Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Making peace with YOUR sexual self

Welcome to the third installment of My Yoga Online's Better Sex series!

In this article you will learn how to make peace with your sexual self.


Here at The Sexuality Challenge I do a LOT of deconstructing of sexuality, a lot of critical analysis, a lot of deep questioning about what we think we know about sex and sexuality, but isn't about time I balanced that out with a little pure acceptance and self love?

(Okay, okay...if you want some serious, hands on, self love just read this post!)

But if you're not at the point yet where you are comfortable with Fasturbation, why not check out my article at My Yoga Online to learn how to really love and accept your magnificent sexual self!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

5 tips for mindful sexual experiences

Well here I am again cheating with my blog posts because I simply have so much on my plate right now. Hey, it happens and I am being forgiving and compassionate towards myself!

It also happens that these particular posts are a bit of a detour from my regular inquisitive and philosophical ponderings and so I have decided to highlight them as links for you to read them in their proper context!

Do enjoy!



Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sex and yoga!

Hello there!

My apologies for the lateness of this post. I have been working on a few sexuality projects with the LOVELY and AMAZING website My Yoga Online exploring sexuality and yoga, mindful sexuality and how to achieve more meaningful sexual experiences. I will be highlighting those articles here starting with this one.



Monday, January 28, 2013

My job is not an invitation!

My short skirt is not an invitation!

Many of you will recognize this quote from Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues and will think about what it means to live in a culture where rape or sexual harassment is thought to happen simply "because" of a woman's attire, behavior, location, or state of sobriety. Some of you will also recognize that, violent harassment aside, a woman's attire, her stride, her smile, her mere presence still invokes "harmless" (*read this and this*) attention from the (usually) males who encounter her - attention in the form of sideways glances, cat calls and gropes. Most frightening is that we live in a society where getting cat-called on the street, or groped in a bar is supposed to be taken as "flattery". I don't know about you, but I'm not flattered. I also know that this supposed "flattery" is really a cover up of a bigger social narrative about the value women hold in society.

Now let's be clear: I love a compliment as much of the next person. I even enjoy when a compliment is geared towards my looks and/or sexual appeal - if, that is, it is carefully crafted, and uttered within an appropriate context, and I can confidently surmise that my appearance aside, the person uttering the compliment isn't blind to the fact that I have other desirable attributes and traits as well that aren't physical, or even tangible in nature. But stepping outside those (what should be common sense) boundaries, sets you up for trouble. Outside the safety zone of flirtation, consensual desire and honest respectful, attraction, those "compliments" are simply a means to reduce women to what some consider women's most essential bits - their body, their sexuality. These catcalls and gropes speak nothing to a person's actual feelings towards their target, but do speak volumes about feelings towards women in general; namely, that they don't merit being treated with respect, their body is solely for sexual pleasure. Let's be honest, a cat call is really a perpetrator yelling, "I have a right to touch, whistle, or call out to you. I, effectively, own you."

The heart of this narrative centers around the belief that women were created to satisfy men's baser urges. I'm not saying all men think this way or all men grope, catcall or harass. Far from it. I simply am reminded that my sexuality is not my own whenever I..well, whenever I go out in public. But, this post, believe it or not, isn't about societal misogyny or patriarchy. This post is about sexuality. Female sexuality, in particular (though you will notice the theme of misogyny still runs through it as it's impossible to talk about sexuality and sexual ownership without acknowledging those parameters.) This post is about Female sexuality that has become over exposed due to those very parameters and seemingly too overwhelming for some to comprehend as a result. This post is meta-sexuality! It's female sexuality inception! That's right folks, this is about a sexual female who is a sexuality researcher who studies female sexuality (mind explodes). I can tell you are excited, but are unsure what this has to do with short skirts and inappropriate comments from the opposite sex....

Allow me: It turns out that the ideology of women's sexuality as her most important attribute, isn't contained to the usual public places (streets, bars, clubs), nor is it accessed or abused solely dependent on what women are wearing, saying, drinking, or doing. As it turns out, a woman's own scholarly interests, her deeply banal career aspirations, are fair game to be used for exploitation as well. Fancy that!

I recently attended a sexuality conference (no surprise there - I study sexuality - I swear I wasn't out of place), and despite being in an academic setting, surrounded by peers in my field, PhD's in hand, clinical therapist designations as far as the eye could see, there were still attendees who thought that my academic interests were an invitation.

An invitation to ask about my sexual interests (outside of the office), an invitation to smile at me a little too long, an invitation to stick their hands in the pocket of their pants and thrust their crotch at me suggestively, an invitation to wink at me, or to leer. An invitation to tell me all about their sexual exploits in graphic and horrifying detail (P.S. I hope that woman got counseling after her experience with you, sir). Let's be clear: If I am doing a survey on sexual exploits, and you meet my demographic, and you were randomly selected and consented to participate, and ethics approved my questionnaire, then you STILL would not be invited to share those stories with me the way you did.

I don't know how many times I have been asked what I am studying only to be met with a "yeah baby, hows your homework going, need a tutor?" or "ohhh that's hot",  or the most popular, "I bet you must be a freak in bed" (does attending chef's school mean you're a glutton?) and the most creepy "ohhhhh well WHY, little Missy (ew), did you choose THAT topic area, hmmm *wink*?"

It's as if my scientific curiosity is merely a cover up for my desire to jump your bones and let my freak flag fly. Why I chose to explore my sexuality in mind numbingly boring ways through countless peer reviewed articles is beyond me. THANK YOU for coming up to me and finally giving me an outlet to stop trying to make progress in the field of sexual and gender science, and start ferociously banging everyone I come into contact with.

My JOB is NOT an invitation.

The fact that I, as a woman, have an interest in sexuality means NOTHING - absolutely nothing - aside from the fact that I have an interest in sexuality! Is that clearer now? You seemed confused when I excused myself to go present my paper instead of readily handing over my business card and leaving a cute lipstick kiss on the back. 

The message this sends to me is either, despite Masters and Johnson's efforts, sexuality is still not a legitimate field of study OR society still believes women are only faking their demands for social progress, equality, and social value until they find a guy suitable enough to wrap their legs around and satisfy. Is that why your conversations were littered with uncomfortable innuendos? I guess I thought that a professional conference on sexuality would be a safe place...as it turns out, people will pay the hundreds of dollars registration fee to attend simply to harass young scholars because they mistakenly believe "sexuality conference" is synonymous with "super sex orgy". A conference is NOT a swingers party in the same way that a sexual assault crisis line is not a  1-800 phone sex line! It's amazing how many times this is confused.

What is it about my profession that makes people think it's OK to make sexual innuendos, advances or comments?  Is it really because I am a sexuality researcher or is it actually because I am a woman? I used to think that some people simply did not understand personal boundaries. Now I realize that people intentionally confuse and abuse them. When it comes to the field of sexual science, women are a surprisingly easy target; researchers are the first ones to answer your phone survey (in the hopes good karma will be bestowed upon them when it comes time for their data collection) - but this also means they are met with more than their share of heavy breathing masturbators on the other end of the line, asking personal questions, while posing as a "sexuality researcher".

It's fine time we fixed the misogyny that underlies all this, of course, but it's also about time we started respecting the field of sexual science! Until it is valued the way physics or engineering is, there will be far too many young scientists who abandon ship in favor of actually being taken seriously (the nerve!), and not being treated like a piece of meat. I do this research because, as humans, we are all sexual (asexuality counts). My field of research is a study of every single human being on the planet. My research is an exploration, and a creation, of knowledge on one of the most basic yet complex human experiences. Sexuality is a power that drives us, scares us, motivates us, cripples us, confuses us and inspires us. Sexuality is an area of study that reflects and dissects what fills the pages of almost every magazine you read, sells countless products, starts wars and helps to reconcile and release stress after the wars are over. It's a study of why so many men, women, and trans persons have committed suicide at its hands, and it is research to prevent further deaths. It's a field of study that promotes a world of pleasure! It's a proliferation of knowledge on how to protect your mental, physical and emotional heath when you navigate it's sexy waters. Seriously, if that doesn't have merit, I don't know what does. If that doesn't convince you to rethink what questions you ask me when I say I study sexuality, then perhaps we need to rethink what we teach regarding the Birds and the Bees. The motions people will figure out on their own, trust me, but how to treat your fellow bird or bee might need to be added to the curriculum.

So if you ever see me at a conference looking smokin' hot, wearing a short skirt (fellow academics, stay with me here - it's an imaginary scenario), presenting my research on sexual stimulation via vibrators, complete with diagrams and visual explicative hand motions, your next words to me best be,  "DAMN, Doctor! You really NAILED that presentation! That research is really going to PENETRATE your field. Those were EXPLOSIVE findings. I cannot wait until your forthcoming publication KEEPS ME UP ALL NIGHT reading!"

Kidding! While science IS sexy, if you read this post, you will know that the most appropriate thing to say to me is, "Thanks E, that was informative, well researched and comprehensively presented. Congratulations." Because, after all, as a woman, and a sexual scientist - even as a sexual woman who, like, actually has sex when she's not studying it (OK, apologies to my boyfriend, I admit it - sometimes I'm studying while we have sex.) - still warrants your respect. The point is, the whole of me is greater than the sum of my (sexual) parts.

(Points for ending my post with a lame psychology joke. Huzzuh!)


Monday, January 21, 2013

If women ruled the world...

If women ruled the world, the saying goes, there would be no war; only peace, love, compassion.

Women are hardwired nurturers. Their biological gift of carrying and delivering the next wave of human kind has them programmed to care for one another, to support, to enrich, to love each and every soul.

The woman who called me a bitch in the checkout aisle for accidentally bumping into her would beg to differ.

Women on their own would form a community of goddesses, a collective of sorts. There would be no jealousy, no hate, no hurt....

The girls who relentlessly bullied me in junior high, and the...well all the female soldiers fighting for my country, would beg to differ.

Women have no greed, women seek to give unto others. Ergo, women make the greatest wives and stay at home mothers.

The single, childless, happy ladies of the world out there bringing in bacon, would beg to differ.

Women are the key to solving the world's problems...

I'm guessing you've surmised by this line of thinking that men ruined the world. Men are evil, selfish, out to harm, out to take, out to walk all over you, out to abuse...

Yikes. I know what you're thinking - I'm glad I'm not a dude!

Maybe it's time for a quick history lesson. Maybe before we start allocating blame and finding cures, let us take a step back in time to before the rise of agriculture and the industrial revolution, back before land was owned, back before things (and people) became property, back before the power hierarchy was built around gender and used as proof that some people were simply lower class, back before gender characteristics were exclusively the property of one sex or the other. Back before men "ruined it" and women were stripped of any responsibility (and credit) for anything outside the home, including and not limited to power, pain, and progress...

Back when people lived in communities, collectives, social groups - when simply surviving was the goal - men and women co-existed. It's true. Women had the babies, sure, and women breastfed and nurtured them (to a degree), but once they were old enough, those babies became just as important as the rest of the collective. The father was thought to be any one of the men, or multiple men, in the collective, and thus the children were everyone's responsibility. Men would hunt large prey, sure, however given that large prey were often a seasonal affair, women's hunting of smaller prey, and gathering of nuts, seeds, plants, and even dead carcasses, would be the nutrition that the collective subsisted on. It was for the greater good if everyone worked together. It wasn't a matter of who was capable, braver, stronger, or more nurturing by nature - it came down to the body; if you were bigger, could run faster, had more lean muscle mass then you hunted the larger prey. If you had a baby or were close to delivering the child, you focused on that event until you were well enough to get back out there (For some women, that meant having the baby while in the field gathering, swaddling it up, and going about their busy day as if nothing miraculous had just happened).

The notion that men would hunt a large animal and drag it home single handedly to their partner who was presumably bored, at home decorating their cave, while children ran about, is simply not true. Yet it seems to be the ideology that we base a lot of our science and speculation on. It has become our "common knowledge" and thus is believed to be absolute "truth".

In fact, it is the reverse scenario that made this fabrication into fact; we interpreted and wrote a history based on the bias of our current social structures. Our present wasn't so much influenced by our past, as our past was influenced by the discourses of our present. And now it is a self-perpetuating cycle.

Aside from the real frustration I feel every time a Cosmo article seems to justify some obnoxious behavior by saying men are hardwired to be that way or women are programmed to smile and take it, I used to think that celebrating the natural feminine and masculine - the yin and yang - was the key to equality. If only we could simply remember the VALUE of the feminine traits in an increasingly masculinistic society, then all will be restored. But celebrating these characteristics is a misguided battle. Indeed while we SHOULD see the value of "feminine" characteristics in society, problems arise when we see these traits sold as strictly feminine (or female); either way someone is going to get the short end of the stick - whether it's the woman who wants to fight or the man who needs to cry.

So I guess you could say lately I'm left more confused. If there exists a spectrum of genders, there must exist a spectrum of traits. If we celebrate women's natural femininity, we alienate women who don't identify as feminine, and we undermine the men who do. We end up justifying the belief that women are more suited to the home domain than the public domain and we confine men to the public sphere where they are constantly on guard to be rough and tough. We believe that men created our modern society, while women sat idly (and obediently) by.

So....are all of our "truths" about gender simply social constructions? Fabrications and arbitrary allocations of traits, handed out based on what is more valued in society? It seems so.

Remember back to collective societies, men needed to work together, men needed to care for one another and nurture, men shared their resources when others were in need. Men held equal respect, admiration, and confidence in the women of the tribe as they did their fellow men. Women were tough right alongside being compassionate. Women were competitive and aggressive when another tribe invaded their territory. Women were capable. Women contributed equally.

It seems to me that it wasn't that biology dictated to us our "natural place" in society, so much as women and men stopped accessing the full spectrum of their traits over time. Not because it was natural, and not because we evolved to no longer have those traits, but more because a culture developed to deny men and women their full expression. These days,  men are seen as cold, unemotional, efficient, pragmatic, rational. Women are quiet, fickle, emotional, supportive, giving, and generally less capable. Women are weak. Men are strong. And we have created a litany of reasons to justify why this divide exists.

So what becomes of the emotional, caring, nurturing, quiet, expressive man? He's labelled a "pussy" or a "fag".  Associations with the "feminine" are seen as weaker, less useful, shameful. And the strong willed woman who's vocal, doesn't want your number after sex, doesn't want kids, has no desire to find the perfect matching curtains and pillow shams for her new domestic palace? We'll she's a bitch. A ball buster. A man eater. Even if a woman has the valued societal traits of cold, logical, strength, she is bullied away from expressing them (and presumably accessing a social power that she does not "biologically" deserve). It's probably not so much that men want or need all the power, it's more that society has made them too afraid to step aside and share it lest they be associated with the horribly mistreated feminine class. It's a very illogical mess, actually.

Clearly there is no place in our society to see that men and women can carry the same qualities despite what is nestled between their legs. With this system, pretty much everyone suffers. Everyone will be trying so hard to color within the lines, that no one will be able to actualize and express their true inner selves. Men are shamed into being tough, and women are shamed into being weak, and we swallow these "truths" and continue to perpetuate them by calling people out when they so much as tip toe over their allotted line. No one wins. Confusion and resentment breeds.

The second issue I see here, however, is that along with socially bound characteristics, only certain of theses characteristics are "useful" in today's increasingly individualistic, capitalist, materialistic, self-centric society. Those being, of course, the masculine traits. Now, whether they were "masculine" traits to begin with is debatable - remember the words "masculine" and "feminine" were simply labels that we used when creating our groupings; the traits became "masculine" when men rose to power and it was decided these traits were what enabled or facilitated that power. The leftover traits were given to women and a persona of womanhood was built out of them.

When these personae were sufficiently established, we went back in time and tried to write our history in a way that complimented these myths. But like it or not, billions of people everyday are busting out of these binary constraints. The truth is, these gender dichotomies simply don't fit. Social constructions be dammed - some of us are going to always be the exception to the completely made up rule.

So the question then becomes, if women ruled the world, would there be no war? Well...unlikely. Women have now increasingly been raised in a society that values war, greed, and selfish pursuits to "rise to the top'. It is, in many places in the Western world, the only way to really survive. So we are back to our basic survival instinct - except being nurturing, compassionate and sharing are no longer the prescriptions to survival. Greed and aggression have taken their place. Women are increasingly adopting these "masculine" traits (which, by the way, aren't even flattering traits anymore! Far from being glorified, masculinity is facing a pretty grim and depressing description) in order to survive. Let's be really obvious here; if a trait can be "adopted" as an evolutionary necessity, what does that even say about the whole "biologically determinate" argument?

It no longer becomes a question of women or men ruling the world. It doesn't even become about "masculine" or "feminine" traits ruling the world. It simply becomes about human traits. Can we, as humans, dig deep and find the courage, strength, kindness, and compassion required to live in a world without war, a world that benefits us as a whole, a world where we are no longer so selfish that we will make billions while others die in the streets, a world that truly is a collective of beings, working together, so that each and everyone one, regardless of gender, can experience their true purpose in life: seeking happiness and meaning.

I think, just a little bit, that as humans we are starting to get so caught up in our selves, our personal survival and progress, that we are missing the point...


Monday, January 14, 2013

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I used to think we were doomed.

I used to be really angry at the world.

I used to be unwelcome in the common TV room in my dorm because watching TV with me pointing out every, single gender inequality, injustice or insidious stereotype was just to much to bear.

Hi, my name is E and I am a fun killer.

Does activism and the fight for social change have to be so insufferable? Can my honest attempts at bettering this world through education do more than put a bitter taste in people's mouths and seal their ears whenever I open my mouth to speak?

I admit it took me many, many years and several failed friendships before I realized the cliched truth that you gather more bees with honey, than with vinegar. And now I'm on a mission to smear that honey all over feminism before the last flickering flame is snuffed out forever.

Feminism, as mentioned previously, seems to be thought of as the smelly, annoying kid at the back of the class that no one wants to have in their study group, yet everyone believes has great ideas. People are very quick to dismiss the word, yet profess to live the concept.

I want to investigate this discrepancy.

It seems obvious that many still believe the stereotype that feminists are angry, man hating, hairy legged beasts with no sense of humor, and I'm sorry, but if you are still part of this group I need to politely tell you that it's 2013, so please wake up and Google Patrick Stewart wearing a "this is what a feminist looks like" T-shirt (Ok, ok...he probably has hairy legs. You can't win em all!)

You get the point. A feminist comes in many shapes, sizes, dispositions, genders, sexualities, and leg hair preferences.

But there is another reason for eerie similarity between 'oil and water' and 'feminism and society' which can be summed up as: "what about the men?" This is particularly perplexing to me. It all boils down to a belief that feminists are power hungry; a belief that stems from a fear of destabilizing a status quo, or more specifically, a fear of those with privilege having to actually experience what it's like to be oppressed.

No one wants to be oppressed. That is a 100% rational, reasonable desire. But do you really want to maintain power OVER others? Let me ask you what would happen if you, say, SHARED this power?

Apparently this is a concept quite lost on anti-feminist enthusiasts; the possibility that if women were given access to fair treatment, pay, resources and social value (without their bodies and sexualities coming into question) somehow those in power would LOSE all their resources, fair pay and value. It's not a logical thought, but it is an irrational and surprisingly prevalent fear.

Again, if you find yourself holding on to these beliefs I implore you to use a simple mathematical analogy to ease your anxieties: 1+1 is not equivalent to 1-1. I'm just saying. Women gaining power does not mean men losing power. There is enough room in their world for all of us.

Finally, there is the final argument I have been hearing with increasing regularity: We have moved beyond feminism.

Now, it is true that the point of feminism is so that someday we don't ever need feminism (I thank my wonderful women's studies professor for that nugget of wisdom), but I don't think we are there yet. Aside from obvious (depressing) statistics regarding pay, workplace sexual harassment, rape, domestic abuse and the lack of females in power positions or as healthy Hollywood role models, there exists still a need to deconstruct more deeply the structure in which our society is founded upon; one that values and privileges men and masculinity over and above all else. Fixing pay gaps is one thing, but changing attitudes is what will lead to productive and lasting change. Further, changing belief systems directly at the roots will help quell all those irrational fears that arise when all of a sudden women start getting paid what they are worth (Gasp! The horror!)

When speaking to my undergraduates I am often asked to justify why I am a feminist as opposed to a humanist. I applaud my undergrads for being so attuned to the rights and needs and injustices faced by all humanity and I truly look forward to a future when they are running the country, however, so many of their concerns stem from a fear they will lose their place in a social hierarchy should they focus on women's needs opposed to men and women's needs. Why still the fear of upsetting the men?

I ask you, when black people were fighting for rights and freedoms, was it productive to say "but what about white people?" Likewise, if there is a Muslim group on campus, should we protest that not enough Jewish members are represented?

My point is that people of different groups deserve a unique niche where their specific needs can be assessed and addressed, especially when their needs are not blatantly catered to the way the needs of the status quo are. In a patriarchal society, there exists a niche for women's issues to be fought for without losing focus by bringing in men's concerns too. If I go to a vegetarian cooking class, I'm not about to sidetrack everyone by complaining about how my meat thermometer always burns the ham. It may be true, and I acknowledge it, but I am there to learn about vegetarianism. likewise, men have concerns. Men face injustices. Men struggle. Patriarchy doesn't do them many favors either when it comes to masculinity ideals and feminism does not aim to dismiss those realities. In fact, for those who may not realize this, feminism is a movement committed to ensuring ALL genders can live in a social structure that supports and protects their wellbeing.

Some may call this "equalism" as opposed to feminism. I, personally, am hard pressed to view equalism as a concept that can be accurately employed until a society exists where there is an actual EQUAL proportion of struggle, oppression, celebration and value on both sides of the scale. When a vast imbalance exists, the movement must adopt the perspective of the underrepresented. Again, this is not to say that a blind eye is turned to the struggles of others, but rather once the scales are returned to their balanced state, everyone profits. It's perfectly Ayurvedic.

I'm finding it increasingly frustrating that a few bad apples are tarnishing the name of feminism and turning young, active, and socially conscious minds away from the fight. I don't see the point in throwing away feminism simply because you may have encountered me, or someone else, behaving angrily, yelling at the TV or ruining people's fun as we learned (the hard way) the best way to express our upset and hope for changing the world. I don't think you should ignore what feminism is all about simply because you met a woman who has swarn off men and is bitter because she is still recovering from an ugly breakup. I especially don't think you should swear off feminism because you have met a group of extremists who are angry, man hating beasts who want all the power. Should we eschew the principles of Christianity simply because of the existence of the Westboro Baptist Church?

Whatever you believe (Christianity, Hinduism, feminism, humanism, democracy, socialism, stringent right wing capitalism, the zombie apocolypse, or the idea that heaven really is a cloud made of cupcakes that you sit on while you eat jellybeans all day), you shouldn't let bad apples taint your passion. Instead, USE them as teaching tools to deepen your knowledge and expand your reach. Acknowledge how they destabilized you, and know that that experience can only strengthen the truth that you stand on because it opened a possibility for you to examine your values, beliefs and actions.

I find it frustrating that when I say I am a feminist, or I write about women's issues, people wonder why I don't like men, why I want them to suffer, or why I haven't payed enough attention to the injustices that they face in this world. I think it goes without saying that I believe in the unique value and beauty of every gender. I wish feminist writing could exist without these justifications. To me, these justifications--the fact that I am extra conscious in my writing to acknowledge men, and I feel immense pressure to soothe people's fears about men losing their privilege--is evidence that there is still very much a need for feminism.

I know that activism is not something that most people will find necessarily pleasant or comfortable, given that social comfort is the very thing that activism needs to destabilize to make way for change. I, personally, want to honor the women, men and trans persons who risked disrupting people's social comfort and fun, and fought for the rights women have today. Women who ended up in prisons, or worse, were killed. Women who went against all odds, risking their reputations, friendships, or love affairs, to ensure that I would be able to get the education required to write this post, to vote for the representative who will fight for reproductive rights, and to leave the man who abused me knowing that I wasn't doomed to a life of spinsterhood or tainted for future husbands. I want to thank those activists, those feminists, men, women and trans persons alike, for their commitment to my future. They enabled me to decide if someday I even want to have a husband..or wife; to decide if I want to work publicly or if I want to work in the home raising kids; if I even want to have kids or not.

Yes, feminism has made strides. But the fight isn't over. I am willing to continue risking my reputation and public relations if it means ensuring a good future for the next generations, but I have also learned that I can endear more people to my cause with kind words and solutions rather than anger and blame. With poise, perspective, and positivity - let's not give up now.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

You can't always get what you need, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you deserve.

I have a friend who used to be in a bad relationship. The kind that you have to painfully witness sitting along the sidelines waiting to help her clean up the mess when she's finally ready to leave. You've said all you can, the decision is now up to her.

A strange thing happened to her the other day - her controlling and emotionally unstable ex wrote a song about her. A romantic song. The kind of song that in a different context would make you go weak at the knees, and make Adele blush. This song was a tribute to her, a profession of intense love and longing, an admission that she was the only one that ever mattered to him and he has yet to move on, nay, he never will. She's too high up on that pedestal. It was a confession that she was the almighty Deity in his Heavens and he was more than remiss that he let her go.

Never mind that it has been years since their break up, that she has a vibrant life full of supportive friends, a kick ass job, and a new fiance who, by the way, would make most guys envious. Never mind all her personal successes and triumphs. When friends heard this song they gushed, "Isn't this the most romantic thing? Aren't you the envy of all girls everywhere? You got what every jilted ex dreams of - that validation that he still loves and thinks about you! How incredible. I'm so jealous."

Excuse me?

I may consider myself a bit off kilter at times, a bit kooky, but in what world is a song from an abusive ex professing his hang up on you considered romantic? More importantly, why are people so quick to assume that every girls dream is to get that final validation (sometimes disguised as 'closure') that they are still loved from a previous boyfriend? That somehow their existence is still meaningful and that all the years spent without said man have not been a waste of life because HE still thinks about them?

I don't know about you, but I've also dated some pretty craptacular guys, yet as a former jilted ex, all I'm dreaming of is finally finding inner peace and happiness in my daily life for myself and from myself, and when it comes to men, celebrating the REAL love that I have co-created with my current partner built on mutual affection and respect. The greatest blessing for me would be that my ex forgets he dated me so that I never have to worry about him ever, ever contacting me. MY life is (so much) better without him.

So what is it that has taught girls and women to derive their self-worth from men? Why can't we feel significant on our own, without needing it to be validated by and through a romantic interlude with a man - whether it be sex, a relationship, or even that possibility that he may say hi to you while you stand at your locker before 5th period?

Before you even mention it, I certainly will NOT endorse some misinterpreted evolutionary theory that women have adapted to be this way because men controlled resources and all they needed to do was KEEP that man while they squirted out his babies (clearly women would be lost without them). Don't get me started on that - that's for another day. Plus we all know that there's a flaw in the system when our data is only ever interpreted through a biased lens of patriarchal assumptions....

Now, it would be a gross misinterpretation to read this as me implying women DON'T need men -  that's not my point or intent. Well, OK, maybe we don't NEED them, much like they don't NEED women (save for the sperm and egg situation), but for the majority of us, I think I can safely say we WANT men in this world. A lot.

But so many women and girls act like they need them for their very existence. ("OMG he totally rejected me, I almost DIED" and "I am NOTHING without him - what am I going to do?") Maybe this stems from the biblical story of Eve being created directly from Adam's rib while he was conjured up independently from others, magically from the earth. So in this story men don't need anyone, but women are reliant, are indebted to him, and shall serve the rest of their lives in gratitude of this gesture.

I don't know if that is a pervasive belief worth a grain of salt, but certainly the popular media isn't doing anything to dispel it. Take for instance the boy band supergroup "One Direction". Their big hit single is about loving a girl because of her insecurity; "You're insecure....you don't know you're beautiful, that's what makes you beautiful". They then go on to list a bunch of qualities that they love about her - every single one of them are physical attributes that women typically do when flirting, or trying to attract male attention.

Is this song really validating? That you're loved only in so far as you are catching his attention? That having no self-confidence is a desirable trait? What message is this sending to young girls? This is the root of why so many women, myself included, have found ourselves dating someone while our friends waited for us to come to our senses. In fact, as I write this, I have been invited to listen to a song on the radio where the female singer describes how she doesn't even know where her long lost love has left to, but that she has stopped living until she finds him again, wishing, hoping, waiting...

Come to think of it, I cannot name a single supergroup on the top 40 charts that young 13 year old boys are listening to in their rooms waiting for that one lyric that will finally make them feel worthy, like someday they will finally "earn" a girl that commands as much love and respect as the female chanteuse exudes. No, most of these boys (keep in mind all my statements are sweeping generalizations) have their hands down their pants watching as the barely legal Disney popstars bounce around, tits out, singing "I'm a slave for you" and "Call me, maybe. Call him yourself! These young boys are raised on seeing boybands that reduce tweens to tears at the mere sight of them, and female popstars who will do and wear anything to make you love them.

Britney Spears, Destiny's Child, Spice Girls, Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepson, Kelly Clarkson, Adele - all powerful and popular - sing about getting the guy, losing the guy, crying over the loss, wondering how to go on...Some of these songs are even painfully obvious tales of unhealthy or abusive relationships that the women themselves know they shouldn't be in, but are too afraid to leave, lest they need to rely on themselves for happiness.

In recent years there have been a few exceptions to this rule (Taylor Swift's "We will never get back together" comes to mind, as does Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger" and a handful of others), but the pervading message is that of needing HIS approval and attention to feel good, feel worthy, feel fine. I can think of three popstars who break the mold and demand respect, sexual gratification and attention without having to plead for it - Cher, Madonna and Lady Gaga. You know what kind of men adore and worship them? Gay men.

What is lacking in female friendships, support networks and internal psyches that none of those sources provide any sense of self-worth, comfort, strength, happiness, fulfillment or validation of worthiness as a human being? Where are the strong female protagonists in the media and in songs? These messages damage women and damage men; Women are seeking the wrong source of self-approval, while men are left having to convince insecure women they are indeed worthy - instead men should be using that time to engage in their own emotional explorations and fulfillment. Women's happiness is not men's job or their responsibility, but it should be their pleasure to enjoy and cultivate spaces where it can be manifested. Likewise, men's happiness is not ours to cater to or ensure, but it is our pleasure to create cultures where we can enjoy their happiness and successes along side our own. If we dropped all this BS, there would be a lot more happy, fulfilling relationships out there that would mutually benefit and satisfy the men and women in them (yes, heteronormative alarm bells are sounding right now).

I'm not immune to this sense of "needing", nor was my friend whose ex wrote that song. I've waited by a phone, I've felt waves of relief when he said he wanted to see me again, I've had a bad day turn around because he said hi to me in the hall, and I've cried without shame in public when it ended. But I'm not certain how much of this was because I was anticipating the possibility of experiencing love, of spending more time with someone I really liked and who, just maybe, liked me too, or because I just lost someone I really loved (which are all normal and healthy feelings) and how much of it was that dreaded emptiness that terrified me, that told me that if I couldn't get a boyfriend, or couldn't keep a boyfriend and was all alone, my life suddenly lost meaning, lost direction, lost purpose.

Let me state the obvious: these messages fuel insecurity. Insecurity is poison to relationships - romantic and otherwise. Insecurity is also the catalyst to many women dating and staying with men that don't deserve them or don't treat them well. And it becomes a cycle. I was once addicted to a man who tried to steal my very soul.Why? Because I believed it didn't belong to me - that my health, happiness and worth was in his hands. What I labelled as love was really an intense anxiety that I would somehow upset him and would lose that social status that I had finally gained by being associated with him. Never mind that he wasn't enjoyable, interesting, or even good in bed. It didn't matter - I finally had a boyfriend and I was going to hang on for dear life regardless of his treatment of me.

Having been through that, having seen close friends go through that, and also having experienced every single one of us jump ship and find true fulfillment and happiness (either as fabulous single women, as women with female partners or even as conventionally married women), I can honestly say that the trend for girls worshiping men has got to stop. It's not that men don't deserve the respect and attention (they do) - it's that (surprise!) we also owe it to ourselves to be adored and respected too. It's that simple, that obvious, that beneficial, and it begins from within.