Explicit Content Warning: This article contains explicit sexual content, including the sexual experiences of teens.
I can’t remember the first time I ever heard the word virgin. Although I was not raised Christian, I would guess that the beginning of my understanding came from the Virgin Mary. Since then, I have observed the power this word has over people in our culture. As an adolescent, I learned that virgin meant both pure and prude, both good and bad. I learned that losing your virginity was painful, that women often bleed, but that somewhere along the way sex would become fun and pleasurable, a way to express love. I learned that losing your virginity meant breaking your hymen through vaginal-penetrative sex, that for some reason, oral and anal sex didn’t count. My concept of virginity was fraught with inconsistencies, and I didn’t understand the reasoning behind many of them. I only became more aware of the problems with what I was being taught about virginity as I learned more about queer experiences and became more of a feminist.
Wanting to better understand people’s perceptions about the concept of virginity, I decided to interview eleven diverse individuals about that very topic. This is what they had to share.
These are words from a South African protest song written in the 1950’s. Throughout history individuals have been struck physically and emotionally, but society never focuses on the strength it takes these survivors to get back on their feet and become “the rock.” Survivors of sexual assault (women or men) have plenty of horror stories to tell. But, they also have a lot of inspiring, hopeful stories highlighting how one copes and comes through to the other side of these events. I am here to share some of their stories.
Trigger Warning: This post discusses multiple survivors’ sexual assault experiences and may be triggering for others who have also experienced sexual assault.
If you have been keeping up with the University of Idaho news lately, you will notice the attention a 2013 sexual assault case is getting. The Idaho Statesman recently discovered a survivor’s testimony on a blog site, and ran a story that covered the investigation. (Read here). Long story short, the survivors did not receive the help from the athletic department they needed. Both people involved were athletes at UI, but the athletic department only protected the assaulter. The survivors then went to the Women’s Center, and the staff there took the case to the Dean of Students for an investigation. The assaulter was no longer allowed to play football at UI. However, he is now playing for a team in New York (which I do not agree with, but that is a conversation for another day).
Throughout all of this buzz, I have heard some comments questioning why the survivor did not go directly to the Dean of Students. Some of these comments were in poor taste. Others were genuinely curious. Even though the two women who were sexually assaulted at UI chose to report their assault to the police and the athletic department, it is common for survivors to never report. But why?
For this weeks blogpost I decided to take the streets and campus of U of Idaho and interview people on their opinions of Planned Parenthood. I hope this video will help people understand how a handful of UI students and Moscow citizens feel about the organization!
In America’s fashion industry, the “plus-size” identity has always been a prominent component. This “size” range is considered sizes 8 and above, and isn’t carried in every store. From my perspective, I never noticed any sort of shaming or disrespect towards women that don’t weigh 100 pounds in the media, but of course how could I? I was only a young teen in the grocery stores looking at the covers, I couldn’t possibly notice all the praise of major weight losses that are just subtle conditioning set in our societies to convince us losing weight is a good thing.
Don’t get me wrong, adjusting your life in order to be a healthy you is a great thing. Me being an exercise freak, I think it feels amazing to set a body goal and achieve it but I’ve never been told I had to change like a lot of women have in the fashion world. There are all types of trends today in the beauty and health industry that I’m sure the older generations might not legitimately believe are popular because advancements in makeup, skinny teas and dieting techniques, and online weight loss plans have become so accessible.
It is not surprising that the University of Idaho has more men in engineering compared to women, in fact nearly every undergraduate university has more males in their engineering programs compared to females. However, the University of Idaho is slightly above the national average for male dominance in engineering programs; currently, the national average is 81% of all engineering programs are comprised of males; compared to the University of Idaho which has 86%. Even though the number of women in STEM fields are increasing, men still outnumber women quite substantially.
It makes sense really. Children are placed into gender roles from the moment they are born. Take a walk down any toy store and you will see boy’s toys encouraging building and exploring, while girl’s toys encourage communication and imagination. Growing up, little girls learn that they are supposed to be caretakers. Playing dolls and house and using Easy Bake ovens create the sense that women belong in professions that have an emphasis in caretaking. This is why most women choose degrees in the helping professions or education. And I am not saying that being a woman in education is negative. I have many female friends pursuing education and I know that they will best amazing teachers, and change the lives of their students. However, I also know many men who would have been amazing teachers, and many women who would have been successful engineers. I think it is important to open up traditional gender roles and allow those expectations to be more fluid across genders.