According to the Washington Post (link), the UN's population fund report has stated that legal, cultural and financial barriers that prevent access to contraception and family planning are an infringement of a woman's human rights.
One of the most powerful tools a woman has with regard to making choices about her own life is contraception. The decision about when and whether to have children is an incredibly important one and impacts all areas of our lives. In many areas of the western world it is easy to take for granted such rights. However, there are still countries, such as the USA, where access to contraception is a political issue (USA today) and even in the UK there is a variation in access to some contraceptive services (reproductive health matters).
While the report goes some way to highlighting the issue, the unfortunate reality is that it has no legal effect and probably little will be done in response to the statements.
A question posted onto the Islam Question and Answer site asked what the medical benefits of female circumcision were. There has been the usual lengthy debate on Pharyngula that, unfortunately seems to have rather taken things out of context. I can see some validity in taking a black and white stance on this issue, and am strongly against any form of circumcision (without medical reasons or unless the individual is an adult and consents), on a male or female. But there is also no need to misrepresent the argument. It is already wrong, misrepresentation to hammer that point home, while entertaining, is unnecessary and unethical. The points that have individuals riled up are as follows;
"The secretions of the labia minora accumulate in uncircumcised women and turn rancid, so they develop an unpleasant odour which may lead to infections of the vagina or urethra. I have seen many cases of sickness caused by the lack of circumcision.
Circumcision reduces excessive sensitivity of the clitoris which may cause it to increase in size to 3 centimeters when aroused, which is very annoying to the husband, especially at the time of intercourse.
Another benefit of circumcision is that it prevents stimulation of the clitoris which makes it grow large in such a manner that it causes pain.
Circumcision prevents spasms of the clitoris which are a kind of inflammation.
Circumcision reduces excessive sexual desire. "
Obviously this type of reasoning is ridiculous. Washing and proper hygiene corrects the first point, the second two are focusing on reducing a woman's ability to have pleasure in deference to what the husband prefers, the fourth... really? Orgasms are inflammation now? Um, for those who have any doubt, no, clitoral spasms are not due to inflammation. The last point is probably the real reason behind FGM and is supported elsewhere on their site. It limits female sexual desire and this seems to be linked to moral female behaviour (because us women are incapable of having any control over our desires *rolls eyes*).
However, unlike what is claimed on Pharyngula, the removal of the clitoris is not advocated, and this is repeated numerous times in that answer and elsewhere on the same site. I am a scientist. I prefer accuracy over latching onto attention grabbing statements to demonise individuals who, after all, are quite capable of doing it all by themselves. .
There are no medical reasons for female circumcision and to suggest there are is, quite frankly, immoral.
Whatever your feelings about the British monarchy, love it, hate it, indifference, it has been sticking to an out-dated patriarchy where the male of the line is the heir, rather than the eldest child. This has now been overturned with approval from the parts of the commonwealth that have the Queen as their head of state. This means William’s and Kate’s first born child will be heir to the throne, regardless of gender.
A good thing on the whole and I am sure it will highlight equality issues in some places. But it has rather taken it's time, hasn't it, and it is also not retrospective, only applying to the next generation.
With all this advice floating around about how guys should behave if they want to get laid, the do's and don'ts of male to female courtship, I thought I, being the fount of all knowledge and having the ability to speak for all women, everywhere (and we all know that women get to dictate to men how they SHOULD behave, after all, we are the ones holding the key to the magical gates of every female vagina and this prize is ONLY awarded to those males deemed worthy and subservient enough to female demands and or emotional perceptions at any particular moment) should grant you all the gift of my bountiful knowledge....
Ready for it?
OK, end sarcasm, I couldn't keep it up. :)
Guys, you are going to have to wait a long time for that of information, because in reality there is no right or wrong way to approach women (providing you respect any rejection of said approach and physical boundaries, once a women says NO you DO have to respect that). You see, we are all different. Something that all the bloggers focusing on "educating" or otherwise being condescending to the poor men who "just do not get IT" seem to forget. Different approaches work with different women just as they would with men.
While genders disparity and the debate about mysogyny continues, there are some concerning trends in the debate on both sides among the extremists. One of these is the perception that women are constantly in fear of being raped or being victimised and that our whole lives revolve around this and the male privalledge that cushions men against it. Except, it is not true. Women are not victims by nature of being female, not all of us live with this constant fear and men are not immune from being victims of rape or violence. There are battles to be fought for recognition in rape cases, especially with regard to the characterisation of individuals who have been raped and the influence of their sexual behaviour has on whether they can consent or not, but gender biases hurt both men and women. The first article highlights a shocking example about the conseqence of a young woman reporting her rape to the auhorities (http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/07/12/reception-of-rape-victims-silsbee-tx-edition/). This is a problem and the stigma about rape is NOT gender specific, although there may be different ways in which male and female rape is handled, as highlighted in the second artcle (this was linked to in today's Skepchicks quickies) about male rape in war and regions on conflict. It is a difficult read and a possible trigger.
Some of the non-graphic quotes from the male rape article that struck me follow.
"Part of the activism around women's rights is: 'Let's prove that women are as good as men.' But the other side is you should look at the fact that men can be weak and vulnerable."
"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently announced $44m to implement this (The UN Security Council Resolution 1325) resolution. Because of its entirely exclusive focus on female victims, it seems unlikely that any of these new funds will reach the thousands of men and boys who suffer from this kind of abuse. Ignoring male rape not only neglects men, it also harms women by reinforcing a viewpoint that equates 'female' with 'victim', thus hampering our ability to see women as strong and empowered. In the same way, silence about male victims reinforces unhealthy expectations about men and their supposed invulnerability"
"As I leave Uganda, there's a detail of a story that I can't forget. Before receiving help from the RLP, one man went to see his local doctor. He told him he had been raped four times, that he was injured and depressed and his wife had threatened to leave him. The doctor gave him a Panadol."
From the link
"We, the International Committee against Stoning, heartened by the success of our campaign to save the Amina Lawal from the brink of stoning, and overwhelmed by the level of support and sympathy directed towards our campaign, are proposing to declare July 11, the day on which in 2001 Maryam Ayoubi, an Iranian woman and mother of three children, was stoned to death, as the International Day against Stoning.
This day was proposed by the International Committee against Stoning at the International Conference against Stoning, held in Naples, Italy on September 26, 2003, and was endorsed by the conference. July 11 should be the day on which people around the world reaffirm their rejection of stoning."
Barbaric is the only word to describe this. While i vaguely knew of cases, I was not aware of the fully extent of the barbarity until I watched the 2008 film, The Stoning of Soraya M (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1277737/) based on a book that tells the true story of a victim of stoning in the mid eighties. It is a very difficult film to watch as the subject matter is horrifying, but it will give you a whopping dose of empathy for the women in the story and how little power they actually have over their own lives. I would highly recommend this film as i think it is brilliant, but it will haunt you and upset you, so if you are not prepared to see something like that then perhaps it is best to avoid it.
Stoning is not just an issue of the past. It is a problem today with women being sentanced to stoning as well as floggings and other forms of capital punishment where the evidence is questionable. http://www.care2.com/causes/iran-stoning-case-gets-worse-ashtiani-convicted-of-murder-attorney-in-hiding.html and the most recent update on the case from a blog http://maryamnamazie.blogspot.com/2011/07/update-on-iran-stoning-case-sakineh.html.
More info about stoning and legality of stoning in different countries. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoning
Stoning is essentially death by torture and is perpetuated as a result of archaic laws. Any apologists for this type of thing completely fails to empathise with the plight of women who have no power to oppose those who want them out of the way. Cases of honour killings (approx. 5000 estimated by united nations population fund http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2000/english/ch03.html) are also a significant issue across the globe, including westernized countries such as the UK (http://www.desiblitz.com/content/honour-killings-continue-in-the-uk) and while, unlike stoning, these honour killings lack any legal basis they are still part of the same problem. Power iniquities that target mostly women. Something to bear in mind on the next international day against stoning.
Is there a g-spot? Where is this elusive piece of female anatomy to be found? Can women ejaculate? Periodically this subject rears its head and gets debated, generally when someone spouts off a load of verbiage about how all women have one (it is just they are repressed, haven't found the right partner etc.) and once found can squirt and have wonderful mind-blowing ecstatic orgasms, or that no women have one and this is a myth perpetuated by various nefarious individuals and the porn industry.
The recent splurge of debate and calls for better research (which i agree with, where do I sign up?) stem from a particular Dan Savage podcast (http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/savage-love-podcast/id201376301) that was then roundly criticised on Blag Hag (http://www.blaghag.com/2011/05/hey-dan-savage-did-you-turn-your.html) and resulted in a very entertaining follow-up podcast with Jen McCreight, author of the blog.
The thing is, individual anatomy varies quite considerably, not just in appearance but also in sensitivity. Female sexuality also varies a lot, some women climaxing from clitoral stimulation, some from vaginal and some from anal. Some from any and all of the above. There are also women who cannot climax. There is no one true way to enjoy sexuality, it will be different for everyone. I feel the focus on the g-spot skips the vast majority of female sexuality and enjoyment of intimate relationships. If you or your female partner has a region on the front wall of her vagina (or anywhere else) that results in mind blowing orgasms and ejaculation, great. if not, still great, because it is whatever you desire and enjoy most about sex and your body that matters, not what others tell you is the be all and end all of sexual experience. There are several different types of orgasm (http://sexuality.about.com/od/orgasms/a/types_of_orgasm_2.htm), so just go ahead and enjoy what you will in the manner that best suits you.
Skeptical kinkster musing on whatever takes my fancy!