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October is . As kids are heading back to school, it is important to remember that teens experience dating violence too.

1 in 4 adolescents reports experiencing, according to the . As with adults, this violence can include a of emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

Emotional abuse attacks the victim’s self-esteem through put downs, humiliation, controlling their behavior, or keeping them away from friends and family.

Physical abuse might look like slapping, pushing, grabbing, throwing, hitting, shaking or choking.

Sexual abuse could include unwanted touching, peeping, nude photos or forced sex acts.

From www.acadv.org

Both victims and perpetrators of teen dating violence can experience serious consequences such as depression, decreased interest in school or other activities, drug and/or alcohol abuse and risky sexual behaviors. Teens who are involved in unhealthy relationships as they are growing up are much more likely to experience a pattern of unhealthy relationships as adults, making this a serious community issue.

Warning signs that a teen may be a victim of teen dating violence may include:

  • Spending less time with friends or family
  • Making excuses for a dating partner’s behavior
  • Trouble succeeding in school or work
  • Dramatic change in weight or appearance

Only 40% of teen girls and 32% of teen boys who were victims of teen dating violence asked for help. One of the reasons for this is that teens don’t want to talk with adults about dating issues—in fact, less than 1 in 4 teens have had a conversation with their parents about teen dating violence. Parents can help teens by helping them to feel good about themselves, listening to them without judgment or criticism, and modeling positive relationship behaviors.

Healthy relationships involve equality, respect, honest and open communication and independence for both partners.

Sometimes, traditional ideas about what is normal for men and women can be a barrier to forming healthy relationships. If a teenage boy believes that the man should make all the decisions and control the woman’s life, he might be at risk for perpetrating teen dating violence.

Warning signs that a teen may be a perpetrator of teen dating violence may include:

  • Threatening to hurt others in any way
  • Insulting a dating partner in public or in private
  • Thinking that violence is a solution to problems
  • Breaking things or a dating partner’s belongings

There are consequences for perpetrators, too. They could be expelled from school or even face jail time.

Parents, teachers and others who work with youth can help prevent teen dating violence. For more information see . If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship violence, please contact your local Domestic Violence Shelter. In Madison, it’s .

Be A Man, Not A Jackass

9 Aug

Hi everyone. I wanted to start this post off with a brief introduction. My name is Alex Girard. I’m a friend of Ali’s, one of her students and an occasional thug for the SAFE class.

Thanks Alex, for sharing your thoughts! Alex will be interning at The Daily Show this fall. We'll miss him in Madison!!

If you’re a regular reader of this or other female empowerment/feminist blogs, the concept of a man writing a piece for such a blog probably doesn’t seem like such a foreign idea; just look at the Blogroll on the right side of this page and you’ll see blogs like “Men Stopping Rape” and “The Good Men Project.” It’s certainly not a new concept, but I’m bringing it up because in my personal experience there still seems to be a broad class of men who confuse feminism with misandry, and any male contribution to gender equality discussions to be either some sort of “betrayal” or glad-handing sycophancy.

For the former, it seems that there are men who take the phrase “Bros before Hoes” as a broad social philosophy. Bros, mainly, who are coincidentally the same people who would use the term “Hoes” to refer to women. Maybe they think it sounds like a good idea because it rhymes.

Now to be fair, I’m not referring to the phrase as it’s ostensibly supposed to be used. Problematic wording aside, the original, idealized meaning of the phrase is that your relationship with your girlfriend or wife shouldn’t cut your male friends out of your life. Fair enough, but here I’m taking it here more literally as like the adult personification of throwing a “No Girls Allowed” sign on your clubhouse. Aside from Augusta, I mean.

They make it sound like normal, respectful relationships with women are some draining force that beats the masculinity out of you. The stereotypical “man of the house,” overbearing “macho” masculinity that’s fortunately been falling more and more out of cultural favor.

For an example, I was listening in on a conversation about relationships and people were discussing the often suggested date of having your lady friend over and cooking dinner for her or together. Maybe it’s because my dad did all the cooking when I was growing up, but I’ve always felt an impetus to learn how to cook well, and I enjoy dates like these because it gives me chance to show off that I’m more well-rounded than a sitcom character (which is more than I can say about some roommates I’ve had).

Turns out, nope, big mistake. Cooking dinner for a woman shows her that you’re willing to do anything for her, and that means the rest of the relationship is going to be her walking all over you. Of course you’d never want to do something nice for someone you like unless it’s because you’re a doormat. At least that’s what I’ve gathered from the conversation.

Now honestly, I’ve heard this date recommended so many times that the objection to it was probably more of a half-assed effort to sound different rather than an honest argument for “willingness to cook” as a sign of weakness. At least I’d hope so. I brought this up to a female friend who told me, and I quote, “That’s bullshit. Knowing how to cook and clean will get you a girl so fast.” I’ll take her word for it.

More commonly when I hear men give each other relationship advice, they’ll recommend (and this is a line I’ve heard verbatim multiple times) being an asshole because “women like assholes.” I was under the impression that nobody likes assholes; that’s why they get called assholes. The issue here is of course a confusion between being a jerk and being a confident person.

I’ve kind of gone all over the place here, but the basic point I’m trying to make is that being nice doesn’t make you a doormat, it means you’re nice; being an asshole doesn’t mean you’re confident, it means you’re an asshole; and being macho doesn’t make you a man. That makes you an asshole too.

Respect is SEXY!

12 Apr

bloggers Lori and Courtney wrote an excellentdiscussing Dr. Ogi Ogas’s (shame on them)which asserts that “gender equality inhibits arousal”. (Say wha??! I know, right?)

Their main point is that his science and logic is faulty, countering with the following stats:

A Rutgers University study d that feminism boosts sexual satisfaction for both men and women, and that having a feminist partner is linked with healthier, more romantic relationships, at least for heterosexual couples. A study published in the journal Sex Roles found that:

-College-age women who reported having feminist male partners also reported higher quality relationships that were more stable than couples involving non-feminist male partners.

-College guys who were themselves feminists and had feminist partners reported more equality in their relationships.

-Older women who perceived their male partners as feminists reported greater relationship health and sexual satisfaction.

-Older men with feminist partners said they had more stable relationships and greater sexual satisfaction.

A dear friend of mine just discussed this very issue with me this weekend. Her current boyfriend is what I would call a feminist, whether or not he identifies that way. Before dating him, she was used to being with men who were socially and sexually aggressive, disrespectful, and inconsiderate of her feelings. She expressed that looking back, she doesn’t know why she was attracted to them because things are so much better with her current boyfriend. Since stats don’t have faces, I asked her if she would share her story… and she has some really powerful things to say:

When I think about my perceptions of sex when I was an early college student in comparison to what I think now, I can’t believe that the same person held such different ideas. I grew up in a healthy, respectful environment. It was taught to me at a young age that regardless of gender or sexual affiliation, each partner should be expected to treat that person as an equal with respect and love and that no one person be dominate over the other. I was involved academically in school, as well as athletics, and had many healthy friendships with both guys and girls. Just recently I have had one eye opening revelation-what we witness in the media and music, even if we had healthy upbringings with good morals instilled in us, can still persuade people to act irresponsibly, dangerously, and maliciously when it comes to sex….especially when alcohol is involved. In movies, songs, commercials….women are often objectified and men are often glorified when they can have several conquests with women. As a college student, I found myself that being submissive and giving in to men who were being forceful with me did not satisfy me sexually, but it satisfied an attention need and a normalcy need (or what I thought was normalcy). The feeling I had when receiving a text message inviting sex or when a guy at a party would insinuate sleeping together later made me feel wanted and needed. In all reality, I felt like shit the next day knowing that I was intimate with someone who typically knew nothing about me as a person and had no intention of knowing me in the future. But in the moment, I felt wanted and needed…and was happy to feel “sexy enough” to get a guy off. I have a hard time counting the number of times I really enjoyed ANY of those encounters myself. The only need I was fulfilling was my obsession with attention-a sign of my vulnerability and insecuirty. When I started dating the person I am with today, I found it odd that he wanted to actually date. We would have sex, like many couples do, but it wasn’t all we did, and it was different. It wasn’t expected, he never insinuated, he has never demanded or pushed limits. It was so different to me, and at first uncomfortable. That is sad to think about now. It is frightening that a respectful man who doesn’t push for sex or expect it was strange to me. I couldn’t believe he wanted to spend so much time with me, and that our sex life was more than just sex. He is concerned with my satisfaction more than his own, and I have found that I have learned alot about sexuality, what is healthy, and that women can really enjoy sex too! I know college is a difficult time for all, a time for exploration, but it is devastating knowing that some women feel they need to be in uncomfortable situations to feel wanted, and also that some men think they need to be forceful (whether physically or verbally) to feel powerful. This goes for same sex relationships, as I have a gay friend who was in a relationship for several months with a man who demanded he do things sexually that my friend was uncomfortable with…but went along with because he wanted so badly to feel wanted. In much fewer words, our media has a sad way of influencing our perceptions on what is normal behavior for dating and for sex. I am fortunate that although I have allowed myself to be put in situations I am not proud of, I now am dating a guy who helped me to really feel important AND sexy. Although I was having sex in college, I didn’t have a SEX life. I do now, with a mature man who is comfortable with himself and loves me unconditionally. People need to recognize rap music and comedians as crap entertainment, and not emulate what they portray.

is a fabulous comedian and blogger who specializes in celebrity humor. I just want to say I respect her for saying exactly what she thinks.

Here GloZell calls out on the lyrics of her song (I know, this is so last summer but bear with me here…)

Now, I know some sexual assault prevention activists might look at this call out as victim blaming– that GloZell is saying that Rihanna is “asking for it”. My interpretation is that she hopes to empower women like Rihanna to seek healthy relationships. So. Good lookin out, GloZell. We all need to look out for one another. Rihanna is so talented and captivating and it’s not right that she has had to deal publicly with her abuse, but I hope she is finding ways to grow past it because, fair or not, a lot of eyes are on her. I think we need to hold people accountable when they have so much influence, particularly over young girls. Seriously, who wants a rude boy? Where are the songs about nice guys?

“Nice Guys” Should Finish First

16 Feb

Sometimes people misinterpret me as a man-hater.  Not. True. I love men! I work with some of the most wonderful men in the world. These men volunteer their time as practice attackers for my self defense classes. These men respect people for who they are and what they do regardless of gender. These men would NEVER want to make a woman feel uncomfortable. That’s why these men would never approach a woman they didn’t know. They would rather die than be mistaken for a creeper.

What a dilemma.

To (straight) women who are ready to give up on men: Don’t! Don’t give up, but do change your dating strategy.

I once asked a wonderful group of proven “nice guys” how they approach women. Almost in unison, they quickly responded, “We don’t!” So, where does that leave the women who are waiting for some nice guy to sweep them off their feet? I’m sorry to disappoint you, ladies, but the fact is you need to approach them. It’s 2011, it will be ok. I’ve dated plenty of really nice guys. Do you know how many of them asked me out? Zero. Do you know how many turned me down when I asked them out? Zero. You can do it. Nice guys are not scary. Even if they are not interested for some reason, you can count on them to turn you down nicely!

More obviously, if you really want a nice guy but always go for the cocky jerks– stop it. There is nothing attractive about disrespectful men.

To nice guys: You are the real men.  It takes strength and courage to stand up for what is right with so little recognition or rewards. I know you guys take a lot of crap for being nice and respecting women, and that is so wrong. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with that and I thank you for staying true to who you are. It will pay off in the long run.

Now, go out there and ask out that person who has caught your attention! Don’t worry! The very fact that you are concerned about coming off as a creep means that you definitely won’t. All you have to do is be yourself because you are the best kind of man. Don’t try to be charming or suave. Do introduce yourself and strike up a conversation about neutral topics. Don’t lead with, “Can I buy you a drink?” Do offer sincere compliments if you feel like it. If you feel chemistry, do ask if you can call sometime and then call.  (You will win big points for actually calling.) I sincerely wish you the best of luck. You go guys!

If you are a woman and you go out dancing, you will likely feel the need to watch your back– literally.

The scene: You are dancing at a bar or club with your friends, having a great time, when all of a sudden you feel someone has creeped up behind you. A man is “grinding” his, ahem, pelvis, into your, ahem, rear end. Sound awkward? Alarming? Disgusting? That’s because it is!! And this happens more than you might think.

Just yesterday I overheard a conversation between two young women describing exactly this.

“…Yeah, we were having so much fun dancing! But then this creepy 40 year old man came up behind me and started grinding on me– well, actually I didn’t see him because I wasn’t gonna turn around and be like, ’Hello!?’, but then my friends pulled me away so it was ok…”

Two main points stand out to me about this.

First, I’ll address the men (and some lesbians, you know who you are):

It is NOT OKAY to touch someone without their consent. It is NOT SEXY to have a stranger “grind” on you without your consent. Finally, GRINDING IS NOT DANCING, and although it can be fun, you should probably get to know someone before you grind your junk on them. Call me crazy.

If you want to impress/charm/romance a woman, or even if you just want to get a woman to notice you, the above strategy is not the way to go. You need to learn how to do 2 things: 1) Dance and 2) ASK someone to dance. Just as I was getting worked up this dancing issue, I was fortunate enough to chat with one of my best friends who had a refreshingly different experience. This young man who she has been flirting with was at a show with her, and he walked up to her and he said, “Do you want to dance?” What a man. He won BIG points for that one. And then, if this wasn’t clear, they danced. They did not “grind”. Don’t know how to dance? Take a class or learn from a friend you trust. It’s a natural form of human expression, and anyone can do it.

Now for the women:

It’s not your fault that men are doing this these days, and we shouldn’t have to constantly be on guard, but if this happens to you (and it can happen to anyone, it has happened to me many times), you have the tools to address the situation.

Remember the woman I overheard? “…well, actually because I wasn’t gonna turn around and be like, ’Hello!?’…”

My question to her– why not? What’s the worst that could happen if you turn around and say, “Hello!?”

This shouldn’t be our responsibility, and I wish things were different, but as it is– if you do nothing when a man does this to you, he learns the lesson that it is okay for him to do this to women because there are no consequences of any kind and his little friend gets some over the pants action out of the deal. Now he will go on to do this to other women, because it worked out pretty well for him the first time.

More importantly, how does it feel to stand there and let this happen? My guess is it leaves a lot of women feeling helpless, embarrassed, disgusted, and more. Can you imagine a different reality? What if it looked a little more like this?

Man creeps up behind for an anonymous grind.

Woman: (turns and makes eye contact) “Excuse me?! Do I know you? Don’t you know it is extremely rude to touch someone without asking?!” (walk away)

Personally, I just give ‘em a sharp elbow/eye contact/”Back OFF, buddy!”. Every person is different. To each her own. So think about what seems most natural to you, and if it seems scary to try in real life, practice it in your head or even out loud until you feel confident about what you would say in this situation.

Remember, if someone touches you without your consent and makes you feel creeped out, that is a RED FLAG, even if the person seems attractive in other ways. You can do better. Hold out for the one who asks you to dance.

Keeper or “Creeper”?

23 Nov

85% of sexual assault is perpetrated by a friend, acquaintance or intimate partner. So how do we know who to trust? How can we tell the difference between flirtation and victimization? Here are some helpful guidelines:

1. Flirting feels fun. Creeping feels creepy.

It may sound obvious, but I often see women tolerating flirtation or relationships with “creepers” because they can’t understand why this person makes them feel creeped out.

Reasons we’re surprised they are creepy–

  • They are physically attractive
  • They are friends with our friends
  • They have not seemed creepy in the past
  • They are educated and/or have a good job
  • They do not seem physically aggressive
  • They are charming and complimentary
  • They offer to buy us things
  • Etc.

To put it simply: If it feels creepy, it is creepy. Listen to your instincts and avoid taking this situation further.

2. Respectful people respect what we say with our words AND our bodies.

If someone respects and cares about you, they will not touch you if you don’t want them to. They will listen to what you say, but you probably won’t need to say anything.  Why? A respectful person notices  if you tense up at their touch and immediately pulls away, whether or not you say you feel uncomfortable. Beyond that–they will not make you feel bad or guilty for not wanting to be touched.

Respectful people say:

“Can I kiss you?”

“Are you okay?”

“You don’t have to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.”

Disrespectful people say:

“Come on, don’t you like me?”

“What’s wrong with you? Other women like this. Loosen up!”

Disrespectful touch is often used to exert physical control. Examples of this kind of touch include:

  • Leading you around by a hand on the small of your back
  • Holding you in place with an arm around your shoulder
  • Pulling you along by grabbing your wrist
  • Pushing you up against a wall
  • Picking you up and/or carrying you somewhere

These kinds of touch might look like “play”, but the important thing to remember is the context. Does it feel fun to YOU? If yes, then you are fine. If it makes you feel scared, embarrassed, out of control, belittled, or otherwise uncomfortable, then you can be sure you are being disrespected and you deserve better.

3. Healthy affection makes you feel wonderful about yourself. Unhealthy affection attacks your self esteem.

Sincere and caring compliments sound like:

“You look nice/pretty/beautiful/wonderful/etc.”

“I feel really lucky/happy/honored to be spending time with you.”

“You know what I like most about you? You make me laugh/You challenge me intellectually/You are so caring/etc.”

Unhealthy “compliments” are often degrading or controlling:

“Ooh, lookin’ good! I bet you really know how to work it.”

“You can’t wear that in public! All the men are going to want your body, and I want you all to myself!”

The good news is that there are a lot of wonderful caring people out there who will love you AND treat you with respect and caring. Don’t settle for anything less!

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