Posted in Fighting WorldSuck

12 Sex Ed Things That Aren’t Even About Sex

Even if you are pro abstinence only education (and you believe that it works) there are crucial things you can tell young people without even talking to them about sex at all. While I am mainly aiming for girls here, most of these topics do apply to young boys as well.

By the way, I am in favor of comprehensive sex ed far beyond what is listed below. These twelve items made it into the post because I think there is no excuse for not giving this information to young people regardless of your religious beliefs.

  1. Self Image. No matter what you look like, you are beautiful. This is so important, especially for young girls, at any age. Fat is not a synonym for ugly. Girls should be taught to love their body because this is an enormous measure of self worth for women in a society that places so much importance on how we look.
  2. Options for your period. It’s 2016, and disposable pads and tampons are not the only options anymore! Not only are there other options, but disposable pads and tampons are just about the worst choice for any woman these days. Girls should be provided with information about cloth pads and the menstrual cup, both of which are significantly less expensive, more environment friendly, and healthier by far than the disposable options.
  3. Gender identity. Most people are lucky enough to be born with the sex organs that match the gender they were assigned at birth. But not everyone’s gender is the same as their sex. That is an important distinction that seems irrelevant to those of us who are cisgender. But for transgender kids and teenagers, this conversation could save lives.
  4. Sexual orientation. Surprise! Not everyone is straight. Not all preteen girls start to like boys. And that’s okay, and it’s normal.
  5. How your body works. Even programs that sell themselves as comprehensive sex ed mostly only cover basic anatomy of the internal reproductive organs, and if you’re lucky it’ll be scientifically accurate. The vagina is not the only significant part of a woman’s body just because it’s the one the penis goes in. We need to know what are all the different parts we have and what they do, at least in the same way we understand that we have lungs and arteries and kidneys. What is the clitoris? Is it the same as the urethra? Also, why don’t my lady parts look like that porn star’s? Am I weird?
  6. What is virginity? Is it important? Can I lose it to a tampon? No, you can not lose it to a tampon. Your virginity is not defined by your hymen. If you have one. Also, what is the hymen? Where is it and what is its purpose? (Hint: it is not a layer of saran wrap buried deep inside your vaginal canal that is punctured the first time you have sex. If that were true, where would our period come out of?) Laci Green explains this expertly in her video, “You Can’t POP Your Cherry!” 
  7. Relationships. Even if you believe young people are not having sex, there’s no denying they are having relationships. They need to know about heartbreak, how to deal with it, how to move on. And please do not underestimate the amount of pain an eleven year old can experience from being dumped. Just because their bodies are small doesn’t mean their emotions are not strong.
  8. Abuse. Early warning signs of abuse. What are the red flags they should look out for when dating someone? What if you are being abused right now? How do you get help? How do you know if you are being emotionally or verbally abused, if it’s not physical? For more info, see Common-Warning-Signs-of-Domestic-Violence  and teen-dating-violence-factsheet-a
  9. Safety. It’s not just about condoms. It’s also about wearing a seat belt, and not getting into a car with someone you don’t know, or someone you do know who is drunk. For girls, often it’s about how to set clear boundaries, how to say NO, how to throw a good punch without hurting yourself.
  10. Consent. This should have been higher up on the list, really. What does consent look like? (Hint: it only sounds like an explicit and enthusiastic “Yes!”) When do you need to get consent from your partner? (Hint: always) Does it ruin the moment to stop and talk about things?
  11. Respect. Girls deserve to be respected by their partners. If someone does not respect you, get rid of them. You deserve respect.
  12. Sexual Desire. Whether or not you give kids information about sex, they need to know that it is normal and okay to have those weird and new feelings that they are experiencing. Especially girls. Even if you emphatically encourage young teens not to have sex, they still need to know that it is okay to want it.

If you are in favor of kids and teens knowing about sex – great! If you are not – at least give them the knowledge they need to be healthy, self confident, and not have to spend 200$ a year every year from age 10 to 60 on something they didn’t choose to have.

Posted in Writing

Jewish Wedding In Rozmberk – Poem

Is there a better time than now
To sing of my identity?
To wave my flag of Jewish pride
And dance beneath the golden glow
Of castle walls in Rozmberk

And in this town will sleep tonight
A dozen Jews with bellies full,
Content and warm, where once before
The Jews had but a footprint left.

Is this what Hitler thought could be?
If I could force that man to watch
As families unite with joy,
Unafraid and unashamed
Of who we are and how we live,
Drinking wine from silver cups
And passing on a diamond ring,
Free of fear and free of him,
That would be enough for me.

My people lives! My people lives!
And from the ashes, like a phoenix
We are born to live again.
And what a life it is. Amen.

Posted in Mirror, Mirror

7 Reasons to Date a Nerdy Girl: Response

First, I just want to say that I LOVE The Good Men Project. I think they are doing amazing work and the articles they post are informative and interesting. However, (everything before the but doesn’t count?) the other day I read this article: Smart is Sexy: 7 Reasons it’s to your benefit to date a nerdy girl, and I have to say, as a nerdy girl myself, I was kind of offended. So I decided to write a response. I’m going to write my reaction to the 7 reasons the author listed in the article. My own 7 reasons are listed below.

  1. Books are cheaper than jewelry: False. I don’t know where you live, author, but where I come from, books are not cheaper than jewelry. Certainly not science fiction or fantasy novels. Also, we ARE into jewelry. What about a Deathly Hallows ring or a TARDIS necklace? About a week after we started going out, my ex boyfriend bought me a pair of earrings with atoms on them. I was the happiest girl on Earth.
  2. Pillow talk is educational: False. Don’t fool yourself. We still need to feel secure in our relationship with you. So you’ll still get those questions, like “Does your mom like me?” It is true that sometimes pillow talk will involve graphs and vector spaces, but chances are, if you aren’t interested in us, we won’t waste our time trying to explain things.
  3. Celebrity crushes aren’t much of a threat: False. Shakespeare? Einstein? Not all nerdy girls are into old dead men, you know. But if you are a sane person, celebrity crushes shouldn’t be a threat in any relationship, regardless of whether your partner is nerdy or not.
  4. You don’t have to entertain her: False. Just because we enjoy reading doesn’t mean you can just ditch us on a Friday night. We want to be a good partner to you, so we’ll give you permission to go out with the guys, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to go out with you. Besides, reading doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Cuddling and reading books together is one of our favorite activities.
  5. She provides you with topics for bar talk: True. But if you’re not already an interesting person to talk to on your own, guess what? You’re probably not going to get a second date.
  6. She’s likeable: True. We are f***ing awesome.
  7. You’re never bored: True. Unless you pretend to listen when we explain how the human Genome was discovered. Then you’re in trouble. But that thing about personality needing to win – that’s true for everyone. And if you’re shallow and only going for looks, best look somewhere else because we are probably not interested in you.

Now I’d like to share what I think are the actual reasons it is beneficial to date a nerdy girl. Reason #1: We’re not shallow Remember, girls like good-looking guys too. But we nerds are more interested in your hobbies, your interests, your personality. It’s great if you look good but we know that’s not all there is to you. As for us, we don’t overemphasize our own physical appearance. To a lot of guys that may seem off-putting. We’re not ugly, we don’t neglect ourselves. We just don’t necessarily need to put on make-up, or care too much if our socks match. We expect you to look beyond these things and be interested in who we are on the inside, and not just what we look like when we’re all dressed up. Reason #2: We’re into the same stuff you’re into. We like superhero comic books, gaming, sometimes we even enjoy talking about politics. We hate shopping trips. We’ll host the Star Wars marathon on May the 4th. It’s not all about shoes and nail polish for us. We are not intimidated by things which are considered boy interests. We won’t necessarily know all the rules of football, but we’re willing to learn. We want you to take an active interest in our hobbies, so we will in turn take an active interest in yours. Reason #3: We are amazing in bed. This is a well known secret of the nerd world. There are several theories which try to explain why this is. The one I like is that since we are so under-appreciated in our teens, we have a lot of time to read romance and erotica and watch porn (!OMG!). Just like anything else, we insist on educating ourselves about sex. We are constantly learning so we’re likely to want to try new things. There is also a huge overlap between the nerd world and the kink community. Don’t forget, we were into role-play before we even knew people did that. Reason #4: We come with life skills. We are insatiably curious, so we spend a lot of time learning random things. We might know how to hang shelves, light a fire, make ice cream from scratch, or build a computer from the floor up. We’re not damsels in distress, but this shouldn’t intimidate you. If you need to fix the sink to feel validated, we’ll happily step aside. Reason #5: We make responsible, informed decisions. Okay, not always. Sometimes we need to fly a kite with a key in a lightning storm. But hey, unprotected sex? Forget it. Reason #6: We are highly employable. It’s true that we are full of useless information, but we’re also full of useful knowledge. We get science or medical degrees. We can build websites or invent apps. We’re quick learners, so new skills a workplace requires don’t intimidate us. We don’t settle for the gas station. We reach for the stars, and sometimes we put a man on the moon. Reason #7: Why not? We’re girls. You’re into girls. Bring it.

from xkcd.com
Posted in Fighting WorldSuck

Be A Good Bystander. You’re Not Exempt From Fighting Violence.

Domestic violence affects everyone.

Whether you are the victim, the perpetrator, the victim or perpetrator’s child, relative, friend, coworker, neighbor…you’re affected. This is not somebody else’s problem. It’s not something which isn’t your business. And don’t think that just because it’s a huge probelm that somehow means one person can’t make a difference.

Check out this person. Jackson Katz: Violence against women – it’s  a men’s issue
And this person. Ellen Snortland: We all need to be safe before we can thrive.

I was taking a break from my homework (I already handed in the assignment which is due tomorrow! It’s OK) and came across this article in the daily Israeli Newspaper “Israel Hayom” (=Israel Today):

IMG289Even though I don’t have a lot of respect for this Government-funded newspaper and do not recognize it as a reliable source of information, I feel I have to say something about this atrocious article which was published today. The article is in honor of Novembre 25th being the International Day for Prevention of Violence against Women. It gives a vague number of domestic violence cases reported to the Israeli police per day (72) and an approximate number of women in society who suffer from it (7,000). The article is a series of questions asked by citizens suffering from some type of domestic violence, and answers given by “professionals.” (That’s what they called themselves.)

It’s not really visible in the photo, but in the bottom left corner is a tiny little article which states that ONLY 15% OF JEWISH CITIZENS interviewed said they would report a case of violence to the authorities.

So assuming 15% of cases are reported, the statistics in our beloved country actually look more like 480 cases per day and 47,000 women who suffer from domestic violence. (For a more accurate calculation please do the math yourself. Seriously, I’m terrible at arithmetic. I’m a mathematician. It’s a known fact.)

Of the many things which bothered me in this article, here are the highlights:

1. All questions involving violence began with a phrase such as “My husband beats me…” which on the surface rules out cases of verbal and emotional violence. The askers all seemed to be fully aware that they were involved in a violent relationship, and they all seemed to be experiencing physical violence. There are other types of violence and they are usually harder to recognize than physical abuse, because they don’t leave visible scars on the victim. We need to talk about these types of violence as well.

2. Black and white answers are not always what people need to hear. It’s easy to tell someone suffering from violence “Just leave him!” but it’s not that simple. For example, one of the questions was from a woman whose son-in-law was abusive to her and her spouse. The answer given was “That counts as domestic violence and you can make a claim with the police and get a restraining order.”
First of all, restraining orders don’t actually work.
Second of all, the “professional” giving the answer completely disregarded the fact that this person is the woman’s daughter’s husband. It’s not as simple as just getting a restraining order against your son-in-law. There are people in your life who may be violent to you but whom you still want to have some kind of relationship with. How does getting a restraining order against her son-in-law affect her relationship with her daughter? There are more things which need to be said, because more often than not “Just leave him” is an answer that will go in a victim’s ear and out the other.

3. What seriuosly? 100% of the people interviewed were Jewish?

4. Who is the perpetrator? Who is an abuser? if 47,000 women suffer from domestic violence that means there are 47,000 men (or women) acting in violent ways towards people they love. How does that happen? How do you stop being violent? How do you solve conflicts in non-violent ways if your entire life that’s what you’ve been taught? Is it possible to change? What other ways are there of solving problems?
What the heck are we spending all our public education budget on if not these things? I know some schools have the decency to bring in a social worker once in a while to give a 45 minute lecture to kids about violence but let’s face it, that doesn’t actually help. Schools have no idea how to prevent bullying. The police have no idea how to prevent domestic violence. Something needs to be done. Something has got to change, and fast.

I’m sorry if I come off as kind of angry and aggressive. I’ve had so many conversations with friends and people I respect who just don’t know what to do, don’t know if they should say something, and don’t have any idea how common this problem is.

All this can be overwhelming because the scope of it is so huge and there are many dangers involved. But we can’t just sit around and hope we won’t encounter it in our lives. We already have. Because, as Dr. Seuss said,

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

So here’s what I urge you to do:

Identify your role. Who are you? Are you a victim, perpetrator?
Chances are you are a bystander. Watch Jackson Katz’s amazing TED talk about the Bystander Approach and learn how average people can make a difference.
Speak out. Challenge your friends on using abusive language and making jokes about rape.
Educate yourself. Learn how to defend yourself against violence and encourage people in your life to do so as well.
Take a stand. If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, SAY SOMETHING to them. Yes, it is your business. Stick your nose in (be careful though, violence is violence!) and you could change somebody’s life.

You’re not exempt from fighting violence.

Posted in Mirror, Mirror

Hephaestus and Aphrodite

Aphrodite running from Hephaestus
Does this look like fun?

Everyone knows what it feels like to be rejected by someone you have feelings for. (If you don’t, this post may not be of interest to you.) Let’s agree it’s comparable to being run over by a garbage truck. It is not at all a desirable situation to be in.

You know how Romeo and Juliet ended because their parents couldn’t get along. We’ve heard stories about people who were not allowed to be together because of social conventions. But how often do you hear stories of people who were forced into a relationship with someone who didn’t want them? Actually I think there’s a Greek myth about that one; Hephaestus was betrothed to Aphrodite, but he was not attractive to her, and she ran off with his hot brother Ares the god of war. It’s a sad story, but people tend to sympathize with Aphrodite, because she is the goddess of love, so surely she deserves better than the hideous Hephaestus? My question is, why didn’t they just let her marry Ares? It comes down to how little sense there is in the Greek myths.

In the book I’m writing, two of the characters find themselves in a relationship. Ledo is desperately in love with Amalia, but he senses her hesitation and does not understand why. While Amalia enjoys his company, something is not right. For Ledo, his time with Amalia is both relief and torture, because he wants to make her happy but he feels he will never be enough for her.

Their relationship reminds me of some stories I’ve heard from people who were in a heterosexual relationship, and discovered after it ended that their partner was homosexual. It’s not uncommon. It doesn’t sound like too much fun either. Both parties may develop deep emotional connections, even though the physical attraction is unilateral. How terrible must it be to know you can’t satisfy someone you love so much? As I type these words my heart is breaking for people who have experienced that feeling. Even if sometimes these relationships were initiated by the partners, it’s still a painful situation to be in.

Dare I ask why some think that forcing gay people to marry straight is a good thing?

Posted in Fighting WorldSuck

Clean As You Go


One of the things I enjoy when I’m upset is baking. It’s distracting and fun, and the end product is a tasty edible thing. But baking is incredibly messy – when the muffins are in the oven you have goo all over the counters and floors, you’re covered in flour, ingredients are scattered about the kitchen and dishes piled to the sky. After being on my feet for an hour preparing the batter, cleaning up is not an exciting prospect. Over time I’ve learned  that the trick is to clean as you go. That way, when you’re done baking, only the muffin pan is left to clean, and it’s not such a big deal.

It’s so much harder to leave the mess for the end. Who feels like washing a huge pile of dishes at 11:00pm after a long day and a baking project? Now imagine your siblings left their dinner dishes as well. Now you have to clean up your mess and all these extra things you weren’t counting on. 

Adorable Chocolate Chip CookiesHuman relationships are kind of like baking. It takes a lot of work, it can be rewarding but also messy. And just like baking, it’s hard to clean up huge relationship messes. I think it makes more sense to “clean as you go” – meaning, if you mess things up, fix them immediately instead of putting it off and waiting for the pile to grow. This is probably what most of us do with people we care about.

We have a beautiful tradition in Judaism: just before the high holidays, we have an entire month designated to forgiveness. The month of Elul, the one we are currently in, +we  forgive those who have wronged us in the hope that God will do the same for us. However, along with this beautiful tradition is a very odd one. In the first grade we learn to ask forgiveness from everyone, and it comes down to sending notes saying, “I’m sorry if I hurt you! <3” to all of your classmates, or even posting a facebook status, “If I hurt anyone, please forgive me! Mwa.” It’s shallow and meaningless, and I think it’s comparable to cleaning up all the other people’s dishes. Why are we cleaning up messes we didn’t make? (Even though it may seem like a nice thing to do.) Some people say it’s because we are not always aware when we hurt someone’s feelings, but I think that’s ignorant. If you hurt someone, you should know it. And if there’s someone you might have hurt, you’ll know who that person is. But there’s no need to text your roommate’s best friend just because it’s Elul.

I believe in “Clean As You Go.” I think we should be apologizing to each other all year long – when we mess things up. If we leave it until the month of Elul, we lose sight of what’s important and get so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the mess that we just throw apologies everywhere, hoping that the one or two people we really need to make amends with will be satisfied by that. Most likely, they won’t be.

Elul doesn’t mean apologize to everyone. Elul means if you’re holding a grudge, it’s time to let go.

Posted in Book Reviews, Mirror, Mirror

Book Review: The Time traveler’s Wife

The Time Traveller's Wife  The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to admit: I didn’t cry when Dumbledore died. But I was moved to tears by The Time Traveler’s Wife.

This is not the kind of book which is impossible to put down. Instead, you get to read it at your leisure, enjoy it, and actually remember it when you’re done. The author succeeds in giving the reader the same experience as the characters. Clare moves through time linearly, to keep the reader grounded, while Henry jumps from time to time and allows the reader to experience the suddenness and confusion he does. The love story pulls the reader into the book so that even when you aren’t reading, Henry and Clare are present at the back of your mind, as a real life lover would be.

Audrey Niffenegger writes with a lot of words, but she uses them masterfully. Her metaphors and descriptions only contribute to bringing the book to life.

“I eat ten Oreos, slowly, gently prying each one apart, scraping the filling out with my front teeth, nibbling the chocolate halves to make them last.” (page 31)

And yet, it’s not just long breathtaking cookie eating scenes like this. In some places the writing is so concise you do a double take and ask, did that really just happen? For instance, I think this is the shortest sex scene I’ve ever encountered:

“[Henry] says, ‘Does that door lock?’ and I flip the lock and we’re late for lunch.” (page 165)

From the first page, the book is ringing with moral dilemmas and existential questions. The author asks her own questions through the characters, but also uses the questions to tell the story. The fact that her characters ask makes them even more human, especially because it makes the reader wonder if they will change their answers as the story progresses.

“But don’t you think it’s better to be extremely happy for a short while, even if you lose it, than to just be okay for your whole life?” (page 231)

Any book in which one of the characters is a cellist becomes an automatic favorite of mine. In this case, the cellist is Alicia, Clare’s younger sister. There aren’t many references to it, but the few were done well. “Alicia is seventeen and a senior in high school. She’s a cellist.” (page 16) It is as if being a cellist explains everything about her character, which is quite accurately how we cellists feel about ourselves. 🙂

It is rare to find a love story which begins in childhood and continues through entire lives, especially in books which are meant to make money. This love story is so detailed and so real, and still it is so gripping as Henry and Clare grow up and get married. Their relationship changes, and their lives change, but the love story is intriguing to the last moment. There is one moment where Clare describes them sitting on swings on a playground which made me think of how a love story can be thought of as a sequence of memories – the moments we choose to string together into a chain we call “romantic.”

“I try to put my heart into hers, for safekeeping, in case I lose it again.” (page 370)

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