Too Little to Matter

Note: This post discusses sexual assault and consent.

Banner image: Teal ribbon with text "Sexual Assault Awareness Month"

As I’m sure at least some regular readers are aware, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the United States. Specifically, April 2 is the SAAM Day of Action. The 2013 campaign “focuses on healthy sexuality and its connection to child sexual abuse prevention.”


The dogs are barking at something. Something that can only be heard with acute dog ears, I suppose, since I hear nothing of note.

“Hush,” I tell them. “You’re too little to have an opinion.”

The barking stops, but the dogs continue to grumble.


When I was in preschool, my mom signed me up for gymnastics lessons. I’m not sure if the idea came from me to my mom or from my mom to me, but I was enthusiastic about the lessons in general. Tumbling was awesome, and I learned how to do the awkward beginnings of cartwheels. Hanging from the rings wasn’t my thing, but I did like learning how to walk and turn on the balance beam.

I did not like forward flipping over bars. I learned this one day because I had to flip forward over a bar. We used a stool to get up high enough to put our hands and hips on the bar. There was at least one and maybe two spotters the whole way around.

I didn’t necessarily know I had a fear of heights then. I did realize, as I was leaning over the bar, looking at the ground way too far below me, that this did not feel right. So I did what I always do when things don’t feel right; I froze.

“What’s wrong?” one of the teachers asked me.

“I don’t like this. I want to come down.”

“You’re safe,” they assured me. “Don’t you want to do the trick?”

“No.”

I’m not sure how it happened, exactly. But instead of heading backward, feet first, onto the stool, I found myself going forward, headfirst, down — around the bar and into the forward flip I did not want to do.


Swimming lessons were no better.

Actually, on second thought, the swimming itself was okay. Jumping from the diving board, however — that was another story. It wasn’t that it was too high this time. But the board was too bouncy, too springy, too unstable — and it jutted out awfully far over the water. I got partway and looked back.

“Do I have to?”

“It’s not that scary,” the instructor tried to assure me. “Just like jumping off the side of the pool.”

It was not. The poolside was solid under my feet. This moved.

“Go on.”

“I don’t want to.”

“We’re all waiting.”

It was true. The next student in line was already on the board, standing at its base. She’d have to move, the whole line would have to move, if I wanted off the back way.

I held my nose and jumped.


I was fifteen, or maybe closer to sixteen, when I first went to a doctor to discuss how to deal with horrific period pain. The doctor brought up the option of hormonal birth control.

“We’ll just get her a pelvic exam, and she’ll be all set.”

Medical accuracy aside, because I didn’t know that then, she said it to my mom.

I was fifteen, or maybe closer to sixteen, and they were having this conversation without me.


These times, while unpleasant, were not traumatic for me. They did, however, set up a pattern: When it came to my body and someone in a position of authority (parent, teacher, doctor), what I wanted did not matter. And it was only a matter of time before trauma would come from that teaching.


I’ve told this story before.

Almost twenty. In the exam room of a doctor’s office, already in one of those little paper gowns. I’m in a relationship that may well turn intercourse-sexual in the near future, and I want to talk about going on birth control.

I’ve also dealt with a lot in the past several months. Rape. Judgmental hospital staff. Friends siding with my rapist. Police politely but halfheartedly investigating, then deciding there’s not enough evidence for an arrest. Gossip. Losing my friends. Gaining a PTSD diagnosis. Keeping my shit together academically, keeping my scholarship. Finding a counselor who understands that academics, books, school is what is safe for me right now; people are not. Negotiating people anyway.

“When was your last exam?”

I knew what kind of exam he meant. I told him. “In the hospital after I was raped.”

But that one hadn’t included a Pap smear, had it? When was that?

It had been a while.

“And when was the last time you were tested for STDs?”

I clung to the wrinkles of paper gown in my lap, almost tearing it in the process. “I just came here for birth control.”

An exam, he informed me, was “imperative,” now that I was sexually active.

A nurse came in. I froze. Could see and hear and think and feel. But couldn’t react, couldn’t say no.


I don’t know how to end this.

I was never sexually abused as a child. However, I also think that as I child, I was never really taught about bodily autonomy. As in, whatever I was taught on the front end, it was not consistently reinforced in practice. There was often the supposition that I was too little, too unimportant, for my opinion to matter.

So I’m not suggesting that any of these equate to childhood (or adult) sexual abuse or assault. But they’re all varying degrees of not good.

And I am suggesting — no, I am saying — that we have problems with how we teach and reinforce and respect bodily autonomy and consent.

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Yoga Bodies

I had the chance to take my favorite yoga class this morning. It’s an awesome class for me: flow-based and fairly vigorous, with a teacher who offers the less strenuous modifications first and who always asks before physically adjusting a student in a pose. In fact, the worst thing I can say about the class is that it’s at a time when I usually have to be at work — and so when I can easily engineer not to be at work at that time, you bet I’m taking off for yoga.

As such, while I’m not a stranger in this class, I’m not a regular, either. That designation belongs to a small group of women for whom the instructor waits to begin class. (Not in the sense that they show up late, just in the sense that she knows they are coming.) The instructor herself is petite and slim, with visible muscle definition in her arms.

The class itself was wonderful. We got to play with some chair pose flows, some partnered warrior work, and some balances against the wall. While it was a practice that involved a lot of strength-building and while I could feel my muscles working, it was not a practice that pushed me to my physical edge. Which, totally fine and good, since that’s not why I go to class.

But.

On the way out, after rolling up our mats, one of the women said to me, “Now I understand why people who really do yoga have the bodies they do.”

I didn’t respond — because another class was starting, because I was headed to meet someone for lunch, because I just did not want to put myself out there for a stranger — but the statement bothered me then, and it bothers me now. I mean, I don’t want to minimize any insecurity that this person may have been feeling, that she doesn’t “really” do yoga or whatever. But I also think it’s not cool to ask me to affirm that insecurity to her. I deal with plenty of my own.

I’ve been practicing for something over 13 years, on a near-daily basis for most of that time. In that time, I’ve experienced insecurity that I am a “yoga fraud” because:

  • At the beginning, I couldn’t do a lot of strength-intensive poses. Also, I got out of breath easily during more cardio-intense classes.
  • I practice(d) largely at home with a DVD. Cue added insecurity about using the “wrong” DVD. Also account for technology improvements by including online classes.
  • I practice(d) largely at home without a video guide, making up my own sequences.
  • I’m not vegetarian or vegan. Moreover, while I care about sustainably grown and fairly traded food products, the majority of the food I purchase is neither. Moreover, I like beer.
  • I’m skeptical of a lot of the yoga woo. Especially, I outright reject the woo that looks to be at odds with realities like anatomy.
  • I teach a yoga class — granted, free and at my school — but am not a certified yoga instructor.

But most of all, I feel insecure because I do not have a “yoga body.” I mean that in the stereotypical — and limited — expectation of a body that is slim yet muscled, toned but never bulky.

That is not my body. My body has broad shoulders, a busty chest, wide hips, a curvy butt, and thick thighs that interfere with the proportions of some traditional poses and require that I get damn creative — and a little bit awkward — while remaining equanimous about it. My body requires modifications that haven’t been invented yet (okay, maybe “have not been taught on a large scale” is more accurate). My body has fat covering its muscles, which apparently causes people to misjudge how “real” my yoga practice is. Moreover, all the daily practice in the world has not given me a “yoga body” that is closer to the slim, sculpted ideal.

And yet.

This body?

Is the one that shows up to practice with me every day. It is my yoga body. It is the only body I have.

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No other reason.

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More Endo Talk

I was at the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona Blog again yesterday, talking about endometriosis one last time. That post focused on endometriosis treatment and trying to sort out the pros and cons of various medical and surgical options.

If you are a nerd like me someone who likes clicky links to scientific studies (where free online) or abstracts (where the full text requires payment), this one is for you!

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It’s Been a While Since I’ve Done a Links Thing

Which is a shame since I’ve been reading so much good stuff lately.

Fat-Positive Film Review: Sipur Gadol (A Matter of Size) by Laura at Tutus and Tiny Hats — “It’s so, so refreshing to see a movie in which fat people are treated as three-dimensional characters rather than played for laughs.”

Not Tonight, Honey, My Patriarchy Hurts [note for rape culture] by lishra at Liberation Collective — “But headache or not, it’s clear: women aren’t allowed to just say no. A ‘no’ and only a ‘no’, not a qualified lie of a ‘no’. Females have to be up for any PIV that comes their way… even if you feel sick to your stomach and any movement makes you feel ill, and you just want to be very still in a very dark room. Nope, the peen will heal you. Just lay back and think of your health.”

Warrior 1 and your SI Joints by Nadine at Yoga with Nadine — “I think one of my biggest questions at the moment is about warrior I. Do you have any suggestions for stabilizing in that pose? It’s an asana that I’ve always found challenging, and I’d love tips if you’ve got them.”

How I lost my ego through my bowels by Sarah Li Cain at Recovering Yogi — “I started practicing yoga when I was an expat in China. I didn’t speak a lick of Chinese at the time, and none of the classes were offered in English. I signed up for a two-year membership right way. Nobody said I make the best decisions.”

Weight Loss — Forsaking All Others by Ragen at Dances With Fat — “This happens because our society’s preoccupation with thin has elevated weight loss from what it is – a side effect that almost never lasts longterm – to this era’s snake oil.”

Unfit for Work Chana Joffe-Walt at NPR Planet Money [note for disability] — “For the past six months, I’ve been reporting on the growth of federal disability programs. I’ve been trying to understand what disability means for American workers, and, more broadly, what it means for poor people in America nearly 20 years after we ended welfare as we knew it. Here’s what I found.” (Found via my friend Jen.)

Also, feel free to share (or self-promote) anything you’ve been reading or writing of late!

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March Recipe: Stout-Battered Cod

Another month, another recipe to try new things with food.

It started out when cod went on sale at our local grocery store. We like fish, but fish trends toward expensive, so we especially like sale fish. At first, I was just going to bread it and pan fry it, but then I couldn’t find the bread crumbs in the store — and no, did not want to make my own. Then I thought, “Hey! Flour + beer = beer battered cod!” Which seemed eminently doable as they’ve not yet made the grocery store where I can’t find the beer.

In the beer section — because my grocery store is too cool to limit its beer to a single aisle — I bought stout, purely on whim. And also because it was on sale.

(Do you sense a theme in my grocery purchases yet?)

Then I got to listen to the competing voices in my head for the next day or so:

“OMG, you’re really going to make something fried? How can you go and ruin a perfectly healthy meal like fish like that?”

“OMG, beer battered cod!”

“Dude–” because the voices in my head call me dude — “can you even make beer batter with stout?”

The answer to the last one at least is a resounding, “Yes!” Though the recipe requires some additions to a standard beer batter. What I used is as follows:

Dietary Note: This recipe contains meat (fish), eggs, and wheat gluten. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how substituting any of those ingredients would affect the overall recipe, so I can’t make recommendations there. If, however, you try it with a substitution, I’d be interested in hearing what you did and how it went.

Stout-Battered Cod

1-2 lbs. cod — I made this recipe with 1lb. but discovered that the amount of batter could easily coat closer to 2lbs.
1 cup flour
1 egg
1 bottle good stout
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onion powder
1/2-1 tsp. salt
few shakes black pepper
few good shakes of a nice hot sauce — e.g., Tabasco, Frank’s, Tapatio (I used Tapatio)
cooking oil

  1. I started by cutting the cod across the width of the fillet into strips about as wide as my 2 fingers. The upshot is that I ended up with pieces between fish nuggets and fish sticks. It sounds funny, but I actually found this size very helpful — both for easy flipping and for making sure the fish was cooked through by the time the batter was crispified.
  2. Then I combined the flour, egg, and 1 cup of the stout in a bowl. When I make a beer batter, I’m looking for something slightly thinner than pancake batter, but not much. It should be thin enough to coat the fish but thick enough to stick to it. If the batter looks too thick as is — mine was — add more beer little by little. If the batter looks thin enough, drink the rest of the beer.
  3. After I have the consistency I want, I start adding spices. I added the solid spices in the quantities described and added the hot sauce after that, a few shakes at a time until I got the tanginess I wanted. It is possible that I used several more than a “few shakes,” all told.
  4. I heated a large skillet with vertical sides on high, adding about 1/4 inch of cooking oil along the bottom. I coated each cod piece (pun intended) in the batter and set it in the oil, cooking 2-3 minutes on a side. In retrospect, I probably should have dried off the cod before coating it in the batter; I had some pieces where the beer batter sort of slipped off. It was still crispy and crunchy and tasty; it just wasn’t in the right spot.
  5. When each piece was done, I laid it on a plate lined with paper plates (we were out of paper towels) to drain a bit. Then serve.

Observations we noticed as we were eating:

  1. That thing about drying the cod.
  2. Stout batter is perhaps more flavorful than is standard beer better. There’s a sweetness-savoriness-spiciness combo in this, which is fabulous but serious food.
  3. Also that thing about more batter than fish. I ended up making hush puppies out of the rest — which, along with the fish, turned out to be too much heavy, fried food all at once for our tastes. We ended up serving the fish with sides of hush puppies and wilted kale and arugula. Next time, we decided, we might do just the fish and a fresh green salad.
  4. Finally, we were in sore want of some malt vinegar. That we did not have any was the greatest tragedy of the evening.

Ravensbourne Arms, Lewisham, London (8005938537)

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Your Boner, Your Responsibility

Note for misogyny, body policing, sexual assault.

Miniskirt3

I’m sixteen, wearing a skirt at school for the first time since my freshman year.

I’m sitting in the principal’s office. One of the guidance counselors, the only female faculty member in this office, is preparing to measure my skirt.

My male physics teacher has sent me down on account of he thinks I’m showing too much thigh.

I stand; she measures. The skirt easily extends past the bottoms of my fingertips. According to the binding legality that is a high school dress code, my skirt is safe.

My guidance counselor asks me to change into a pair of gym shorts — an extra pair of gym shorts, since I don’t even have P.E. this year — anyway.

“I know it’s technically within the letter of the rules,” she explains, almost apologetically, “but it was making him uncomfortable. We have to consider that too.”


I’m twenty-one, at a party with my then-boyfriend. It’s his friends, not mine. I know two or three people in the room in passing, and the others not at all. He mingles; I wallflower.

After a few minutes, some guy I don’t know, about my age, sits down next to me. It’s a small space, and there aren’t a lot of seats, so this doesn’t strike me as weird.

“What are you doing all alone in this corner?”

I shrug. “I’m not really a party person.” At least not where most of the people are strangers and none are friends.

“I don’t believe it.”

I raise an eyebrow.

“I mean, just look at you–”

I look at me, unsure what he’s getting at.

“Wearing that tight sweater, trying to get attention.”

I look down at my sweater. I chose it because a light knit, with sleeves that easily push up, so that regardless of the temperature in this strange place, I’m unlikely to be too cold or too hot. I chose it because it is My Color — a vibrant teal — and if I’m going to be stuck in an uncomfortable, wearing, boring evening, I should at least get to do so while wearing something that makes me happy.

I look down at my sweater. It’s fitted, but I’d never considered it tight before. But is it?

Instead of telling this dude to fuck off like he deserves, I look down at my sweater.


My ex has a “no fat chicks” rule, something he never verbalizes until he moves in with me.

He uses it to make fun of our roommate, who happens to be smaller than me.


I’m clubbing with friends. It’s summer and hot. The club is crowded.

At one point, it’s so hot and so crowded that I take off my shirt.

Before your sensibilities become too shocked, I take off my top shirt, the one that’s cute and conservative, for bar wear, and stylish. Underneath is a plain spaghetti strap cami, whose job it is to be long enough to cover my midriff. Like most camis, it shows a lot in the shoulder, some in the collarbone, and some in the cleavage. Not what I’d wear for teaching, but in a bar it should be unremarkable.

“Hey!” some dude bumps my ass with his own. “No one wants to see that!”

I look around. At least four or five people in easy view are wearing the same style shirt, though quite probably not in the same size.

I choose to pretend ass dude is speaking to someone else.


It’s the last night my then-boyfriend will ever spend in my apartment. He doesn’t know it yet; I don’t want to say it out loud.

Rather, it’s the morning after the last night. I know because I wake up to his erect dick probing the back of me. I can’t tell if he’s aiming for my vagina or my anus because what he’s actually doing, whether he knows it or not, is squirming it against my perineum — which definitely is not going to get it wherever he wants it to go.

I know he’s awake; he’s always awake when he does this.

I don’t even feel pressured or scared anymore. Just disgusted and disgusting.


A note to Nice Guys and dudebros:

It is not my purpose in life to be either your eye candy or your fuck hole, to titillate and induce your erections or to carefully safeguard my appearance to prevent your arousal from dissipating.

Simply put, your boners are your responsibility.

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