Black Women, Motherhood and the Resolve to Live Anyhow: a random thought on freedom now

I am in a bakery finishing my coffee and a young black woman who works here ends her shift. She leaves and returns momentarily carrying her beautiful baby in a car seat to show off her infant child to her co-workers (and to curious customers like me who want to have a look). We all oooh and aahh over her child and her pride as a mother. Then, as I think to myself, just 40 or 50 years ago this probably would not have happened or been possible here in the #ATL in a local bakery and in a part of the city that is predominantly white and affluent.

Just that fast, it dawned on me that black mothers in the U.S. have not experienced this kind of social affirmation and personal freedom for very long at all, for once they were not permitted to show this kind of love and motherly identity so freely in public spaces. When black people like me consider the struggles of our mothers and grandmothers in a world controlled and defined by white cultural practices and values, we have much to be thankful for. And upon that consideration, all of us, regardless of color, can be aware of what it took for non-white mothers to live anyhow in the face of those controlled and diminished by the hate and disregard of black mothers in particular. Finally, we must then remember, in light of the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision, that the next generation of women won’t be able to live so freely in the future unless we do our part to secure their freedoms now.

© 2014 annalise fonza, PhD

It’s Called PlanB for a Reason: Emergency Contraception and the Supreme Mess of Corporate Sexual Politics

When I was young, I learned to be petrified of getting pregnant. Getting pregnant as a teenager was one of the things that my father was totally against. By the time that I had graduated high school, I was taking birth control pills, mainly to address the excruciating menstrual cramps that I was having, but also as a way to ensure (prompted by my family’s concerns – mainly my father) that I would not get pregnant before I had a chance to reach my adolescent dreams of going to college. In all actuality, my dad, and my mom for that matter, had very little to worry about. I had such a fear of getting pregnant and disappointing my parents (and I really wanted to go to college) that having sex was the last thing on my mind in high school. Even when my female friends were sneaking or having guys over to spend the night, I was often the “nerdy” one who did not participate or who retreated alone to the bedroom. Though I had several “boyfriends” before I graduated high school, I didn’t actually “do it” until I was nearly out the door and on my way to college.

On the other hand, I did not get over my fear of getting pregnant, and thus my fear of having sex, until many, many, many years later. And, I wouldn’t say that I truly gained a sense of personal empowerment about the whole act of sex until recently, in the last two decades or so. Really – and I am forty-five years old. Hear me when I say that it was not until the mid to late 1990s that I started to feel good or okay with the act of sex with a man.

One of the other reasons that it took me so long to let go of the fear of having sex and getting pregnant was because I grew up Roman Catholic. All throughout grade school and high school, I was taught that sex outside of marriage was a sin; that it was fornication and something that the god of my childhood and of my family would only approve of in marriage (and of course that meant marriage between a man and a woman…the same man and woman…for life). My deep-seated fears about sex (and thus my relationship to my religion) didn’t begin to dissipate until the late 1990s, when I was a preacher (go figure that!) and I experienced love (not necessarily sex) with a man who I really cared about, and I believed that vice versa that he really cared about me. I have written about that man and that experience in other blogs. Anyhow, even then, when I desired to be sexual with him and thereafter, when I was finally willing to break a very long period of sexual abstinence (at least four or five years, I practiced what I preached when I was a preacher), did I begin to break down decades of indoctrination that taught me to fear sex and to only think of it in terms of confinement and punishment. I was so afraid of having sex and expressing myself sexually that when I tried it, I obsessed over getting pregnant ad nauseam, even when I used a condom successfully with my partner. On the other hand, I suppose that having an enduring sense of love from a man who loved me helped me to feel safe enough to reconsider my sexual practices and consequently, at one point, to break my commitment to sexual abstinence. I was able to set aside a lot of my fears about sex because I gained a better understanding of love and of the human reproductive system. To do the latter, I had to seriously educate myself, for the first time in my life, about the process and the facts of the human female reproductive system. I resolved to take responsibility for knowing about this process for myself, and it freed me from the fear and guilt around the matter of sex upon which I had grown up.

I am back down memory lane today for a reason. This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is okay for Hobby Lobby, and other similarly situated companies, to deny certain types of birth control methods to its women employees. It is my understanding that while Hobby Lobby may offer birth control options, it is now perfectly legal for Hobby Lobby and other private companies like it to refuse emergency contraception coverage, which is otherwise known as PlanB, and, which is also known as “the morning after pill.”

Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about PlanB. Some, in error, liken it to abortion, but that it is not. Taking a PlanB pill is not the same as taking an abortion pill, or going to a clinic or a doctor for abortion services (which, of course, I am not against, by the way). It is called PlanB for a reason, and most importantly as a backup birth control method to whatever PlanA is, like using a condom. In other words, if PlanA doesn’t work, if the condom breaks during sex and when and a woman is in the fertile zone (having sex at or near the time of ovulation), then it is possible that she could get pregnant, and if the woman would like to continue the prevention of the pregnancy, which she started with PlanA or the use of the condom (which was a way to prevent the first stage of the fertilization of the egg), then she can legally resort to PlanB thanks to recent legislation. The PlanB pill does not abort a pregnancy, rather, as I have understood it (because obviously I have used it before once or twice), the PlanB pill changes the conditions of the uterine lining so that a fertilized egg, if actually fertilized in the tubes, cannot complete the final stage of fertilization in the uterus: implanting itself upon the wall. Ideally, if one is using PlanA cautiously and wisely, then PlanB, emergency contraception, won’t be necessary. That is the goal: that PlanA will be enough.

At one point, when I considered my sexual history, I realized that I had spent many years being worried about something that I knew very little about: the human reproductive system. Due to a lack of information and my religious training, I thought, falsely, that I could get pregnant each and every time that I had sex. I didn’t have a clue as to when it was the safest for me to have sex without the fear of pregnancy. Most of the men that I knew sexually, some twenty or so years ago, can attest to the degree to which I freaked out when our PlanA method failed. If the condom broke, I was an emotional basket case until my period came. As you can imagine, that was not fun. I obsessed over being pregnant. Finally, when I took the time to educate myself about the steps that would lead me (or not) to pregnancy, I began to feel quite empowered when it came to my sexual politics. And, as it turned out, I felt much more “in charge” of my own destiny.

I think that this is one of the fears that many have about women and the use of birth control. And, regrettably, women as well as men have major fears about women and the discretionary use of birth control. Because most of us lack a coherent understanding of the female reproductive process, and a good deal of that is complicated by religious ideologies, many fear what it would mean for society, and corporations, like Hobby Lobby, to experience women who are totally “in charge” of their everyday sexual practices and politics (the ways in which sex is articulated and negotiated). What’s behind this? Religious bigotry and religious ideologies, which are often informed by patriarchal norms and societal rules about who is the rightful owner of a woman’s sexuality and thus her sexual and social choices. Show me a society where men and women are educated about the facts of the human reproductive process and I will show you a society that is truly empowered and moving forward. Men, women and everyone in between, will experience better lives if we live by the facts of the human reproductive system and not by ancient and patriarchal (serving the interests of powerful men) religious ways of thinking or flawed philosophies about when life or conception begins. It perplexes me that in spite of what we know scientifically about the human body, many, nevertheless, choose to believe that a life is complete at the point that the sperm and the egg meet. Everything that I have read to educate myself about the human reproductive system says that the fertilization process is not complete until the egg has traveled successfully down the tubes and is safely where it needs to be, upon the uterine wall. At that point, it is done and allegedly, PlanB cannot change that if it has occurred. Obviously, when it comes to sexual politics, many use PlanA to prevent the first stage of fertilization – the meeting between the sperm and the egg. If PlanA fails (usually with a condom), and if one does not want pregnancy, then PlanB must be employed. Ideally, the use of PlanB will rarely happen.

In summary, I must say that I am no medical doctor, and nothing that I have written here should be taken as personal or sexual advice, but what I have offered is a part of my story and what I had to do, including what I had to learn about my own body so that I could empower myself sexually and emotionally. The information that I have learned as an adult has helped me to appreciate the human body and the female reproductive process, which I never really learned about before, at least not as a child and adolescent. Was that information deliberately kept from me so that others would feel in control of my sexual politics and my personal destiny? Probably, but, my final thoughts are simply this: every woman should educate herself on the female reproductive process because, more than like, no one else can or will do it for her (and nor should they). Each adolescent who is able to become pregnant and each woman should know what days it is safe for her to have sex, whether she uses protection or not, with a trusted partner or not, so that she can be free from all unnecessary fears that are associated with having sex. And, most importantly, every woman who has sex with a man should have at least one PlanB pill in her medicine cabinet to use at her discretion (since it is available over-the-counter at this time, and perhaps even on Amazon), because nobody, not the Supreme Court justices, not Hobby Lobby, not President Barack Obama, not the Democratic Party or the GOP should be in charge of woman’s everyday sexual politics. There is only person who can muddle through the mess that this case and its attendant religious mores have caused, and that one person is she, each and every woman who is the rightful owner of her body and her own reproductive system, and she should have PlanB on hand for one primary reason: her’s.

© 2014 annalise fonza, Ph.D.


Religious Bigotry: Why You’re Really Not Entitled to It!

Many Christians fail to understand (or more accurately one might say that they have forgotten) that it is possible to use religion in a bigoted way. In other words, there are, unfortunately, some believers who feel that it is okay, and that they are entitled to use their religious beliefs to exclude or discriminate against others who do not believe as they believe in a supernatural god or other so–called celestial beings (such as “the ancestors”). Recently, in response to a situation where another entrepreneur stopped all communication with me and informed someone else that I am affiliated with that she had “concerns” about me (and thus about our ability to work together) when she learned of the fact that I am an atheist (which, btw, wasn’t something that she heard from me), I named that behavior as religious bigotry. Of course, the person who I said that to justified the behavior of this woman (perhaps because he is also is also a believer?), and, he alleged that I was not being objective but rather over–sensitive in my take of the situation. All this and I was not even going to work for the woman in question; we were merely contemplating an opportunity to collaborate on community development projects! As to the one who justified the woman’s behavior (ironically out of an unacknowledged subjectivity or sense of entitlement), if that was not projection and the pot calling the kettle black, then I don’t know what is.

Dear readers, and especially those of you who live in the Bible Belt, what I have described above is religious bigotry. Why? Because on the one hand, while a believer is entitled to his or her opinion about a non–believer, when that opinion leads one to articulate discriminatory actions of exclusion or some form of disparate treatment towards a nonbeliever (especially when one is receiving public or taxpayer dollars to carry out his or her business) then one is using one’s opinion as a tool (or perhaps a weapon) of privilege and exclusion, and as a way to position one’s self over and against others.

These behaviors are divisive and hateful in orientation, which are contrary to the ideals that many Christians allegedly say that they embrace, i.e., love, peace and forgiveness. That many Christians behave in such bigoted ways without even realizing it is painful to experience and to accept (I always want to believe in the good of humanity). I also find these actions particularly troubling when they are enacted and justified by those who are the descendants of indigenous peoples who were consistently excluded and discriminated against by 1) fear–based and ignorant white religious opinions (that a god intended for there to be segregation and separation of “the races”), and 2) by the violent exclusions and actions of those who felt entitled to their alleged higher power’s scripts about life and the alleged social and political order of that life. Further, it is terrifying to see how utterly unaware some Christians are to the reality that their religion or belief system has turned them into the spitting image of their oppressors and thus unable to accept those who are different and not beholding to their gods (without wanting them to be utterly destroyed or punished). No one is entitled to be a religious bigot. And some of us who know this are not going to roll over and take such blatant and not-so-blatant displays of religious bigotry without a fight!

© 2014 annalise fonza, PhD

Facebook and Free Speech: Changing the Game or Not?

Recently, I was involved in a Facebook debate over a topic that someone else posted on their page. A debate on Facebook? Go figure that! The post, made by one of my Facebook (FB) friends who posts often, about 10-20 posts on an average per day, was critical of those who post or announce on their own FB pages that they are deleting or cleaning out their friends list. Obviously, the one who posted about this type of post did not like this practice and he referred to it as “tacky” and “self-serving.” At first, I thought, nah, don’t respond, it is not worth it. Then, I thought, why not? I had a little time that day and was down for the fun.

There were two things in general that I wanted to articulate, and, for the sake of transparency, I am one of those persons who deletes FB contacts and cleans out her Facebook page every now and then (when there is little to no communication or when the exchange is consistently argumentative or unhealthy). On the other hand, I usually let people know what my rules are up-front at the time that an FB request is made; no communication, no FB connection. Those are my rules and mine alone. Others, I suspect, have their own rules or boundaries, or maybe they do not. Perhaps, for some, anything goes on FB, which is another prerogative that is fine by me. What other people do on their FB pages does not necessarily concern me.

Having said that, the first issue that I wanted to highlight during the debate was that I thought that it was the pot calling the kettle black to post telling others that their posts were tacky, self-serving, desperate, and attention-seeking (the words used by the poster and the commentators during the debate). FB lends itself to all of these behaviors. People post tacky, self-serving, desperate and attention-seeking stuff all day. Every post is a way to bring attention to one’s self, one’s doings, or one’s thoughts (no matter how “noble” or “appropriate” the stuff may seem). However, last time I checked, there is only one poster-in-chief, only one FB squad that regulates what is permitted or not on FB. That poster-in-chief is someone or some division that we know not, but who has the ultimate authority to decide or judge if someone has violated the FB posting rules (which some have openly disagreed with). For an individual FB user to post telling others what not to post because it’s tacky and ridiculous is tacky and ridiculous, for, sooner or later, we are all going to post something on FB that seems tacky and ridiculous to someone else. And, so what? If you don’t like what someone posts, then move on. Keep scrolling. When one puts herself or himself in the position to tell someone else what is tacky or not on FB, then that person has made herself the authority, or the one who determines what is acceptable on FB, i.e., the judge. Thankfully, most of the people who I follow on FB have issues with authority figures, better yet with those who maintain the “respectable” status quo; or at least they say they do.

Secondly, what FB has done for most of us is to give us a wide platform to showcase our ideas, thoughts, likes, dislikes, creations, fetishes, etc. Facebook is the place to say “look at me.” Thus, I was absolutely shocked to learn that someone who I thought valued the freedom of speech was telling others that their speech on FB was tacky, ridiculous, and therefore not acceptable, i.e., wrong. It is one thing to critique someone’s speech on FB; at least one is attempting to engage someone or some idea, but it is another to judge someone’s post as wrong, illegitimate, or not worthy of speaking. Dig this: critique and judging are not the same, but some people don’t really know the difference. Christians are really guilty of this. Critique an aspect of the Judeo-Christian tradition, like the fact that massacre, rape and incest (and some in the context of jihad) were actions encouraged and condoned by Yahweh god and practiced by the people who came to be called Israel, and you might be called judgmental, anti-Semitic, or even racist.

On FB, I see posts all day that are offensive to me (in particular as it concerns black women), and some that are just not my cup of tea, but when such posts become too much for me, if I tire of looking at racist, sexist posts and comments, then I might try to say something or ask a question to gain an understanding of what was meant by the post (giving the poster the benefit of the doubt). If I am not satisfied, if the response turns into a fight, if the conversation becomes unhealthy, or if it reveals an unreasonable mindset in me or anyone else, then I move on, and sometimes that means I disassociate with such people, which is the same thing I do one-on-one with the people who I know personally. And, I think such responses are quite rational, especially when the person on the other side is unwilling or unable to look objectively at the situation or at him or herself. For the record, I don’t like (and try not to entertain) shouting matches.

Indeed, any FB user has a right to post, but that does not mean that everyone can or will agree or support the post. Some posts will be challenged, and, unfortunately, that’s when the attacks become most fierce, especially when the one doing the challenging is in the minority or amongst those who support the post in general, which is called the tyranny of the majority. Obviously, I do not have a problem with anyone who announces to others on their own FB page that they are doing some contact cleaning (though I suppose those being defriended don’t like it, hence the defensiveness that gets projected onto others). But, when it is all said and done, it’s their page and they can do with it what they want; as long as they are not interfering with “my” page or announcing that they are planning on doing harm to others, then we’re good. Rock on. On the other hand, those who ex out an FB contact willy-nilly without warning suggests to me that they are probably, kinda-sorta passive aggressive, and, passive-aggressive people do not appeal to me. On the contrary, I value the people in my life who give it to me straight, no chaser.

Back to my original story: as the debate about those who post that they are removing or defriending FB friends was concluding, the one who created the post about it commented that he was shocked that there was so much commentary on his post about his post. And, he continued that it seemed a case of misplaced priorities. When I saw that, I thought “Well, I’ll be.” Ironically, that, for me, was shocking since he made the post a priority in the first place. For in reality, it was he, not anybody else, who started the conversation telling others what was priority posting or not. That he was shocked by the popularity of that thread was shocking, at least it was to me. But, hey, maybe he was just posting to be posting? I dunno. None of us really knows what posts will be popular or hotly debated (I suppose it all depends on who joins in or what points of view are being advanced).

So, here is thing that I find intriguing and worthy of a blog: the Facebook phenomenon has provided us all with the opportunity to draw attention to ourselves. The stuff we post (and hide) online reveals who we are, what we stand for, how we roll, personal interests, our senses of humor, our day-to-day affairs, the way we think, etcetera, etcetera. Sometimes we are explicit with making ourselves known, and sometimes we are not. Even when we are not trying to expose ourselves on FB, we are exposing ourselves. The things we say in posts or in comments reveal our philosophies and preferences in life. Anything we post says something about each of us, and how we feel about ourselves and others in relationship to the world and ideas that we know. As feminists would say, the personal is political. Further, get this, we give consent each and every day to FB, a worldwide digital corporation, to know and track us personally. Make no mistake about it, this corporation, like all U.S. corporations, is closely aligned with our government and it has taken the whole concept of the freedom of speech to a whole new level. Or has it? Because maybe the poster-in-chief is not really who we think he is? Can you dig it?

© 2014 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

In Memory of Dr. Maya Angelou: A Nova Star!

More and more, as I hear people talk of gods
I am convinced that many do not know and perhaps they are afraid of the
Power that is within us as human beings.
For if Maya Angelou was the teacher
The writer,
The healer,
The truth–teller,
The mother,
The rock,
The anchor,
Then, also, it is not unreasonable to say
That to some
She was like a god,
A higher being,
A force to be reckoned with, and, indeed,
A nova star (as declared by her son Guy).

And yet, she was human.
Just like us.

Oh, that we could see and revere
The awesome beings that we are
Without needing to give or imagine ourselves away
To gods invented to be that which many are afraid of being or comprehending.

© 2014 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

“Black Filth” and “Blonde White Girls”: White Male Supremacy and the Unrelenting Intent to Destroy

Well, here it is: another week and another glaring example of the face of white male supremacy and how it does not retreat from dominating and destroying anyone and anything that challenges the alleged supremacy of “the white race.” This past Friday, May 23, 2014, Elliot Rodger went on a rampage and massacred innocent people because he was, among other things, enraged that a black man named Chance (who he referred to as black filth) confessed to losing his virginity with a white blonde woman. That he, Rodger, was unsuccessful at brokering a sexual encounter with a white blonde girl/woman was the straw that broke his back. Or was it? Was it the fact that he could not get laid with a white blonde that he reacted to, or, was it that he felt more entitled to sleeping with a white blonde girl-woman than a black male? Let me suggest that his violent actions were predominantly motivated by the latter: by the notion that he, Rodger, allegedly a half-white man, was the rightful owner of a white girl or woman’s sexuality. Consider this quote from Rodger’s 141 page manifesto, which I suggest was his attempt to have the last word even in death:

And then this black boy named Chance said that he lost his virginity when he was only thirteen! In addition, he said that the girl he lost his virginity to was a blonde white girl! I was so enraged that I almost splashed him with my orange juice. I indignantly told him that I did not believe him, and then I went to my room to cry. I cried and cried and cried, and then I called my mother and cried to her on the phone.
How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself. I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves. I deserve it more. I tried not to believe his foul words, but they were already said, and it was hard to erase from my mind. If this is actually true, if this ugly black filth was able to have sex with a blonde white girl at the age of thirteen while I’ve had to suffer virginity all my life, then this just proves how ridiculous the female gender is. They would give themselves to this filthy scum, but they reject ME? The injustice!

Okay. Rewind. Go back to April 2014, when we learned that Donald Sterling was exposed for insisting that his “executive assistant” a/k/a his alleged mistress,” V. Stiviano, who identified herself as “half-black,” would not post or invite her black friends to NBA games; correction, to his basketball games to see his basketball team players (the LA Clippers) make his money. Sterling’s claims to the ownership and entitlement to V. Stiviano, whom he referred to as a “delicate white, delicate Latino girl,” provide further insight to his sense of entitlement and ownership over his white girl (as opposed to a white woman), and to his black basketball players for that matter.

How much violence, be it verbal or physical or both, that is propagated by men against women, all women, regardless of color, who are considered the property of men, is it going to take before we realize that white male supremacy is the driving force behind many of these violent outbursts and shootings? Yes, we can call it sexism, misogyny, and bigotry, but if we don’t wake up to the ideology or the philosophy that supports such behaviors, then we will never get a handle on mitigating gun violence. Out of frustration and desperation, some have proposed that women fight back and pick up more guns. Indeed, self-defense is important, but this is a battle that is ideological as well as tangible. Picking up more guns won’t stop white supremacy.

This is one reason why feminism, womanism and other gendered paradigms are necessary as we head deeper into the twenty-first century. We can’t believe or keep believing that things will change with time and if we just accumulate more stuff or material possessions, such as education, cars, houses, and wealth in general. These recent attacks, where women and black men have been at the center, have demonstrated to us that the struggle against white male supremacy must continue and be organized by those who have a handle on the ideological and socio-political construction of white supremacy. Feminism, womanism and all gendered-centered frameworks must continue to be vigilant because as men informed and influenced by white supremacist thinking continue to feel slighted in any way by women or men, black men in particular, they will strike and they will strike with the intent to kill and utterly destroy; which is traditional patriarchal masculinity at its worst. Gone are the days when an attack from someone informed by white supremacy will primarily take things out on black people and people of African descent. Elliot Rodger (who identified himself as “half-white”) and Donald Sterling (who is Jewish) are men who probably would have been despised by the white supremacists of old, yet, today, any man equipped with a white supremacist mindset who feels that he and he alone is entitled to a white blonde girl or the woman of his choice (and making) should have her as he wants her. When such a man learns that a black man or black men are now gaining more attention and access to the women he wants, to the women he has laid claim to (the woman whom he has “owned”), then we are in for more unrelenting violence and hatred of black men and women, perhaps blonde women in particular (since blonde is so popular these days).

Of course, I wonder what the women and men who claim to be feminists will have to say and do about this phenomenon? For example, I wonder what Beyonce will say and do since she has identified herself as a feminist? I don’t get down with the idea that Beyonce is a terrorist, as feminist bell hooks’s has recently alleged, but being a feminist is not simply about sexual liberty, or having the ability to take one’s clothes off in public without shame or censorship, nor is it about leaning in or being the boss. Being a feminist and having a feminist consciousness is, first and foremost, about ending patriarchy and therefore being willing and able to dismantle the ideologies and practices that inform it. All other claims to being a feminist are rhetorical at best and misappropriations at worst. My point is, and for those who claim to be committed to the struggle for freedom via feminism, that we have our work cut out for us when it comes to addressing white male supremacy. In light of the violence we are seeing today, putting an end to patriarchy is serious work that requires careful strategizing and a critical understanding of the historical reality that is called white male supremacy. So, in that sense, for those of us who say we are feminists and led by a feminist consciousness, let’s get busy before somebody else is gunned down and destroyed by the thinking and behavior that has always managed to situate black men and women, including white women, at the center of white male violence. And, in the meantime, while we are at it, Beyonce the so–called feminist and all her many fans can surfboard on that!

© 2014 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

You Take Pictures? Cyber-Sex and the Power of a (P)icture

I recently was asked by a man who I know, “You take pictures?” [he meant do I send naked pictures of myself over text] after I mentioned that I have received uninvited naked pictures via text from a man (wherein he proudly exhibited his penis). I asked him why he asked me that question; why did he think that I texted pictures of my own naked body? He then said that such an occurrence, a man sending naked pictures to a woman, must have meant that I, the woman, was sending naked pictures of myself to him. Okay. Pause. Think.

This reasoning, which is very patriarchal in orientation and logic, revealed a very common expression of hetero-normative behavior/belief: that a man is not to expose his naked body to a woman unless she has agreed to do the same. Shee-it. Of course I have heard this before. In fact, you have probably have heard this idea expressed before and the subtext that goes along with it, which is that it is not appropriate or even “normal” for a man to do such things with his body. Something must be wrong with that man for exposing himself without getting something in return, right? Of course women who unilaterally send naked pictures to men without invitation are perfectly normal, right? Right.

Well, if you’re thinking the same way, that there’s something wrong with men using the Internet or phone/computer technology to showcase their sexual assets, then I have to break it to you that today’s cyber-sexual environment has changed the game when it comes to personal sexual expression or ethics. The Internet and the technologies that go along with it have complicated hetero-normative perceptions of sexual expression. Of course, this might be very difficult for some who see the display of naked bodies as something that only women do; something that only women should do…in the sexual service of men. But, as more men cross boundaries and trouble cyber-space with their unique and creative sexual practices, perhaps the ones that were hidden behind closed doors and under the covers of church and god-talk, I think we’re going to see a much more democratic and much more complex landscape of sexual behavior and thus cyber-sexing. On the one hand, I am not saying that err’body who sends naked pictures by phone and online, perhaps via a Skype sex session with a partner (or partners), is A-OK. There are a myriad of issues associated with cyber-sexing, even when exchanged between consenting adults. Not everyone who exposes herself is doing so from a safe or sound place physically and mentally. And, I can only imagine the anxiety that parents feel when it comes to the protection of their children from online sexual predators or offenders. But, as for consenting adults, sexual partners, if you’re down for cyber-sexing, then let it rip, if that’s your thing (though it’s not really my thing, and particularly it’s not my thing when it is not invited or mutual).

That the man who I spoke with seemed troubled about the masculinity and the overtly sexual actions of the man sending pics to me is a good thing to me. I want men who are hyper-masculine and who are defined and dependent upon traditional patriarchal sexual norms to be troubled or perplexed by sexual practices articulated by men who break the rules and who do not adhere to traditional sexual standards that are prescribed (predominantly) by religious and institutional authorities. The discomfort or displeasure with men who display their bodies openly and authentically via cyber-technology and with willing and mutual partners for play (and not with harm or deceit towards others) says to me that some might actually be successful at demystifying and dismantling a lot of the anxiety and shame that are associated with the body and sex in general. In other words the power of cyber-sexing and the pictures that go along with it might help many to challenge and disable sneaky, oppressive, inequitable, deceitful, traditional, hierarchical, outdated and patriarchal notions of sexual respectability. And, in that sense we might be able to claim that a picture is indeed really worth a thousand words, especially when it has the power to help a man to be free with his own skin openly and proudly in the company of a willing, healthy and attentive lover, however and whenever that company chooses freely to come to the moment.

© 2014 annalise fonza, Ph.D.