The Top 10 of 2013: Change From Within’s Year in Review

Happy New Year!

2013 was a transformative year for me and my writing.  My business and my blogging have changed and grown a lot in the last 12 months.  In a lot of ways, my writing here at Change From Within has taken a back seat to my writing for larger platforms, namely Everyday Feminism and The Good Men Project, which has been cool to see. As is my yearly tradition, it’s time to reflect on my writing of the past year and highlight those pieces that were most widely-read.

Over at Everyday Feminism, three of my pieces really stood out in terms of reception and hits:

‘That’s Racist Against White People’ A Discussion on Power and Privilege was by far my most popular piece of 2013 at EF with more than 80,000 hits.

Also worthy of mention from my Everyday Feminism writing in 2013 are Intent vs Impact: Why Your Intentions Don’t Really Matter and So You Call Yourself an Ally: 10 Things All ‘Allies’ Need to Know.

At The Good Men Project, I had a few different pieces go bananas in 2013.

The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21“, a piece I co-wrote with Alyssa Royse, Julie Gillis, and Joanna Schroeder, was by far my most-read contribution of 2013 with more than 1 million hits on numerous platforms.

My Open Letter to the Rapey Frat Brother and the ‘How to Get Laid’ Generation also was widely read, getting picked up by the Huffington Post.

Change From Within’s Top 10 Articles of 2013

Over here at Change From Within, the posts that were most read speak to the changes in my own work.  More and more, I have tried to highlight the writing and perspectives of the amazing people in my community, and that’s reflected in the most-read articles of the year.  4 of the top 10 articles of 2013 were composed by friends and mentors!

Without further ado, here are the top posts from Change From Within in 2013:

10. Shaking Off the “Harlem Shake” Meme – Tools for Resisting Cultural Appropriation

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 4.35.47 PM

After “Racism, Appropriation, and the Harlem Shake” (coming in at #2 below), lots of readers were asking questions like, “So what are we supposed to do?  How do we actually resist cultural appropriation?”  In response, I wrote out a list of simple actions that we can all take to resist cultural appropriation around us.

9.  Standing Up to Racial and Religious Profiling

Kadra Abdi

After being racially and religiously profiled by the TSA in June of 2013, my dear friend Kadra Abdi wrote this powerful call to action with ways that we all can stand up to racial and religious profiling.  Her compelling story challenges us to think critically about our own judgments and how we can be part of the solution to this pressing problem.

8.  Rethinking Lisak & Miller: Checking the Math

After much criticism for my piece entitled “Preventing Sexual Violence – Rethinking Lisak & Miller,” I wrote a piece that tackled some of the math being used in criticizing my reconsideration of the groundbreaking Lisak & Miller research.  My friend Rida helped me run some mathematical scenarios that rethink the “predator theory” for who exactly we should be focusing on in our work to prevent sexual violence.

7.  Coming Out of the Woods: On Hugo Schwyzer and Accountability

In August, Hugo Schwyzer, a man who I have defended in the past, showed everyone who he truly is: a misogynistic, racist fraud.  In turn, I owed a lot of people apologies for my defense of this indefensible man.  Here is the public version of that apology.

6. 33+ Suggestions for Action After the Zimmerman Verdict

Justice for Trayvon MartinFor me, like many people, the “not-guilty” verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was devastating.  It wasn’t particularly surprising, but it was devastating emotionally and in its wider implications.  Thus, I was incredibly thankful when my friend and mentor Daniel Escalante emailed me with a list of suggestions for action that he (and others) put together. Now, a few months after the verdict, it is good for me to revisit these suggestions and recommit to action in 2014.  I encourage you to do the same.

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Beyond Being a White Knight: 8 Ways Men can be Allies to Women at Parties

I spend a lot of time thinking about parties.

Not only do I love parties, but a big part of my work is encouraging sex-positive party culture on college campuses.

And while I love to party, I have to remember something: Parties can be profoundly dangerous places, especially for women.

So it leaves me wondering this: Aside from the environmental changes we can make to ensure party culture is more sex positivein what ways can men act as allies to women at parties, particularly as we look to prevent sexual violence?

Whether you’re in the club or at a house party or a school-sponsored dance, men have a responsibility to act in solidarity with women to ensure that parties are fun and safe for everyone.

When it comes to party environments, though, that’s not exactly simple to accomplish.

After all, attempting to be a good ally to women can quickly devolve into some paternalistic “white knighting” that can easily recreate the very systems of power and marginalization and oppression that we’re looking to undermine.

And as I sat down to write this piece, it ended up being a lot more difficult than I thought. Every idea I came up with for how to be a good ally at parties seemed to easily devolve into paternalistic ugliness.

So I reached out to my community!

And once again, I was reminded about how this work must be done in cooperation.

8 Ways Men Can be Allies to Women at Parties

In turn, the following list is reflective of my community: friends, acquaintances, other bloggers, family members.

While some ideas are my own, many, even ones not directly attributed, are reflective of the powerful community in which I am fortunate to be grounded in my work to prevent sexual violence on college campuses.

1.  Don’t Be ‘That Guy’ 

Arguably the most important thing that a man can do to act in solidarity with women in party atmospheres is to make sure you aren’t being the one to make others uncomfortable (at best) or to act predatorily (at worst).

What I often say is that men who openly espouse feminist ideals and who know how to “talk the talk” of solidarity are sometimes the most dangerous to women.

After all, those of us who can drop some bell hooks or speak to the performative nature of gender roles have the potential to gain trust and to exploit that trust to manipulate, assault, or otherwise hurt women.

In short, if we want to be allies, we have the most responsibility to buck our social conditioning of what it means to be a man.

We have the responsibility to consider the impacts of our actions on the women around us, even if we are not intending to make them uncomfortable.

In the words of my friend Jen, “If you comment on a person’s appearance, be aware it could be unwanted attention and make her uncomfortable (especially in alone situations or when it turns into harassment).  Don’t jump to calling her pet names (sweetheart, babe) or to making requests of her (smile for me, etc).”

In short, don’t be that guy – the guy who actively is hitting on everyone, who is ogling women’s bodies, who’s enabling other men to prey on women, who is performing traditional, toxic masculinity.

2.  Don’t Be Paternalistic

One of the trickiest aspects of attempting to ally oneself to women as a man in any context is avoiding paternalism – acting on behalf of women as if we know better than them – but it’s particularly tough to avoid in party environments.

After all, parties tend to be loud, busy, complicated, and people are there for a variety of reasons.

Thus, we might see a woman on the dance floor who has someone grinding up on her. Even if she has a look on her face that we interpret as discomfort, it’s hard to know how to proceed.

After all, maybe that is how her face looks when she’s really into something! Or maybe she is uncomfortable, but doesn’t want help from a stranger. Or maybe she is uncomfortable and wants help, but not from a male-identified person. Or maybe she’s getting ready to handle it herself.

The key here is not to assume we can “save the day” and to be respectful and defer to women when possible.

If you have a relationship with the women in question, a simple check-in can go a long way: “Hey! How you doing? Wanna get a drink with me?”

If you don’t know the person in question, sometimes even making eye contact and giving a concerned look can allow her to signal whether she might want your help.

From there, perhaps the best way to proceed is to engage the guy who’s acting inappropriately.

Talk to him, distract him, and if she’s uncomfortable, she can move along. Doing so helps share the agency, allowing her to still make a decision about how things should go forward.

Perhaps, though, the best way to be an ally is, as my bestie Becca put it, to consider “how you position yourself in a room/situation. Sometimes removing yourself from a room/situation altogether can be a form of allyship in itself.”

In a party environment, sometimes the best thing we can do to avoid paternalism is to be aware of the space we are occupying in parties and consider how we’re interacting with women and act accordingly, which may mean removing ourselves from a situation.

After all, offering a woman a ride home (even with good intentions) could be the most threatening thing she’s experienced all night.

Lastly, recognize that when you try to be an ally, sometimes you’re going to screw up and totally “white knight” the situation.

If that happens, apologize where necessary and try to learn from that experience.

3.  Err on the Side of Intervention

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

An Open Letter to the Rapey Frat Brother and the “How to Get Laid” Generation

I published this piece over at the Good Men Project this week, and it’s been blowing up!  Since then, it’s been republished at the Huffington Post, and I have recorded a CNN iReport on the subject that’s had almost 40,000 views.  Plus, HLN’s Raising America asked me to record another video!

It’s incredibly exciting to see this message of consent and sex positive relationships getting so much positive attention.

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My brother,

I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt.

I’m not sure you deserve it, and a lot of people are going to give me hell for it, but I’m going to try. Because when you wrote the email “Luring your Rapebait” to your Georgia Tech fraternity brothers at ΦKT, you touched on something much bigger than yourself.

You touched on a problem we see in masculinity and party culture on every single college campus.

It’s ironic. In the email you expressed the exact cognitive dissonance that I see with college men I work with all over the United States: You explicitly said, “NO RAPING.” Yet everything you described encourages rape!

So it makes me wonder: Have we sent you that many messed up messages about sex, consent, rape, “blurred lines,” partying, and alcohol that you don’t actually know what is and isn’t rape?  

Have we, as the men in your life, taught you that many terrible messages about masculinity that you honestly think this is how men are supposed to act in order to get laid?

Have we sent you that many messed up messages about your own self worth and the personhood of women that you think it’s actually normal and acceptable to refer to women as rapebait (or any other terrible, objectifying term) when you think you’re only talking to your brothers?

If the answer to any of these questions could even possibly be a “yes”, then I have a responsibility as your brother to offer you some perspective.

Again, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt, and despite what your letter tells me, I am going to assume that you don’t actually want to rape anyone – if not because you value the personhood and autonomy of your sexual partners then because you don’t want to be expelled, go to jail, and register as a sex offender for the rest of your life.

♦◊♦

So let me throw out an absolutely crazy idea: if you actually want to “get laid,” and you want your sex to be inany way better than a sloppy drunk encounter that may actually be sexually assault, forget about your 7 E’s of Hooking Up.

Instead, consider the 7 A’s of Hooking Up:

  1. Ask – See someone at the party that you’re interested in?  Ask her a bit about herself (or him about himself – no need for heteronormativity here, but I will use the female pronoun since your letter seemed pretty focused on female “rapebait”).  Get to know her a bit.  And do so genuinely.  I promise – should your night end with a hookup, your sex will be a hell of a lot better if you’ve talked and felt out the chemistry.
  2. Ask – Ask your newfound friend if they’d like to come with you to go get a drink.  Don’t offer to get a drink for her, as there are some really messed up people out there (of which you’re not one, right?) who would drop something in someone’s drink. If she doesn’t want a drink, no need for “aww, that’s no fun” – sometimes sober sex is the best sex.
  3. Ask – Ask her if she’d like to dance.  If she doesn’t, see if she’d like to play a game like bags or just hang out and talk some more. If she does want to dance, don’t do that creepy “rub your penis against their ass” b.s. that you described. I promise that showing off your ability to actually dance is going to a lot further in impressing her than grinding against her like a dog in heat. Then, if you want to grind a bit,ask!  A simple, “Is this alright?” can suffice.  Also, don’t just run your hands all over her body without her permission. Check in. I promise, asking is sexy.
  4. Ask – As the night progresses, if you have some chemistry and are getting along, ask her if she’d be interested in leaving with you. If she’s not, respect that. If she is, great! Just don’t assume that means you’re getting laid.
  5. Ask Ask where she’d like to go – her place? Your place? Out on a date another time when you’re both more sober and can appreciate each other’s company a bit more?
  6. Ask – If it looks like you might hook up, make sure you check in along the way. Ask if you can kiss her. Ask if you can remove your clothing or hers. Ask.  I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Consent doesn’t have to be plastic and boring. The single sexiest question someone can be asked is, “Tell me what you want.”  Not sure how to make asking sexy? Check out this article.
  7. Ask – So you’ve hooked up.  Maybe that means you just made out all night.  Maybe you had oral or you “went all the way” (whatever that means). Rather than being a creep (“Expunge, send them out of your room and on their way out when you are finished”), consider this: Sex gets better over time with every single partner. The more you know each other’s bodies, the more you and your partner will know what will make for mind-blowing pleasure. Ask what they’d like in the future. Be honest, and let her be honest. Not really feeling something long-term? Say so. Really like her and want to pursue a relationship or at least a date or two? Communicate that. And respect what she wants.

Follow the 7 A’s of Hooking Up, and I promise your sex will be better and you and your partner will have a much better night. Oh, and you won’t rape anyone.

One last thing. If you’re interested in throwing parties where every person has an amazing time, where those who want to hook up can meet someone, and where sexual violence is not the end result, let’s have a conversation about sex-positive party culture.

I want to see you and all of my brothers and sisters have the kind of amazing, mind-blowing, sex positive experiences that are possible if we leave behind this toxic, rapebait bullshit.

In Sex Positivity,

Jamie

Podcast: Strategies for Sexual Violence Prevention on College Campuses

I normally don’t like to post on Saturdays, as fewer people are likely to see the article/video/rant that I post that week.  But I really wanted to wait this week for something to go public, and it happened to go public on a Saturday.

This week’s Everyday Feminism podcast is a conversation between Sandra Kim, founder of Everyday Feminism, and myself about preventing sexual violence on college campuses.  It is by no means comprehensive, but it’s meant to be the beginning of a conversation on how to do more than simply respond to sexual violence as it takes place on college campuses where 1 in 4 and 1 in 8 men are sexually assaulted.

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With rare exceptions, no one who is throwing a party spends the time, energy, and money so that people will get assaulted. Yet, the grim reality is that at least 1 in 4 college women are survivors of sexual violence, and our institutions are not doing enough to stem this terrible tide.

Here to discuss this phenomenon and offer advice on how to begin the change is Jamie Utt, sexual violence prevention educator and Contributing Writer at Everyday Feminism. In this podcast episode, Jamie will distinguish between preventative and responsive approaches, discuss the recent rise in sexual violence on college campuses, and will paint a picture of what a sex-positive campus might look like.

Based on our articles How We Can Address Sexual Violence on Campuses and Booze, Booty Shaking, and Backroom Hookups: Making College Party Culture Sex-Positive, Jamie offers tips for students and educators alike!

Click here to read the transcript.

In this episode, we will discuss:

  • Statistics and research regarding sexual violence on college campuses.
  • The different approaches to sexual violence response, prevention and education on college campuses.
  • How to implement the different approaches to sexual violence.
  • Common questions to consider when dealing with sexual violence education on college campuses.
  • Resources for sexual violence response and prevention.

Resources

Listen to the podcast at Everyday Feminism.

Booze, Booty Shaking, and Back Room Hookups: Making College Party Culture Sex Positive

I get to participate in some pretty awesome conversations as part of my work.

One of my favorites, though, is when I get to talk to college students about what makes for a mind-blowing, talk-about-it-for-years party.

I ask the question, and students just start shouting out things like:

“The perfect DJ!” “Everybody’s dancing!” “Booze.” “Drugs.” “Some non-alcoholic drinks/mixers.” “Sexy ladies!” “Sexier men!” “No drama.” “Food.” “Sex!”  “Everybody’s gettin’ lucky!” “SEX!”

Let’s be honest: By and large, one of the only things that college students love more than partying and sex is talking about partying and sex.

What’s phenomenal about this conversation, though, is the opportunity it provides to extend the dialogue beyond beer bongs, booty shaking, and backroom hookups.It provides an entry into a conversation about positive sexuality and sexual violence prevention.

With rare exceptions, no one who is throwing a party spends the time, energy, and money so that people will get assaulted. Yet there is a clear connection betweencollege party culture and sexual violence.

After all, 74% of perpetrators of sexual violence on college campuses were under the influence of alcohol when they committed the assault, and 55% of survivors of sexual violence on campuses were under the influence of alcohol when assaulted.

Unfortunately, on college campuses,  this dialogue translates too often into shaming and blaming of survivors for their decisions to drink or approaches to“prevention” that place the onus on potential “victims” to keep themselves from getting raped.

And to mitigate the risk, most colleges simply take a punitive approach (with varying levels of alcohol education – which is fantastic – thrown in) to alcohol on campus.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In fact, we need to see college partying and the terrifying link to sexual violence as an opening to a different kind of conversation about the social time our young people are spending on college campuses or anywhere for that matter.

Shifting to Sex Positivity

Most of the college students that I work with have never heard of the concept of sex positivity.  I know I sure hadn’t when I started college.

But in any conversation about sex with young people, when I introduce the definition I work from, the tone shifts considerably, no matter how we were discussing sex before.

Here’s the definition I’m working from:

Sex positivity refers to positive, affirming, consensual sexual relationships, characterized by open, honest communication and attention to the needs and desires of oneself and one’s partner(s).

Sounds amazing, right?

Well, most of the young people I get to work with on college campuses all over the US think so, too!

So when I tell them that it’s possible to make simple changes to your average party environment that make it more sex positive, they are pumped!

But every now and then, I have the skeptical workshop participant (usually a dude, but not always) who says something to the effect of “It sounds like one giant cock-block to me.”

But without fail, whenever this sentiment is expressed, I don’t even have to respond!

Last time this happened, a young woman explained, “Unless you’re looking to rape somebody, this sounds like the opposite of a cock block. Nothing sounds hotter than dancing with someone at a party only to learn that they are a great kisser who asks first!”

Undoubtedly, we have to spend some time and energy thinking about the worst case scenario, understanding and exposing predators, and taking preventative precautions.

But sexual violence prevention, particularly as it relates to parties, can (and must)be so much more than that!

What Does Sex-Positive Partying Look Like?

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

Your First Time: A Sexual Guide for Girls and Women

Last week I posted a link to a piece that I wrote for Everyday Feminism.  The piece attempts to offer young men and boys some information and advice to make their first sexual experiences more healthy, fulfilling, and safe for them and their partner(s).

The next day, Melissa Fabello offered some fantastic information for girls and women!  Check it out…

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Most sexuality education is terrible.

Like, beyond terrible.

And if you’ve received a formal sex education at all, it likely went a little like this:

“Sex is defined as intercourse, which involves a penis going inside of a vagina. But you probably don’t want to do that because then you’ll get pregnant and ruin your entire life and – oh hey! – here are some terrifying pictures of STI’s.”

Sex Ed: Mean Girls Style

Sex Ed: Mean Girls Style

Uhh, and we think that it’s time we change that.

Sex ed has to change.

Because if we don’t do a better job of teaching healthy sexuality, we leave it up to pornography, television, music, and movies to do our job – and none of those areaccurate, comprehensive sources of sexuality education.

It’s time we teach our young people about more than just biology, STI’s, andabstinence.

It’s time we teach about how to have amazing, fulfilling, consensual, and healthy sex.

It’s time to give them an accurate depiction of what sex should look and feel like.

And hell, if schools don’t want to do it, then fine. Everyday Feminism will. More specifically, the brilliant Jamie Utt and I will. Because it needs to get done.

And since I identify as a woman, I’ll finish what Jamie started yesterday by talking to the girls and women out there.

That said, let me be absolutely clear that I am a cisgender woman, and as such, many of these lessons come from a cisgender perspective and should be treated as limited in that way.

So what are some steps to take before diving into sex for the first time? What are some important facts to know? And why are they important?

Let’s take a look.

1. Get to Know Your Body

I know it sounds obvious, but hear me out.

The number of women who have approached me, as a sex educator, asking how to make sex more pleasurable without the slightest clue as to what their vulva lookslike – let alone feels like – is staggering.

Their explanation of this is usually along the lines of “it’s my partner’s job to take care of me sexually, not mine.”

My counter to that is: If I was leaving my pet cat in the hands of my partner, you’d better believe he would come with a to-do list, an explanation of his idiosyncrasies, and a score of emergency contact numbers.

Your body should be no different.

Unfortunately, we’re taught in our society that our vulvas and vaginas are gross, are dirty, are forbidden. We’re taught from birth not to touch, smell, or taste them. We’re discouraged from even looking at them.

So being told all of a sudden to masturbate can be kind of scary.

I get it.

But seriously. Masturbate.

Because you need to know your vulva. You need to understand your orgasm.

And if you’re not sure where to start, try here.

And that’s not to say that all sexual pleasure is achieved through only your genitals.

Because despite what mainstream media would have you believe (more on that next!), that isn’t true.

Maybe a foot massage or having your back kissed will work better for you. And that’s perfectly okay!

The point is: You’ll never learn if you don’t allow yourself to explore your body and the sensations that make you go ahh.

But you need to learn what makes you tick before you ever step foot into a bedroom with a partner.

And I promise that you’ll be far better equipped to talk to your partner about sexual pleasure.

2. Question Your Media Consumption

Growing up, I had a really good understanding of my body. I started masturbating at an early age, and by the time I hit puberty, I knew that this totally-awesome-wowfeeling was associated with sex. I felt wise beyond my years. And excited for what was to come.

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

Your First Time: A Sexual Guide for Boys and Men

Let’s face it: Most sexuality education is terrible.

If you’ve received a formal sex education, it likely went a little like this:

Don't have sex because you will get pregnant and die.

Mean Girls

Sex is a special covenant between a man and a woman. Here’s a little information about the biology of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. And here are a bunch of horrifying pictures of STI’s that will scare you into remaining abstinent until marriage.”

And we think that it’s time we change that.

Sex ed has to change.

Because if we don’t do a better job of teaching healthy sexuality, we leave it up to pornography, television, music, and movies to do our job – and none of those are accurate, comprehensive sources of sexuality education.

It’s time we teach our young people about more than just biology, STI’s, and abstinence.

It’s time we teach about how to have amazing, fulfilling, consensual, and healthy sex.

Cynthia Kane already wrote a fantastic guide for having great sex on the first time, but since some of the most effective sexual education is split up by gender, the brilliant Melissa A. Fabello and I are here with a two-part article to amplify Cynthia’s message.

And since I identify as a man, I will start things off by talking to the boys and men out there.

That said, let me be clear that I am a cisgender man, and as such, many of these lessons come from a cisgender perspective and should be treated as limited in that way.

So what are some steps to take before diving into sex for the first time? What are some important facts to know? And why are they important?

Let’s take a look.

1. Get to Know Your Body

Amazing sex starts with you knowing a bit about your body and what you want and need from your partner. So before you head into the bedroom with another person, you need to spend some time by yourself.

Yup. I’m telling you to masturbate.

But I don’t mean the “jerk off quickly in the bathroom before someone catches me” kind of masturbation.

I mean taking your time, exploring your whole body, figuring out what does (and doesn’t!) feel good.

How do you like to be touched, where do you like to be touched, and in what ways do you like to be touched?

More and more, young women are being told to familiarize themselves with their bodies (which they should!), but young men aren’t being told the same thing.

The idea that a man would take the time to light some candles, draw a bath, and explore his body for maximum masturbatory pleasure is considered laughable. Let’s change that!

Too often, we just treat male pleasure and orgasm as being easy. Having fulfilling sex, though, means having a much more comprehensive knowledge about your own pleasure.

Did you know that one of the most powerful orgasms a man can have has virtuallynothing to do with his penis?

It’s called a prostate orgasm, and most men never experience this tremendous joy because of the taboo around anal play being “gay” and thus “terrible and disgusting and eww.”

Whether it’s a prostate orgasm or neck kissing, you won’t know what works best for you, though, if you never take the time to explore.

2. Interrogate Your Media Consumption and Expectations

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.