Frequently-Asked Questions

Muddled Messaging on Consent: Arousal as Consent

Content Notice for Explicit Discussion of Sexual Assault, Rape, and Menstruation

Combating messages about consent signaled via media is important, since those are often the only messages people receive when they are forming their sexual identities as children and adolescents. Even the lesser problematic media around tends to not do so well. Take, for instance, the ex sex scene in the 2008 Apatow Frat Pack comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

The movie, as a whole, was rather funny and cute and not horribly or especially problematic, especially for its genre. Despite that, it managed to include a rather dicey message on consent in that scene. Yes, it’s a silly movie. A comedy. Allegedly humorous. I laughed at several scenes all four times I saw it. And it’s still harmful bullshit. [Read more…]

Why I Don’t Care About Consent Education’s Effect on Rape Rates

Content Notice for Sexual Assault

As was recently brought up by Emily Nagoski on The Dirty Normal in response to that tea/consent analogy, among many other excellent points, there is no evidence that consent education actually prevents sexual violence. It may well be that consent education may not work to directly prevent rape.

It will be a while before we have the adequate numbers from enough studies to know whether or not this is true. Regardless of the outcome, I honestly think that doesn’t matter for one reason alone: Consent education isn’t for rapists in the first place. [Read more…]

Reducing Ourselves to Numbers: When More Is Less

Content Notice for Body Image & Eating Disorders

Once upon a time, society told me that my worth began and ended with my body. More precisely, I, like everyone else in my context, had been born into a society where other people thought that a designated-female person’s body held the beginning, the end, and everything in between when it came to her value.

I grew up in a particular version of Purity Culture where more was less in terms of how much of your body you revealed; the more you covered your body, the better of a person you were assumed to be. Women and girls were judged by the fit of their dresses, the opacity of their leggings and tights, the arch of their brows, the polish on their fingernails. Their faces were scanned for traces of makeup and religious teachers consulted about the Sharia legality of brown eyeliner on brown skin. A secret point system existed that was used to assess the merit of female human beings and decide how they were to be treated: Avoided, Befriended, Befriended Closely, Befriended Closely Enough to Ask for Marriage to a Male Relative.

In the broader context of society, the point system was more obvious, the scale by which my value assessed more literal. My awareness that less was more began with playground bullies, some of whom were relatives, and was later confirmed by doctors and other medical professionals. Before that, my higher-percentile height and weight were considered assets, signs that I was growing up healthy and strong and fast. At some point, the numbers began to weigh my value down, what once indicated success mutating into an a sign of failure. “Big girl” went from being a compliment to a slur practically overnight. [Read more…]

Dear Bobby Jindal: You’ll Never Be White

Dear Bobby bhaiya,

Can I call you that, actually? Or are you going to pretend, like the guys I talk to on the tech support line, that you don’t understand what that word means?

I’m just trying to show you a little izzat. As much as I disagree with you, you are one of the few of the many, many potential Republican candidates for president who isn’t white. You had this to say about heritage and culture.

My dad and mom told my brother and me that we came to America to be Americans — not Indian-Americans. If we wanted to be Indians, we would have stayed in India. It’s not that they are embarrassed to be from India. They love India. But they came to America because they were looking for greater opportunity and freedom. I do not believe in hyphenated Americans.

Aré, bhaiya. I know how you feel, I really do. Once upon a time, I would’ve agreed with you. I thought that acting as if I were just another American (i.e. a white person) would aid in the fight in eradicating racism. I thought that the way to deal with racism was to treat it like a pimple: Ignore and it will go away.

Then, I stopped being 19 years old, and learned that you can’t just wish away the hyphen. [Read more…]

There Are Good Reasons to Not Date a Muslim Man

I came across this video the other day, and, welp, see for yourself (transcript).

To get this out of the way: Karim is not a “Muslim name.” It is an Arabic name that Muslims name their children, since Karim is one of the 99 names of Allah, but the word and name predate Islam.

As for her reason to not date this Karim, obviously, since most Muslims don’t behead people or beat their wives, not wanting to associate with people like that is a bad reason to not want to date a Muslim.

There are some good reasons why this woman might want to walk away, though, that aren’t based on less-warranted stereotypes, reasons that have to do with the realities of the ways in which sexism, misogyny, sex-negativity, patriarchy, and purity culture manifest themselves Muslim-dominated cultures.

In short, mid-life crises come early and hit harder for non-practicing Muslim men. [Read more…]

Blessing an Atheist Isn’t Nice, It’s Passive-Aggressive

South Park's Kyle saying to Cartman "That's not being nice, that's just putting on a nice sweater." with Cartman replying "I don't understand the difference."

I’m sure they all meant well. I’m sure they had good intentions. I’m sure they’re nice people who called their mothers last Sunday, doing the socially-acceptable, polite thing despite the radical wishes of the creator of the holiday.

With that out of the way, an earnest discussion of how acts and words coded as polite, socially correct, nice, and/or helpful can be weaponized may begin.

Take, for instance, Christians who tell my polyamorous, queer2 ass to “Have a blessed day.” [Read more…]

How Speakers, Audience Members, & Mods Can Improve Q&As

A Gawker writer recently pointed this out and proposed banning the type of person who is generally responsible for the awful; The Toast has a hilariously astute post listing out the most awful (sometimes in a banal way) questions that are commonly asked at Q&As.

Now, I’ve done a lot of talks and panels. Personally, I enjoy leaving a decent chunk of free time at the end of question-and-answer sessions. This is especially true when I’m talking about Islam. One my talks from a few years back was half an hour of me talking followed by an hour and a half of Q&A. It was fun. It was awesome.

Still, all it takes is one jerkwad to ruin the awesome and the fun that interaction and discussion is supposed to be for all attending. As I run primarily on rage as a fuel source, I can’t get behind the Gawker writer’s suggestion, but I do have some tips for ensuring that the That Guy that invariably shows up to the Q&A provides a few lulz but isn’t enabled to totally hijack the event. [Read more…]

Muhammad Cartoon Shootings Make Their Way Stateside

A phenomenon that has for the most part been limited to non-US soil made its way here this weekend. This past Sunday evening, two suspects attempted to shoot up the Draw Muhammad competition hosted in Garland, TX. Thankfully, no one was killed but the two would-be attackers; the injured security guard was treated and released.

For their part, members of the local Muslim community defended and affirmed the right to free speech of the event organizer, Pamela Geller, and anyone else interested in depicting or even insulting their most revered prophet. In fact, the gunmen weren’t even from the same state but instead from Phoenix, AZ. One of them was identified by the FBI as a terrorism suspect in the past.

As in other cases where Islam is the matter at hand, as a politically-progressive Western born-and-raised ex-Muslim of color, I don’t strongly identify with or endorse any side here. Geller and the others at the event, including Geert Wilders and the former-Muslim now-Ayn Randist who won the contest, aren’t exactly the types of people I want to have lots of power and influence in my country for many, many reasons.

On the other hand, obviously, I don’t condone violence as a way of dealing with right-wing speech, which is both ethically wrong and regressive, not to mention counterproductive. The only reason I know who Geller, Wilders, and their ilk are is because I was a Muslim and am no longer. These are people I vilified and reviled as a Muslim; as an ex-Muslim atheist, they are the types who claim to represent and defend people like me but with whom I often disagree. And now, more people know of them and their views than ever before.

Silly Defensive Atheists! Interpretation Is for Theists

When Patricia Arquette, with her actual words, excluded women of color from the feminist struggle for gender equality, not to mention downplayed the continued struggle for LGBTQ and racial equality, those of us with questions and criticisms were told by white feminists that we were taking her out of context, expecting too much from an actress, or otherwise interpreting her incorrectly.

White feminists are not the only or most repeated culprits in this, my least favorite game: “But they actually meant the opposite of what they just literally actually said!” Hardly. Most of that comes from the, ahem, feminist-critical (let’s not say they are all anti-feminist) crowd. [Read more…]

France’s Misogyny Coin Flips From Modesty to Bigotry

I will never, ever be here for men policing what women wear or don’t wear. Whether that means a ban on a garment or a ban on breastfeeding, it is all the same: turning women’s bodies in battlegrounds for patriarchal and cultural insecurities, ideologies, and politics.

As The Guardian reports,

A 15-year-old Muslim girl […] was stopped from going to class earlier this month by the headteacher who reportedly felt the long skirt “conspicuously” showed religious affiliation, which is banned in schools by France’s strict secularity laws.

A long black skirt, y’all. Dear old freedom-loving France, where a long black skirt is considered potentially incendiary when it has the gall to swathe a pair of brown legs rather than paler ones. [Read more…]