBODY is like: “what a brave woman” or “I really feel for her” or simple “I believe her”.
But if we look at the statistics, it’s hard not to be pessimistic. What, around 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men experienced sexualviolence in their life? The numbers vary from country to country, depending on definition of rape and who asks the question. But one thing is usually clear: false reports are scarce and yet few percentage of rapists get prosecuted. And that EVERY rape statistics is an underestimation of the total number of rapes. Because majority of sexual violence goes unreported.
Humanity is slowly learning about dynamics of violent and abusive relationships, the circle of fear and violence. That sometimes it’s more dangerous to leave abusive partner than to stay and try to endure. That there is so many ways that an abusive partner can tie the victim to himself – by economic means, fear, children, desperation, addiction, etc.
Also in terms of prosecuting of rape we came a loooong way. It’s acknowledged that rape can be committed by a partner, on a date, by a stranger or a member of a family. It doesn’t necessarily involve the use of force, because as it’s known, one of the fear response is to freeze. Simple “no” is enough as a proof that sex is unwanted or, as California went a step forward, a “yes” is required for sex to be considered consensual.
And again, I’m cheering and I am happy with every improvement on this ground, every small step towards seeing rape as it is – a grave violation of somebody’s integrity; and every step back from victim blaming and slut shaming is an incredible achievement.
And that brings us to the key point: some victims do not speak up. They do not report their victimisation. Heck, they don’t even mention it to their friends or families.
Sometimes it takes time to report rape. Sometimes victim needs to handle her own emotional issues connected to trauma, before she exposes herself to another danger. Mostly, the biggest deterrent is that “nobody will believe me” or “everyone will blame me”. Which is actually a real threat, considering that rape victims are treated awfully in criminal proceedings.
However, the point I’m trying to make (but haven’t even started yet) is that we have a problem with narrative that we create around rape. There is this damaging tendency to view sex and sexual violence (and therefore rape) as an extreme, as either black or white: either it did happen and therefore it is the crime that have to be reported and prosecuted; or it didn’t happen and victim is simply lying.
When we speak about rape, we highlight it’s disconnection from sexual pleasure and it’s actual roots in power and will to dominate. Many feminists portray it as a crime that requires harsh punishment. Some of us try really really hard to persuade the misogynist world that victim is never to blame (hail to that). And I believe that if the victim reports this crime, all of this facts are really important. And if we can get the work done soon, that would be just great.
So come on, let’s get to work.


What if the victim does NOT want to report the crime?
That’s when narrative radically changes. If rape is a crime and therefore rapist is a criminal, why wouldn’t anyone want to report rape? Unless he is threatening her or controlling her. Well, that’s an excuse. But if he isn’t? What if there is nothing standing in a way of reporting a crime except victims willingness to do so?
The extreme narrative somehow vilified the perpetrators of rape to the point that if someone we know (and like) is accused of committing rape, we automatically turn against victim and towards victim blaming, because it’s impossible that such a great guy can do such a bad thing.
So here is a brain-picker: what if some men who commit rape are actually a good guys who just did a bad thing? What if some men who commit rape actually love the women they raped?
And one more thing: What if victim did not report a rape, because she doesn’t want him to get into trouble? Because, well, she actually loves him?
If the victim has a feelings towards the perpetrator or is a relationship with him, there might be another thing happening: she will not admit to herself that it was rape. Because if rape is so bad and we are together and he loves me, than he couldn’t have raped me, could he?
And somehow we all aren’t allowing for this narrative to happen. We hardly see stories when rape happened in the scenario of consensual relationship. Because rape is bad and need to be reported or if the victim doesn’t report it, then it didn’t happen. And that’s it.
What we don’t realise is that through this extreme narrative, not only we prevent victims from speaking up and getting support, but automatically we are committing another violence on them: determining what happened to them based on their actions. We are deciding what it is that they should do, regardless of what they would like to do.
By this extreme narrative, we are stripping victim of choice, because in order to be considered raped, she needs to report it and name the rapist. By this extreme narrative, we are silencing their mixed emotions of having some warm feelings towards rapist and at the same time feeling totally betrayed and violated.
Now the big what if: What if we start to concentrate on what victim wants and needs instead of categorising her response to the act as an indicator of crime occurring? What if we suddenly decide that the well-being of the victim is an upmost priority and therefore whatever she is comfortable with, we just accept it? And if she said that she was raped and doesn’t want to report it, then we will offer her simple: “I believe you. Is there anything I can do for you?”.
There is an actual story behind the point I’m making. I have a personal story to share.
My boyfriend, whom I love dearly and we are together couple of years now, did rape me and did sexually harass me at some point in our relationship. I never told anybody, because a) I refused to call it sexual violence; b) the acts where in such a grey area that by many it would be deemed nothing; c) if someone would believe me, I was shielding myself from listening to insults towards him. Because by the end of the day, he is still my boyfriend and I love him.
Two of the situations happened when we were both drunk. In a fervour of emotions and alcohol, he decided that he would love to pleasure me. And he continued to do so, regardless of the fact that I really didn’t want him to. He hold me down, until I really struggled myself out of his embrace. His response both time was that he would never hurt me and he only wanted to please me. So you see, not really the terrible rape/sexual violence nightmare scenario.
The third situation happened when we had sex after amazing foreplay, in my favourite position, in a way that I always liked it. But this time I wasn’t liking it. I was hurting and asked him to be more gentle and slow down, but he didn’t stop until he was finished. So again, very ambivalent situation and not really a great prosecution material.  
There was no bruises, there was no violence, there was no screams or threats. It just sort of happened that way.
Regardless of their triviality, those events did leave a mark. I still sometimes cry at the memory of those events. It paralyses me, when I smell alcohol from him, even if I know that he just had two sips of beer. Once he came back home drunk and all he could manage was crawl into bed and fall asleep. But I still lost it. I couldn’t sleep entire night, I was crying half terrified, half furious that he could be in such a state when I’m most afraid of him. 
Sometimes, when I have too much to drink I’m flushed with negative feelings towards him and all I want is to hurt him, as if somehow it would alleviate the pain I’m feeling.
So why I stayed with him? Well, because I love him. And since that time he changed a lot. It took me loads of time and effort, to explain to him why the things that he did were bad and how did it make me feel. He worked long time for his understanding that sometimes I will just have a flashback and get from “I’m horny, just f*** me” to “don’t touch me and get away from me” in a second, but he allows me for some space and comforts me when it happens. He is more perceptive towards my responses during sex, and flinches at every sign of discomfort. Sometimes it’s a downer on a passion part, but at least I feel safe with him that now he won’t do anything to hurt me.
I am the total contradiction to the prevalent rape narrative. I was sexually violated by my boyfriend and no, I didn’t report a crime and yes, it was still a sexual violence. Yes, he is a good person and yes, he still committed the act.
But even if the rape survivor is a person like me, with feelings towards rapist and absolute unwillingness to call it rape and report it as a crime, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t leave a mark. It doesn’t mean that the victim is not having flashbacks, trauma, nightmares or avoids situations that serves as a reminder of that time.
Sexual violence, ANY act of sexual violence, be it rape, harassment or some minor acts like street harassment always affect victims one way or another. Most of the times there will be no tears, no screaming, no shock and no severe mental illnesses and traumas. But there will be this sinking feeling that something has been stolen from you, something that impacts on your sense of security, ability to trust and willingness to “be normal”.
And I think it’s another step that we need to take – be more understanding towards victims. Be better listeners. Be more perceptive of how the situation did affect the person. Be more understanding that it takes time to deal with the situation. And most importantly, we need to stop measuring situation by our own perception of how the rape victim should act like and what she/he should do and just simply accept that rape is one of this crimes that it’s never black and white, but it’s in every shade in the colour pallet. That the dynamics of relationship that the victim is in, her state of mind, age, social background and familial ties all impact on the sexual violence scenario, on the ability to handle the situation and on the victim’s behaviour after the act.
And that sometimes for the victims it is not always clear that it was rape.
Written by Khutulun
P.S. If you experienced sexual violence and you don't know how you feel and what to do with this feelings, have a look at Nina Burrowes book. It's amazing. It helps.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Please, Don’t Use #JeNeSuisPasCharlie. Not Now.

Few days ago a satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo has been attacked by two gunmen and one driver, who killed 12 people and then took hostages in another place until they were eventually killed.

Many people went to the streets showing their support for dead journalists. A hashtags #CharlieHebdo and #JeSuisCharlie were created and used vastly among social media.

As it could be suspected, there was an opposition to this sentiment. Shortly, #JeNeSuisPasCharlie has been created and vast amount of posts and articles has been posted, criticizing Charlie Hebdo for being racist. So basically, people said that “they are not Charlie”, because they didn’t like their satire.
Freedom of speech and all, but people, your opinion isn’t always the most important to share.
Okay, it came out wrong.
What I’m intended to write, there is a big difference between disagreeing with somebody and going of the flow of the tragedy to make yourself visible. And it seems to me that most who use #JeNeSuisPasCharlie immediately after the attack is just that.
You don’t have to agree with Charlie Hebdo satire. You might think that they are racist. But nobody deserved being gunned down like that. And definitely not because of their work, regardless of how tasteless it was.
They deserved to be criticized. They deserved to have their office trolled by covering it entirely with anti-racists posters. They deserved to be blocked with rallies and protests. They deserved to be called every name in the book that comes to your mind of what kind of racist-xenophobic assholes they were. Anything, but not the fate they met.

There is a very interesting article from The Telegraph “We think the Paris terrorists were offended by Charlie Hebdo's satire. What if we're wrong?”. It’s not revelation, but a small brain-picker:

“Terrorists aren't offended by cartoons. Not even cartoons that satirise prophet Muhammad. They don't care about satire. For all I know they may not even care about the Prophet Muhammad… Instead, they merely pretend to be offended by cartoons, in order to give themselves a pretext to commit murder.”
Showing support, and maybe sharing few drawing that other cartoonist did, isn’t necessary saying “oh my God, they were so amazing”, but it’s simple “it’s a tragedy. I’m so terrified that it happened”. And by showing support or refraining from criticizing the victims, it’s simultaneously an act of condemnation for perpetration. Because criticizing victims for their work that is believed to inspire killers to commit mass murder feels like very ill-conceived case of victim blaming.
Because regardless of their work, it is a tragedy. It is terrifying and it is disgusting.
I’ve read few articles before writing this post and all of them could’ve wait. Some criticized them for racist; some were the quotations of resentful politicians who are not #CharlieHebdo, because “they offended us, so we don’t like them”; some used the attack on Charlie Hebdo to bring attention to other journalist who are killed.
Like I said, you don’t have to agree with them, you don’t have to go and show your support, you might think that some journalists death are neglected and don’t receive proper attention, but I don’t what your parents taught you, but I was raised up that you just don’t criticize the person who just died. Maybe it’s just pointless social norm for you, but in my opinion is a courtesy everybody deserves.
And yes, freedom of speech allows everybody to speak their mind. But there is always time and place for that. And writing the long articles about how you are not #CharlieHebdo, when their bodies aren’t cold yet, is plainly insensitive.
Where I stand it looks like all of this articles are about using this tragedy to make themselves stand out in the crowd and be more easily search in Google engine. Without this tragedy your opinion about Charlie Hebdo could never be heard. I get that, we are all writing blogs and articles and want to increase traffic in our websites. But people, you could’ve contain your flowing mind and fight against racism at least for a week. Until the pain for some is no longer fresh. Until the shock passed. Simply out of respect for people who were killed.
I was going to write some things about how criticizing religion, even if it’s the faith of the minority, is not racist and hate crime, but I’ll refrain from that. I will take my own advice and just don’t make my name stand out and show to the world how witty I am when a tragedy strikes.
So, have your opinion, criticize people, criticize popular media, advocate against racism. Do it anytime you want. But when somebody dies in a terrible circumstances, just hold your tong, please. Try to mourn the death of your opponents and enemies. Because in time of death, everybody deserves the moment of peace.
Because nobody deserves to be blamed for their death at the hands of people who want to violate others sense of security.
Written by Vespertilio

Sunday, 4 January 2015


We are very happy to have Mawada joining our team! She's super busy at the moment, but here a small teaser of what she will be writing about...

Mawada, stage is yours!

I have always had a problem with sexual harassment in Cairo, Egypt. Where a woman could get harassed anywhere anytime in the presence of witnessing public who normally choose to keep silent. Sexual harassment in Cairo happened to me in public transportation, streets, university and unfortunately even once in a mosque. Normally I take action speak out and shout, though shouting never made me feel satisfied or in peace. I have always felt as if I was ripped off.

Public witnesses never intervened to help; on the contrary they intervened to keep me “the victim” silent. I remember once I was on a public bus in Cairo I got harassed, started shouting, looked right into the harasser eyes and scolded him. He kept his eyes shut and pretended to be sleeping. I kept shouting… people looked at me as a source of disturbance & turned their faces away. I even kept asking women not to sit close to the guy because he is a harasser. The only response I got was from a girl who was sitting next to me... She asked me to keep silent because it happens every day & because my complaints annoyed her….

Written by Mawada

Sunday, 21 December 2014

8 Things I’ve Learned from Reading a Romance Book

Being absolutely bored to death and in need of something to read, I downloaded to my Kindle this book for free, “Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble” by H. P. Mallory. Before you start judging my taste in books, I must dare to say that it’s a relatively good read. Actually, I've read all of the 5 books of the Jolie Wilkins series.
Whaaat? I like it...
It has well considered plot, it’s fantasy world with witches, fairies, warlocks and vampires, so it’s not only about sappy love and nothing else. There is war between species, there is drama, there is suspense and it’s really engaging. And, as it usually goes in this kind of books, there is a love trio, with main character - Jolie Wilkins the witch in the middle, warlock Rand and vampire Sinjin fighting for her attention, love and affection.
Oh, and there are erotic scenes that made my heart beat faster. And I had really restless nights after reading some fragments…

But anyway, I wouldn’t be myself if I just switched off my feminist brain and take the book as it is. Nope, it didn’t happen. I had to analyse each male – female dynamics and draw conclusions. I couldn’t help but wonder how can this kind of books impact on our perceptions of love, romance and sex. And most importantly, what is the message that some of those books are sending to the women who are reading them?
Anyway, this are the things I noticed in this books that are worth mentioning.

1. If the woman says no, it means no.

This is the first thing that I’ve noticed and I were like “Whoop whoop! Halleluiah!”. Although it seems that every male character with name wants to have sex with Jolie, she has her eyes on Rand and he is the only one who gains the privilege of being her lover. And even though each male character with name says it multiple times how bad they want her, if she says no, it means no. It doesn’t stop them from talking her into it, but basically that’s it. No means no.
What is even better, the erotic situations with Rand doesn’t always end up with sex. Heck, I had to wait until Book 2 for them to finally get it going. There are various reasons why they didn’t do it earlier (author’s sadism being the main reason), but some of them were cut short by Jolie’s “no”. Even if there is this graphic description of Rand’s erection and his desire and basically he is so horny that if he could, he would have sex with her 10000 times without a break, when she says “we can’t”, he stops and takes cold shower. And that’s it.
Easy? Easy.

2. Rape is appalling and inexcusable. And victim needs to be supported.

Although the sexual tension is almost on every page of the book, it is clearly highlighted that rape is inexcusable. Even when the victim dresses up provocatively.
It is clearly described how Jolie changes her clothing style from really safe and unrevealing clothes, to “sexy” ones and “highlighting her twins”, but she is never policed for it.
When she gets kidnapped, violated and almost raped by one “son of a b**** vampire”, even though she is dressed in clothes showing all of her sexy curves, she isn’t blamed for anything by anybody. And what’s best, she doesn’t blame herself.
And when others do find out what happened to her and what the “son of a b**** vampire” did to her, nobody is against her. Not even her ex-boyfriend with whom she isn’t at best of terms. Everybody is outraged, sickened by the situation and she meets with support and understanding. And when she says that she never mentioned the whole situation, because she wanted to forget about it, there is only one thing to say: “I understand”.

3. Everybody has different sexual needs and sexual drives.

Another awesome thing in the book is that sexual desire and needs don’t depend on gender. We have Jolie who can go without sex for some time and can patiently wait for Rand to finally jump into her bed (I told you, there is drama and various conundrums), even though there are some guys, who would be more than happy to take his place, right here, right now. But she is waiting (sometimes not as patiently) for the one she really desires.
Then we had her best friend, Christa, who has insatiable sexual drive. Before the action even starts to develop, we are getting familiar with the list of guys that Christa dated and had sex with. And there isn’t even a hint of judgement of her actions. Finally, she finds a boyfriend, whom she marries at the end of the series. And btw, he sometimes complains about her sexual needs and that she wants sex TOO MUCH. So we have a guy, who wants sex less often than his girlfriend. It happens.
Then we have a guy, who basically f**** everything that has vagina. Then we have a vampire Sinjin, whose sexual drive is compared to Christa’s. And finally we have Rand, who mentions his desire to have sex with Jolie from almost Chapter 1, but he is able to wait patiently for a proper moment where both of them will be into it.
So ladies and gentlemen, never be ashamed of your sexual desire, or lack of thereof, because everything that feels natural to you is NORMAL.

4. Sex scenario between employer and employee is unthinkable.

That was an interesting point. At one moment (lots of things happen before that, but anyway…) Jolie starts working for Rand. So Rand is her employer. So he is in the position of power. And even though they want each other baaadly (there are random passionate kisses and looks and jealousy and graphic erotic descriptions etc.) Rand decides not to take the step further, because it would be inappropriate as he is her boss and he doesn’t want to put her in problematic position.
Bravo, Rand.

5. Woman’s orgasm first.

That’s the thing I looooved. Like I said, there were various erotic scenarios that ended with nothing, but each action always started with Rand pleasuring Jolie. Always. Unless it was described that she was ready for it like right now and downright announced it.
Also, the first sexual situation that actually was carried through, was an oral sex performed on her. There is again a graphic description how her taste and wetness etc. made him feel, but he decided that he want to pleasure her and that this evening was all about her. And when they FINALLY did have a proper sex (multiple times), it also started with him pleasuring her. Only when she said something among the lines like “I want you NOW”, only then he get straight to the business.
Like I said, that’s the point I really loved. The truth that the main source of orgasm for women is clitoral stimulation and there is only a handful of women who have vaginal orgasms. So ladies, there is a lesson for you to learn from that: if the guy loves you and cares about your pleasure, he will make sure that you are first wet and horny enough for him to enter. If you are not and he doesn’t care, just kick him in the nuts, because he is not worth it.

6. Men in power can easily work on equal terms with women in power.

At one point in the book Jolie becomes the Queen of the Underworld, so she is like the highest of highest and she has her Council where all magical species are represented and all representatives are the most powerful of all. Even though the ratio is 5 to 3, it is always highlighted that each of the women could easily make barbeque of everybody on the Council (and most of others, for that matter). And guys don’t have a problem with that. They can easily work alongside women, take their opinion into consideration, don’t mansplain anything and suck it up when they got outvoted. There is only one sexist comment where one person suggests that women are weaker sex, but he’s put in his place by everybody in the room.

7. Marriage shouldn’t be forced on woman.

When Jolie becomes the Queen, she is pushed to do many things she not necessarily wants to: move out of her small apartment, get classes in various political and queeny things, meet with people, give speeches, consult her council and properly represent her people.
When it becomes apparent that it would be a good political decision if she marries a representative of other magical being (vampires, fairies, demons, werewolves), the decision is only hers. And when she indelicately tells everybody to shove off, there is no hard feelings.
And when she finally gets together with Rand and gets pregnant, everybody is happy for her. Because she is seen as a person with ability and right to choose, not a bargaining card for political benefits.

However, there was one thing that stood out and I didn’t like it. And I believe that this kind of narrative becomes way too often represented in books that brought up the subject of sex and romantic relationship:

8. Sexual harassment, stalking, psychological violence and jealousy are sexy.

Like I just said, this narrative is problematic and it scares me how sexual harassment and violence is easily mistaken with eroticism and passion.
For example in Twilight saga, books potentially for teenagers, stalking is described as something sexy, as a sign of love and care. Nobody mentions how creepy it is and how many victims live in fear because of it and how their experience is belittled by almost everybody, including criminal justice system representatives.
Not to mention Bella’s first time, when she basically is all bruised up. But that’s okay, because he is a vampire and he can’t control his strength. But he regrets everything afterwards and he is sorry.
Or 50 Shades of Grey books that are on one hand glorified for their attempt to bring alternative sexual scenarios into the discussion, but on the other hand are frequently criticised for mistaking domestic violence and sexual abuse with love and BDSM lifestyle.
Here is similar situation. Although rape is clearly described as something appalling, sexual harassment, stalking and jealousy manipulations are not.
So basically, Rand is indecisive the entire book, he loves Jolie, but he won’t act on his feelings, he doesn’t show her for long time how much he cares for her, but is always angry at her that she doesn’t know that. He is terribly jealous each time another guy comes into the picture and she seems interested, even though few pages ago he made it clear that he doesn’t know what he wants with her or that he won’t allow for anything to progress.
There are few situations where Rand is fighting with somebody for her. Actually, I think it got to punching on three or four occasions. And each time it’s described as something “wow”. Because she never would have thought that the guy could fight for her and now there is this two extremely sexy guys throwing punches. Wow. And what is more, few of those acts of violence are when Rand tries to “defend” Jolie, regardless of her opinion on that matter. But still “wow”.
Also, through entire book there is this hint of psychological violence and manipulations. For example, things are going into the sex direction, then something happens, Jolie gets angry at Rand and decides she doesn’t want to have anything to do with him (or guys for that matter), so he goes to tell her how much he cares for her, but still does nothing, she have a thing with somebody else (a kiss, a date, etc.), Rand gets jealous, stops speaking to her, make a guilt trip saying that she doesn’t care about his feelings, so she turns her attention towards him, but he ignores her. So she is left with guilt, mixed feelings, usually crying until he decides to “forgive” her. So basically she is in this perpetual situation when she doesn’t know what will future brings with Rand, because he is freakin’ indecisive. But each time when he pushes her away and she is like “fine, I have to move on”, he automatically does something to stay around and make her feel guilty for thinking about her own happiness.
And finally:

Sexual harassment and violence is sexy when it’s done by a guys who are handsome and woman is attracted to them.

We have whole spectrum of horny guys who wants to f*** Jolie and even though some of them accepts her “no” for sex, it doesn’t prevent them from grabbing, rubbing, flashing, invading personal space, forcefully kissing and freely commenting on her clothes and boobs. As if somehow the sexual harassment was a normal thing that guys can’t control and all the girl can do is to accept that and feel flattered that she receives so much attention.
There are also few descriptions of sexual violence, especially in relationship Jolie – Sinjin. So from their first encounter it’s clear that Sinjin is attracted to her and she is clearly attracted to him. As we all know, she is in love with Rand, so she is patiently waiting to jump his bone, but there are obvious description that she is sexually attracted to Sinjin as well. And somehow it excuses all of his actions against her. He pins her into wall or tree, rubs himself against her, few times forcefully kisses her, holds her down against her will while stinging her with his erection through his pants, etc.
For me, it’s clearly sexual violence. Sexual attraction does not excuse such violations and actions against woman’s will. But here it’s mistaken with passion, desire and lust. And at the same time, it doesn’t seem to bother the girl, somehow it’s made to appear flattering.

Those are dangerous messages. Sexual harassment is clear violation of woman’s integrity and it doesn’t matter whether the perpetrator is sexy and sexually attractive or not. Men just can’t violate women whenever they please, only because they have a desire to do so. Strong sexual desire, passion and lust doesn’t require sexual violence to take place. And even when girl “like it rough”, it doesn’t mean that she wants to be sexually harassed and abused.

Just to sum up, those books and similar to them clearly have some feminist messages that are broadcasted to the world. Female characters are complicated, full of ambitions, desires, various stories and experiences. Male characters can be respectful, complicated, sensitive and are not afraid of women in power.
However, there is still a looooooooong way until we learn to talk about sex as a natural phenomenon and stop mistaking sexual violence for signs of affection and love.

What about you? Do you like to read romantic/erotic books and novels? What are your observations? Did you noticed something in particular?
We’d love to hear your opinion!

 Written by Vespertilio