RAGE AGAINST THE PENIS PUMPS!

From Flickr User ChadMageria
From Flickr User ChadMageria

Samantha Bee did a spot on The Daily Show about Medicare funding penis pumps. Now, I know the spin is outrageous, and sometimes rhetorical, and meant for entertainment, but usually there’s truth to what they report on The Daily Show.

I thought, I can’t believe it. Sometimes dear Sam Bee goes over the top.

So I googled.

Lo and behold: The Atlantic, CBS, NBC, hell, even fucking Fox News corroborated. But only in the context of the government paying an average of $360 per pump. I googled that, too. There were a number of fine, fancy, multi-speed models for well under $100.

Then I cried. For like an hour. Big sobs. For people who are born one sex, but identify as another, whose choice to do so is suspect. For anybody who was not born into favorable class, race, ethnicity, sex. For my sweet girl, who has to grow up in this world full of asinine, inexcusable double standards like this one.

I cried for the shot abortion doctors, for myself and other women who’ve paid thousands of dollars for birth control, for young, poor, or sick women whose access to reproductive choice is constantly under attack by the very same population who need a medicare funded penis pump. By the very same population who called Sandra Fluke a harlot for advocating for the women’s health issues related to birth control.

By the very same population who would not consider gender reassignment a viable option for government funding, or other-gendered people to be a part of this conversation at all.

Look, It’s not about the penis pump. It isn’t.

I identify as a sex positive feminist, that is, I am a feminist who likes sex and thinks people should have it if they want to, whatever kind they choose, and does not, in general, view it as another conquering act by men, but instead a mutually enjoyable pastime, when between consenting adults.

Of course, I know that makes me a slut.

But let’s be for real. Penis pumps and birth control (including abortion) are not perfectly analogous. First, do penis pumps ever prevent life-threatening medical events? Do penis pumps ever prevent men from living in constant pain and/or extreme bleeding? Are penis pumps ever a surgical procedure requiring anesthesia (and therefore its own set of separate life risks)? These are honest, not rhetorical questions. We’ll get to the rhetorical part later.

So why is there no debate about government funding for penis pumps (only noting the fact that medicare is over paying), but there’s constant debate about government funding birth control, abortion, sexual reassignment surgery, etc.

Penis pumps do fall safely on the spectrum of reproductive choice, for whatever reason a man wants or needs one (recreation, medical inability to achieve an erection, curiosity), the ability to get and maintain an erection, a healthy, normal part of the male sexual experience, is a reproductive choice. To ejaculate or not to ejaculate?: That is the question.

Why the hell is nobody picketing the penis pump clinic? Unnecessary ejaculation (that is, sex for pleasure) is interpreted by both orthodox Judiasm and Catholicism as sinful. Where are the lines of Catholics outside the VA clinic? Why has nobody ever anywhere written a sign that says, “GOD SAYS NO PUMPS!” and “PENIS PUMPS ARE MURDER!”

Let me be absolutely clear, I have no issue with government funded penis pumps, as long as government funding things that make it easier for men to enjoy their sexuality are treated with the same scrutiny as those that enable women, transgender people, and homosexuals to do the same.

Here are two recent pieces of news: From the National Women’s Law Center discussing the state-level overreach into reproductive choice; And a piece in Rolling Stone about the stealth war on abortion. You can read as much as you want about that, just google “laws preventing women’s access to reproductive choice.”

So now, in the case of the government funded penis pump; I’d like to use some of the rhetorical devices that have been developed by enterprising conservatives for discussing non male, nonwhite, non cis-gender, use of, pursuit of reproductive choice, enjoy:

Men who can’t get erections do not deserve access to penis pumps because they’re being naturally selected against.

God hates men who need penis pumps.

If a man really, really wants an erection, the penis has a way of just getting it up.

An inability to get an erection must be God’s punishment for bad sexual choices in a man’s past.

If a man is being raped, his body has a way of shutting that whole thing down so he can’t maintain an erection. What if these penis pumps, that act against God’s will, are appropriated by rapists?!

If a man can’t get an erection, it’s because God doesn’t want him to.

Penis pumps are unnatural, an abomination, a cosmetic device. A man should have other ways to derive sexual enjoyment than via his penis.

A man does not deserve a penis pump because his inability to get an erection is not a life-threatening condition.

A man does not deserve the choice whether to get an erection, wanting to get an erection when he can’t makes him a slut. A gigolo. A person of low moral standards.

I know! Let’s make a law: if a man wants a penis pump, he should have to endure a probe ultrasound (into his urethra), without local anesthetic, narrated by his doctor, to ensure there is actually a medical problem that warrants one.

Can you think of any others?

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A Good Chat, a Good Chap: Writing About Alive People

from Flickr user CraigeMorsels
from Flickr user CraigeMorsels

One of the many things that I laugh at myself about is that I’m 32. There’s really no call for me to be writing a memoir. I’ve got no business.

I don’t think it would matter what I was working on, I’d feel like I had no business writing it.

Another thing that gives me chuckles and massive, intestine-twisting anxiety in equal parts is that I’m writing a lot about alive people.

Some of these alive people are people with whom I’ve not been on the greatest terms for some time. A lot of them are members of my family.

And this is shitty, but I really am not worried too much about writing stuff about my parents. They might be upset with me for a while, but they won’t stop talking to me forever, because they love the hell out of their grandchild. Who knew that having a baby at 24, which is one of the many things I’m writing about, would protect me from memoir backlash in the future? Ha!

I’m working through an edition of Writing the Memoir: From Truth To Art, and the section on writing about people who are alive says (this is a paraphrase),

You have a responsibility to the people you’re writing about other than yourself, you don’t necessarily have to stop what you’re doing, but you have to understand that what you’re doing may have larger consequences for them, and is it worth it? The limits of responsibility and how to define them vary from writer to writer, from story to story. Some people do it this way, others do it another way, your answer will depend on your sense of ethics and your willingness to open yourself to legal trouble. More on that in the appendix.

The appendix says that memoirists have to worry about defamation and invasion of privacy. There are a bunch of things that a work has to be in order to be defaming, and one of the things is false, so I feel fairly safe from that one. It also says you’re probably okay if you change names and avoid specifically identifiable information, which I would do anyway, because I worry about getting sued, and when pressed, about potential harm to the people I know or have known, even though some of them deserve my ire.

I’m not sure I’m fond of the idea of literary revenge. It strikes me as unproductive and ultimately unsatisfactory. I am trying to be fair, even when it is hard.

Of course, I’ve thought a lot about this.

Good Chap

Over the past several weeks, you’ve read some stories involving others. Sometimes those stories have been intimate, like in the post about my sister and I showering together.

I sent my sister the copy I intended to use, and she said, “well, that’s not exactly how I remember it, but that’s the beauty of narrative, right?” She gave me her blessing.

Earlier this week, I wrote about the first time I ever gave a guy a blow job. It was a thing I really hadn’t thought about in probably years, and it just leapt off my fingers.

And that hasn’t been posted yet, but it will be.

And I felt like, since that guy is still alive, and since we have friends in common, and since I thought it would be shitty for him to get a phone call something like this:

“Hello.”

“OH MY GOD, DUDE, APRIL WROTE ABOUT YOU ON HER BLOG!”

[silence]

“I DIDN’T KNOW YOUR PENIS IS RED!”

it would be classy of me to spare him by getting his permission, or at least say, “This is what I’m doing.  I’d love to use your real name. What are your thoughts?”

Because that guy possesses Mad Literary Respec, he said, (paraphrasing again, to protect the innocent) You totally weren’t required to ask me, but I appreciate it that you did. I’m cool as long as you don’t use my real name.

Then I said, “Dangit. Your real name is perfect.”

Then he said, “How about Leo?”

Then I said, “Baller.”

But Penelope says that you should never be afraid to get permission or to negotiate.

And doing that, which is sometimes way out of my comfort zone, is one of the many ways in which I shall grow, a lot, by writing this thing, and already have, and some of the other gajillion reasons I really don’t care if it never sees the light of day beyond this blog (though I’m totally operating under the assumption that somebody will publish it. How’s that for self-aggrandizing paradox?).

So what I’m saying here is that the more I write, the more I find that there are so, so few hard-and-fast rules that I should just do it, go with my gut, and work out the rest of it later.

I offer the same to you: Just do it. Carpe Diem. Now or never. Feliz Navidad. Etc.

The Misogynist Rhetoric Runs Deep: 1980 – present

This is the beginning of a piece about sexual assault:

This is from Flickr User Hey Paul Studios
This is from Flickr User Hey Paul Studios

It is deep inside me, a sliver of an idea, an idea that I have tried to banish by reading feminist criticism, by performing in The Vagina Monologues, by reading those sad, captioned photos online that have rape victims holding white signs with handwritten quotations from their abusers, by paying attention to politics, espousing liberal, evolved beliefs, by talking about myself as a feminist, even though there are a lot of women—outside the leftist intelligentsia—who are afraid to call themselves that. I have no difficulty thinking of a woman’s right over her reproductive choices as not remotely debatable by anybody with a lick of sense. But I cannot shake this ugly little kernel of a thought that on some level, women deserve to be raped.

The misogynist rhetoric is so, so deeply ingrained. Take this list of facts and rhetorical oddities and crimes.

  1. My parents are fundamentalist Christians who oppose abortion, gay marriage, and still talk about liberty.
  2. I was raised with the notion that a woman’s place is at home. My mother trained me well in the domestic arts. By the time I was 12, I knew how to cook, clean, do laundry, and sew. I enjoyed cooking and doing laundry.
  3. I was taught to fear sex. Sex makes you have babies, and if you do it wrong, you can go to hell. Sex is sacred and not for discussing or for doing with strangers.
  4. My mother has often told me that I “think too much.”
  5. God punishes the wanton.  If women dress slutty, then the men around them have no choice but to do their Godly duty and teach them a rapey lesson.

Naturally, in college I learned that 100% of what I knew about being a woman and sex and having a spirituality was useless. My sense of spirituality was all about feeling guilty and asking God to make it stop. My sense of womanhood was slavery to a husband, baby making. My sense of sex was so broken and hung up that I’d become afraid to lose my virginity: I clung to it as this remaining bastion of legitimacy for the dogma that authored my childhood, my sense of how men and women are supposed to interact, and my own ridiculous, misogynist reflexes about why and how women come to be raped.

So around my twenty-first birthday, I set out to prove that God wouldn’t punish me for being “bad.”