La Güera Dreams, Despierta, Makes Lists

It’s 6:01 a.m. In reality, it’s 5:01, but that strange human invention, Daylight Savings Time, starts today. This is not a time of day in which a güera is generally awake, let alone productive. But I was dreaming…

Of work.

Yet I woke up as if from a nightmare–hyperaware and breathing fast. I tried to go back to sleep for a while, but my mind continued to race. It was like my brain was trying to use the limited information it had to figure out why I had woken up the way I did. It felt like it does when there’s an earthquake, or someone’s calling your name, or something is happening that shouldn’t be, and your brain is sending emergency signals to your body to WAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUP, but the body is slow to answer, wrapped too heavily in shroud-like sleep.

What had happened?

Then it hit me, and the possibility of sleep sailed away on a silent wind.

I’ve been home for a year. Today.

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If that was me then, who am I now?

Let me break it down.

Things I like: dancing, roller skating, hot dogs, scars, kissing, strong coffee, stronger beer, belly laughter, my body, artistic expression, 90s fashion, being underwater, the word “fuck”, people watching, friendship, honesty, hirsute men, tattoos, language.

Things I don’t like: shaving, high intensity workouts, the disparity in effort to orgasm between the sexes, applications, standardized testing, things that look unlived in, disrespect, intolerance, gratuitous violence, abuse of power, debt, ignorance.

Things I like: shirts that say things, costume jewelry, lying in bed, lying in bed with books, lying in bed with boys, religious art, leather jackets, outdoor markets, intelligent conversation, lingerie, driving, spontaneity, baking, chicken wings, playing sports.

Things I don’t like: sports fans, traffic, diminutive pet names given by strangers, catcalling, shaming, religion, the word “nut butter”, romance (mostly), the absence of critical thought, pain, malls, small talk, cages (generally), alarms, being afraid of–


So, who am I, a year after coming home?

I’m very much myself, a little less afraid than I was before, less inclined to be “nice” and “accommodating”, a little more sure of where I might be heading. I’m also more aware of my weaknesses, my strengths, and also that nebulous area where the two blend seamlessly together.

I’ve been very close to the bottom several times since I’ve been home, but here, at dawn, a year from stepping off the plane from Colombia, a year from dancing alone in the rain in the middle of thousands of people, a year from racing down the streets of Bogotá both thrilled and horrified that my taxi driver ran every red light…

I’d say things are coming up roses.

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La Güera Gets Drunk, Takes on the Patriarchy

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Weekends in Cuenca are not in general very exciting. We drink the same beers, go to the same bars, talk and flirt with the same people, reminisce (or remind) each other about what happened the night before, rinse and repeat. I am a woman who thrives on variety and thus have trouble with the sameness of it all. And perhaps, in my boredom, I made a mistake–I got really, really drunk. I mean the say-everything-in-my-mind, sloppy, falling down kind of drunk. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t aspire to it. And I’m not proud of it. But my personal sense of having overindulged and made a fool of myself is not what has me so angry.

As happens when one was drunk and doing annoying/entertaining/astonishing things, people have been coming up to me to tell me of my antics. I may have tried to crowdsurf, I may have told someone I just met that girls with purple hair do it better, and I may have been overagressive with some party foam, but what I was not doing was asking for it. So many people have asked me what would have happened if someone had taken advantage of me in my state, what if some man had managed to get me alone, what if I had been raped? They say, “You shouldn’t drink so much. You’re making yourself vulnerable to bad men who want to hurt you.” I’m lucky I have good friends that didn’t leave me alone, because I can’t even imagine what I would be feeling if I had been raped or otherwise assaulted, but you know what? Regardless of my state of inebrity, it wouldn’t have been my fault. 

I don’t care if I’m walking alone at night on a deserted street. If I’m wearing a short skirt or a low-cut dress. If I’m drunk and friendlier than usual. I refuse to conform to a set of standards designed to keep me from being raped, while men are not taught how to conform to standards that would keep them from raping. If I were a man, no one would tell me not to get so drunk because of the possibility of sexual assault. If I were a man, people would tell me not to get drunk because I was annoying or belligerent or just because it’s not good for my liver–not because someone might force themselves upon me and against my will defile the only thing I have any real claim to in life: my body.

In the absolutely devastating possibility that I had been raped, you know what people would have said to me? “How absolutely horrible. I’m so sorry. But you shouldn’t have been so drunk. You opened yourself up to the possibility.” In what kind of fucked-up world is that what you say to someone who has been raped? What kind of horrifically backwards world tells women they’re “lucky” when they don’t get sexually assaulted?

I go out for drinks fairly often. I like to go to clubs and dance. I like to wear clothes others consider revealing. I like to make out with cute boys in public places. Sometimes I go home with them. I say what I’m thinking and I am who I say I am. Very rarely, I drink more than I should. None of this qualifies anyone to make the decision that I would be “asking for it” or even more disgustingly “deserve it”. But you know what? I shouldn’t have to justify myself. Unless I am saying “yes” with all my mental faculties intact, don’t have sex with me. Don’t. Fucking. Rape. And for the rest of you, never tell a woman that she should behave herself in order to not get raped, because all you’re doing is making the woman feel ashamed of herself and thereby perpetuating the incredibly harmful belief that it is a woman’s job to not get raped rather than a man’s job to not rape

I drank too much this weekend. I won’t be doing it again anytime soon. But never in my life will I agree with a culture that tells me the reason I shouldn’t do so is for my own sexual protection.

10 Things a Bookish, Modern Woman Should Never Travel Without

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I’ve been in South America for well over a year now and I continue to be amazed by the sheer variety of life and the experiences that come with it. It seems I fall in and out of love with people and places constantly and without warning. In some ways, I’m so ready to go home and yet I also strive to hold on to each day as tightly as possible, to remind myself that I am actually, truly living a dream. I’ve learned a lot, about myself most of all, but also about travel itself, and I’ve come up with a few things that I think should be on most women’s list of things to bring when traveling — things I haven’t seen on many other lists. So here you go! If you have comments or would add something, let me know!

 

1. An IUD (Intrauterine Device): Yeah, I said it. It’s no secret that a lot of shenanigans happen while traveling — in hostels, on exotic beaches, in showers — and guess what? It’s better to be prepared, and I think the IUD is about as prepared as you can get. There’s a lot of misplaced fear about this form of birth control because of some shoddy models in the 70s, but since then the IUD has come to be scientifically accepted as one of the safest and the most effective option. The Pill is great, but sometimes traveling is hectic, and it’s easy to forget to take one. Just consider this: if you were to accidentally get pregnant while in the middle of a months long trip through South America, Asia, or Africa especially, it may be nigh on impossible to get the kind of care you might need (the day-after pill, abortions, etc.). For more details, check out this world map of abortion laws.

Where you’re traveling can also determine whether condoms are affordable or even available, and that’s not a risk you need to be taking. Travel is all about calculated risk, not haphazard, drunken ones! That said, you should also bring as many condoms with you as you can, since IUDs only protect against pregnancy, not STIs or STDs. Another bonus of IUDs (specifically the Mirena) is that it makes your period lighter. In all the time I’ve been abroad, I’ve only gone through half a box of tampons!

Check with your health provider to see about your options. Many insurance plans provide IUDs for free and, depending which one you choose, they last from 5 to 10 years! That’s a decade of minimal unplanned pregnancy worries…

 

2. A Laptop: If you’re a working girl, laptops come in mighty handy. You can teach English classes online, write travel articles for various websites, or do a myriad of other small jobs which can help fund and thereby extend your travels. Also, Netflix sometimes provides a most-needed hiatus from travel frenzy.

 

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Me actually doing work poolside in Peru.

3. A Kindle or Similar Tablet: I have the Kindle Fire and let me tell ya, I don’t know what I would have done without it. Pre-travel I was one of those book nerds who ranted about how Kindles would never replace real books because, like, book smells! But while traveling, real books literally weigh you down. I generally have around 10 different books downloaded on my Kindle at any given time, which in real life would add a lot of extra weight to my backpack. No bueno. But besides reading, Kindles can do soooo much more. I’ve used mine to edit manuscripts, input grades for my ESL students, and write blog posts (PDF reader and a word processor, say what!), as a music player for long bus rides, and as an alarm clock, among other things. This is also a great option if you don’t want to bring your laptop, either because you don’t want the extra weight or in case it gets lost or stolen. Kindles are much cheaper to replace.

 

4. A Library Card: Huh? Yes. You heard me right. Here’s what you do: Download the Overdrive App and verify that your local library is a participant. Then, if you haven’t already, go open an account at your library. But wait… I’m going to be traveling. Why would I need a library account at home? Here’s why: Overdrive allows you to check digital copies of books out from your home library regardless of where in the world you are. Mic drop. Instead of spending valuable dollars on buying books from Amazon or at the rare English bookstore (although do go in these too while traveling — it’s fun), you can do this for absolutely nothing. Depending on the library, you can generally check up to 30 books out at a time, for up to 3 weeks, and then renew as often as necessary. This. Changed. My. Little. Bookish. Life.

 

5. A Filtering Water Bottle: Backpacking is all about saving money wherever possible in order to be able to do the epic treks or go scuba diving with hammerheads in the Galápagos. Even the small stuff, like buying water, adds up. Reusable water bottles that come with filters are a great way to avoid this. When hard-pressed, you can get water from virtually anywhere (though again, calculated risks are the name of the game) and the filter will make the water drinkable. They tend to run at around $50, but it’s a worthwhile investment. For a list of some of the most popular brands, click here.

 

6. Probiotic Pills and Emergency Diarrhea Medication: I have a stomach of steel, luckily, and so I’ve never gotten truly sick from anything I’ve eaten (and I eat everything), but just in case, I never travel anywhere without these two things. Probiotics are simple supplements that help your digestion and I take these for a few days whenever my stomach is unhappy. In cases where you’re having to run to the bathroom every few minutes though (as happened to a friend in Colombia once, unfortunately in a hostel where everyone could hear everything), it’s smart to have some more hard-core drugs on hand. If they don’t cure you, they’ll at least slow things down till you can get to a doctor.

 

7. An Expired Passport or ID Card: I’m going to pat myself on the back here, but this is seriously genius. A lot of people will bring copies of passports around with them when going out to a club, but I’ve also seen them get rejected. I have an expired Driver’s License that I take out with me and it’s worked every time. If you lose it, it’s not a big deal, but it’s official enough that it probably won’t ever get questioned. (Disclaimer: my experience is limited to South and Central America. Not sure how well this would work elsewhere. It would rarely work in the States for example.)

 

8. Double of Everything You Can’t Live Without (Within Reason): Bringing a nice camera with you on your travels? A laptop? A Kindle? It’s smart to double-up on things like batteries, chargers, etc. Why? Because there’s a good chance they’ll get lost, blown out by power surges, or stolen, and buying them in a foreign country is often a lot more expensive than buying them back home. Just make sure you keep them in separate places, in case of theft or loss. Otherwise you might find yourself carrying around a fancy gadget that doesn’t work. It sucks, let me just tell you.

 

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9. A Second Backpack: Sometimes you see people walking around with a huge backpack behind them and a smaller one on their chest like some kind of hunchbacked marsupial. They didn’t overpack; they’re just smart. I always bring a small, closeable bag with me whenever I travel and this is where I keep anything valuable (passport, money, gadgets, etc.). When you take long bus rides, your bags go under the bus and out of sight and sometimes things disappear mysteriously. It’s better to keep this small bag with you at all times. On your lap is the best place for it. I’ve seen many a bag stolen from overhead racks and even pilfered from between a person’s legs. It’s a great place to store valuables, but that also means they’re all in one place, so beware. It also serves the double-purpose of being a day bag when you don’t need to carry all your belongings with you.

 

10. A Piece of Jewelry, Article of Clothing, or Talisman that Makes You Feel Bad Ass: This, in my opinion, is a lot more important (and less silly) than it sounds. You’re going to find yourself in uncomfortable situations while traveling. Maybe you got on the wrong bus, or are in a place where men stare at you in a less than friendly way, or you’re nervous about flying. In any case, even a small boost of confidence helps, and I’ve found that wearing something, visible or not, that gives you that feeling is invaluable.

In my case, whenever I’m moving from one place to another I always wear a quartz stone necklace that my mom bought me in Salento, Colombia. I don’t strictly believe in this kind of stuff, but quartz is supposed to protect you. I always wear two bracelets: an engraved one from my best friend and one my dad gave me that says “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.” These help remind me that there are people out there who love me at those moments when I feel particularly lonely or sad. And whenever I’m feeling especially pissed off about the seemingly omnipresent male gaze or just want to seem a little tougher than I actually am, I have a shirt that says “Fuck Your Macho Bullshit” and it makes me feel better. They’re small things, but believe me, they’re something. Even little comforts go a long way when you’re traveling by yourself.

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Bonus Tip: An Understanding that You Are Fierce, Powerful, and Moreover Extremely Privileged to Be Doing What You’re Doing: It’s easy to fall into a pattern of complaining. Yeah, the WiFi sucks sometimes, there are really big bugs in the jungle, and the bus drivers don’t always let you use the toilet, but you are part of the 1% of the entire global population that gets to travel for fun. The people you meet in those small South American towns? They wish they could be you, traveling without a care in the world. Be aware of that. Be grateful. And always, always remember that just the fact that you’re leaving comfort and security behind to venture into the unknown makes you one bad ass lady.

La Güera in Her Labyrinth

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I’ve been abroad for more than a year now, and in that time I’ve seen and done amazing things, things even my dreams would have fallen short of. In some ways the world is not so very different, regardless of which square foot of space you are regarding it from. We get up in the morning, we find a way to make money, we feed ourselves. Hopefully, we laugh and love and revel in the midst of doing what’s necessary (though these things are necessary also). But there are lessons to be learned by leaving one’s home and the people that give that word meaning. Travel is the most effective teacher I’ve ever known. It is both the ruler rapping knuckles and the reward of having your good work acknowledged as such. It is being named Prom Queen and getting your period without knowing it in P.E. I have learned many things in the last year — of the strength of bonds between people, of the importance of openness and tolerance, of fear, of how following dirt roads in the dark of night sometimes leads to paradise, and of the power of that moment in which your whole being is screaming at you, fight or flight!?, and you choose to fight, thus learning simultaneously the extent of your vulnerability and the transcendence of your strength. But just as in the macrocosm that is life, in the microcosm of travel the lesson is never ending.

People who know me see many things. I like to think that what they see is generally positive, but I am not so near-sighted that I could even for a moment convince myself that that is all they see. More than once, people who I wouldn’t have thought knew me very well have said something to me that shows just how useless it is to try to hide our weaknesses. It is not an insult, not a criticism, this thing they say, but rather an observation, and it is one I know to be true: I keep people at a distance.

I consider myself an open person. I try my hardest not to judge people on their beliefs (though I will judge them by their actions); at the very least I try to understand before I allow myself to form a judgment. But I spent so long as a child and a young adult hardening myself that it would be disingenuous of me to pretend that now, at 27, there aren’t a labyrinth’s worth of road-blocks, dead ends, and trapdoors I have erected on the path that leads to my heart. In some ways I am the story of Jason and the Minotaur flipped on its head. I, or at least the truest, most open part of me, has for years stood in the middle, trembling at the sound of cloven hooves on stone.

When I set off for South America last year, I made goals for myself, some of which are evident in my first post on this blog. But there was one that I did not write about, because it was evidence of what I see as my biggest weakness. The goal was simply this, to consciously and lovingly attempt to knock down the self-created barriers to my heart, from the inside out. The patriarchy tells women that the right man will make them whole, will heal their hurts. This is beautiful and saccharine-sweet, but it is a lie. If anything, the right person or people might be able to create a detour and circumvent our barriers, but this does not assuage our fears or heal our wounds. Only we can do that. And so I set out into the world in order to find my vulnerability.

I think I did, but I think it’s true name is strength.

I found physical vulnerability in my trek to the Ciudad Perdida in Colombia as well as in the attempted muggings in Bogotá (for some of that harrowing tale, click here). In these cases, I looked within myself and found strength I didn’t know I had. But it wasn’t only physical strength that helped me overcome these two very different challenges. I have a wonderful, capable body, but behind that is a level of determination, of will, that is more beautiful, and more lasting, than even my physical self.

In the end (and I am far from the end, but at least up until this point), it was this same determination, that same iron will, which allowed me to begin to be emotionally vulnerable as well. With my head on my lover’s chest, I whispered him a poem I had memorized, which like a needle served to pierce the marble veneer encasing my heart, allowing him to see me in a slightly deeper sense. Even with an end date already near at the beginning, I allowed myself to feel, to be emotionally challenged, to have layers of protection and heart-padding stripped away, until I stood before him, more clearly myself than I have virtually ever been. I have a long way to go, and I know that I will never wear my heart on my sleeve (as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “I like people and I like them to like me, but I wear my heart where God put it, on the inside.”) but for me, this is a major accomplishment, one which would have been nigh on impossible without the already heightened level of vulnerability that travel, but especially solo travel, brings.

Even with this achievement, however, the lessons that travel, that living abroad has planned for me are without end. Living, traveling, experiencing… it is all wonderful, the good and the bad. Sometimes we try to hold on to the good so tightly that we fail to see that it withers and becomes wraith-like in our embrace. As a traveler, you constantly meet new people. You find best friends from countries you’ve never been to, guides in unexpected places, and, with a little luck and a lot of openness, even love. Sometimes these things have infinitesimal lives within our own incredibly brief lives, a candlelight compared to a roaring bonfire. (“…It cannot last the night/ but ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—/ it gives a lovely light.”) To travel is to acknowledge that everything is fleeting. You say goodbye, sometimes promising to meet again, but most likely you never will (although of course there are many exceptions). This brings me to my latest travel lesson…

If you are a successful traveler, you will not only learn to make room in your heart for new people, places, and experiences, unthinkingly filing them into the amaranthine vaults of memory, but you will also learn one of the hardest lessons of all… that in order to keep those good things beautiful and free (while always maintaining in your heart the possibility that one day they will come once again into your life), you must be able to let them go.

Let Them Eat Cake, or, the Slap in the Ass that is International Women’s Day

Sometimes — often — I wish I could be a man for a day. I honestly believe that it must be as different as different can be. What must it feel like to be born into the most powerful place of privilege in the world? To walk out of your house each day knowing that, in all likelihood, no one is going to talk down to you or hiss or catcall or roll their eyes down your body as if you were a particularly appetizing treat just waiting to be unwrapped and devoured? To know that no stranger is going to call you “baby” or “little girl” or “princess” during the course of a normal conversation?

It was International Women’s Day this week, and although I kind of dropped the ball on having a post ready, I think it’s worth posting one late. Why do we still have these days anyway? Why do we have Black History Month or Labor Day or Veteran’s Day? I’m not trying to downplay the importance of any of the groups these days are supposedly commemorating. Quite the opposite — there shouldn’t be one day a year to remind us to value the roles black people or vets have played in our country and the world; it should be something we strive to value and remember every day. These pseudo-holidays are consolation prizes, the power structure’s way of pretending it hasn’t systematically ignored and undercut the needs of these social groups. Women’s Day? That’s a fucking joke. Think about this for a second: why isn’t there an International Men’s Day?

Women make up over half the world’s population and yet we are consistently valued less than men. I don’t hate men in any way. That whole man-hating feminist trope is passé. But I do hate that my rights are constantly under threat by the international patriarchy. I hate the fact that both the country I was born in and the country I have chosen to live in teach women how not to get raped instead of teaching men not to rape. I hate the fact that there are men who see my confidence, both sexual and otherwise, as a threat to their masculinity, who see my tendency to wear clothes that sometimes show my legs or my shoulders or a moon-slice of my stomach as an invitation to lewdness and eye-fucking. And what I truly hate is the fact that somewhere, far beneath my confidence and surety and independence, in the deep, dark place where we keep the things we hate to admit even to ourselves, there is a tiny piece of me that urges me to adhere just a little more closely to the feminine mold society has soldered for me because one day, somewhere, a man might do me harm, might subject me to violence because of the woman I’ve chosen to be, the woman I am. I hate the fact that I know this feeling to not be ridiculous, because of the number of women I know who have been subjected to this kind of violence, and have, moreover, been made to feel ashamed or as though they bear the main brunt of guilt. I resent that the patriarchy has instilled that fear in me and in other women, even if I choose to live my life my own way in spite of this fear.

Women have the right to be whomever they want to be, the right to be with anyone, do anything, say anything, and wear whatever they want, and they have the right to do this without having to fear the way this autonomy might cause men to react to them. If they so chose, women (and anyone else for that matter) should have the right to be naked without strangers feeling that their nakedness was an invitation to be touched. I want to live in a world where any expression of self, precluding expression harmful to other beings, is accepted and, if not appreciated, tolerated. Women, like men, should be able to walk down a street without being subjected to any kind of harassment.

People tend to laugh off feminists — to label us as angry, humorless, a kind of caricature. We should be angry. Millennia have passed and we are still paid less than men, our opinions valued less, our ability to make our own decisions about our lives and our bodies questioned and often denied. People will say we have come a long way, but I say that it is not enough. It is not enough when jokes about women being in the kitchen or cleaning or being raped are still traded like currency. It is not enough when women are having acid thrown on their faces for rejecting a man, when young girls are kept out of school during their periods or are forced to marry and bear children before their bodies are ready, when women are put in jail for having natural miscarriages or stillbirths. It is not enough.

I am just one woman, one voice, with a blog read by fewer people than could fit into a modest high school auditorium. You may have noticed that I didn’t speak much about Ecuador in particular, considering this is a travel blog, but I am extremely wary of assuming that I know what other women’s lives are like, especially women from other walks of life, from cultures and backgrounds as foreign to me as mine must seem to them. But I believe that if each gender-identified woman could find her unique platform and fill it with her individual voice, telling her own inimitable story, I think we as a social group would find that we have enough power to make the world into exactly the kind of place we would all deserve to live in.

The Sexuality of the Damsel Errant

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The “liberated woman,” like the “free world,” is a fiction that obscures real power relations and defuses revolution. How can women, subordinate in every other sphere, be free and equal in bed? Men want us to be a little free — it’s more exciting that way. But women who really take them at their word make them up-tight and they show it — by their jokes, their gossip, their obvious or subtle put-downs of women who seem too aggressive or too “easy.”
–Ellen Willis, from The Essential Ellen Willis

I have been wanting to write something about this for a while, but I’ve been waiting for the right words. Then last night I was going through my Instagram feed and Miley Cyrus had posted a photo of herself spread-legged in a leotard. No different than anything you might see on the cover of a magazine geared towards men. But instead of being lauded as a sex symbol, masturfodder if you will, like the women in those magazines, her comment feed was full of vitriolic words like “whore” and “slut” and “disgusting”. I thought about the way Miley is denigrated because she dresses sexually all on her own, not just in order to please the male eye. About how women in general who wrest their sexuality from the humbug hands of the patriarchy are laughed at, held under humiliating scrutiny, while their male counterparts are free to bed, wed, or impregnate as many women as they like, the only consequence being that they become a paragon of masculinity. How is it that women in the 21st century still allow such a blatant double standard to hold sway over us?

Sex is something that is demonstrative of who we are as people, not in any absolute way, but our attitude towards it is definitely a window into how we view ourselves and the people around us. On both a global and national scale, female sexuality remains a subject that is generally suppressed, left out of the conversation, discouraged, while male sexuality is celebrated. A large part of the (eurocentric) literary canon I grew up with and studied in my adulthood involved the archetype of a man wandering the world in search of adventure and intrigue. This journey almost always included the conquest of women, often lots of women, which bolstered his masculinity, desirability, and value, while diminishing that of the women. Often he leaves “ruined” women and children scattered behind him, something that was often a source of pride although the children were rarely treated as legitimate. We have the exciting stories of Lancelot, Henry VIII, even Dracula.  But where were the stories about women doing the same? Growing up, what female character was I supposed to look up to and model my own ideas of sexuality after? Let’s look at the characters offered up in school during my especially formative years: Hester Prynne from A Scarlet Letter (can I just “ugh” right now and get it over with?), Rose of Sharon from Grapes of Wrath, Daisy from The Great Gatsby, the famous Juliet? None of those are exactly success stories of female sexual independence. The closest thing I got in school, admittedly one of my favorite female protagonists of all literature, was Edna Pontellier from The Awakeningbut she, well, kills herself because society can’t accept her sexual autonomy. So, case in point.

As all of you Americans (U.S.A. Americans, specifically) should know, women’s sexuality is under siege in our country. Hard-won rights like access to birth control, safe abortion, and even something as simple as sex education are being stripped away from us. In Colorado*, a bill is on the table that claims to “protect” pregnant women but would really criminalize abortion (actually anything but a live birth), including in the case of rape, and make birth control like the pill and the IUD illegal. In California, bills were just passed to legally make “yes mean yes“* meaning consent is no longer the absence of no and also to stop the forced sterilization* of women in prison. The fact that these bills were passed is good, the fact that they are necessary is proof of a far more deep-rooted sickness. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the fact that a recent bill has shut down 80% of abortion clinics in his state is but a “minor inconvenience“* for women. Anyone seeing a problematic pattern forming here? But before I go off on a serious feminist jeremiad against my country, let me get to the point of this entry: I am a single woman. I have sex. I enjoy it. I deserve and demand the right to decide what is good for my own body and the life I lead, regardless of where I choose to lead it.

As you know if you’ve been following this blog, I’m currently about 80% of the way through a 5-month trip through Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. And although my country is imploding with abuses against the rights of half of its population, at least there’s some kind of conversation going on. For the most part, South America has not joined in that conversation. The only countries on this continent in which abortion is legal, for example, are Guyana, French Guiana, and Uruguay (go Uruguay!) while Chile, Brazil, and Venezuela have made it illegal in all cases, including rape. The rest have made it available only in case of the vague purpose of “preserving a woman’s health”, a restriction which unfortunately has little to do with what the woman considers her “health”. For more info (and a reality check), this world map of abortion laws is pretty terrifying.

In a more micro sense, I can tell that my views of sexuality, my sexuality to be exact, do not quite mesh with the sexuality projected onto me by the cultural norms here (or in my own country, to be fair). My view on sex is this: It is acceptable whenever there is consent between two adults, not to be restricted to society’s expectations of having to be in some kind of relationship. I’m pro-monogamy, -polygamy, -heterosexual, -pansexual heteroromantic, -bisexuality, -homosexuality, -asexuality, -transsexuality, -friends with benefits, -one night stands, -just met five minutes ago and have to fulfill some crazy urge that is mutual and never see each other again (see zipless fuck)… and much more, but I think you get the picture. If there’s consent between adults, I support it. Whether or not I engage in any of these things is beside the point and none of your business.

I am a woman traveling alone. The sexuality that society has condoned for me is that of being a sexual object, one to which it is ok for men to jeer and catcall on the street; one in which while dancing, a man thinks it is ok to reach up and grab both my breasts (I’m assuming he thought my allowing him to bump himself against me meant I was one big “YES”); one in which a man with whom I spent very little time thinks it’s ok to ask me if I’ve “cheated” on him; one in which the most common question I receive is “are you married?” or “do you have a boyfriend” or most importantly “why not?” because that is what is expected of me. The fact that I might be my own sexual actor, in which I make my own decisions about when and with whom I sleep, is not to be considered. The archetype of the Latino male is one I and everyone I know is familiar with: macho, virile, romantic, fertile as fuck. The archetype available to me from the current material is not quite so… debonair.

That’s why I’m writing this. We need to move forward, not backward (I’m talking to you, especially, you American politicians who claim to represent me). It’s so far past time for women to be afforded the equal rights to everything, including sexual independence, as men that it’s not even laughable, it’s downright pathetic. I’m tired of keeping quiet about who I am and what I believe when it comes to sex because instinctually I know that I will be judged for it according to other people’s prejudices. There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to accept that people will judge you no matter what you do or what face you try to put on to fit in. You will be judged. It isn’t fair, but that’s the way it is. So there’s a choice you have to make: are you going to let other people tell you how, where, when, and to what degree you can be sexual?

I think it’s time we start a new canon of female archetypes, although, granted, it’s not so easy for a woman to leave children like breadcrumbs stretching away behind her. Regardless, we as women need to remember that we are the hero of our own story, we aren’t some damsel in distress, and we do not need to be rescued from our own sexuality.

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