Jaclyn FriedmanJaclyn Friedman

By JaclynF

What Are Abortion Stories For? Fucking While Feminist Episode 57

Recently, actress Jemima Kirke posted a video in support of the Center for Reproductive Rights’ Draw the Line campaign, in which she talked about having an abortion. Kirke’s frank story inspired an article in the Daily Beast arguing that we shouldn’t focus on people telling their abortion stories, because it doesn’t change policy.

The ensuing brouhaha left me with a lot of questions, so I asked the brilliant Renee Bracey Sherman to help me understand the power and purpose of abortion storytelling, and what it was like to tell her own story so publicly for Fusion earlier this year. And then we helped out a listener with some advice about consent and setting boundaries with a friend.

Click here to listen!

Show notes:

  • Jemima Kirke’s story:
  • The Daily Beast claps back.
  • Renee responds to the Daily Beast
  • Renee’s abortion story video on Fusion:
How to listen to the podcast via iTunes: We’re still trying to sort out our rejection from the store. In the meantime, here’s how to subscribe via iTunes:

  1. Open iTunes
  2. Under the File* menu, open Subscribe to Podcast
  3. Enter this URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/jaclynfwf and hit “okay”
  4. FWF should load into your iTunes Podcast window. Enjoy!
  5. *In older versions of iTunes, it will be under the Advanced menu.

By JaclynF

Deanna Zandt: Fucking While Feminist 7

Jaclyn dives deep with social media maven Deanna Zandt about the implications of the recent showdown over Predditor, Gawker, and the general strategy of outing people who post nonconsensual creepshots of women on the internet. Plus: cocktails and polyamory. Well, talking about polyamory, anyhow.

Tune in right here.

Links for this week’s show:

By JaclynF

Hope and rage

Here’s my speech from the Boston rally against the War on Women that happened last Saturday, April 28. Thanks to Spectra Speaks for the videography!


Greetings pissed off people!

As we’ve been catloguing today, There’s a lot to be pissed off about, that’s for sure.

Some Republicans have objected to calling their policies a “war” on women. They say that they don’t see women as their enemy. This may shock you, but I don’t think they do, either. They don’t see us as their enemy because they don’t see us as human. The most important word in the phrase “war on women” isn’t war. It isn’t even women. It’s “on.” As in, these unbelievably rich, privileged, almost uniformly white men are literally fighting their wars for power on us. We aren’t players in these wars. We are the field of play. Our bodies, our desires, our possibilities, our lives are being treated as a battlefield for them to tromp around on as they fight each other for power.

To say that this is unacceptable is the greatest of understatements. But it also gives us a crystal clear picture of how to resist. If we are the ground under their feet, then what we have to do to end their game is exactly what we are all here to do today: stand up.

I’m not trying to oversimplify this. It’s going to take much more than a rally, or even 50 of them, to create a true democracy in the US, one that genuinely grants all of us our full rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But this is how it starts. This is what works. If they want to control our bodies, we have to use our bodies to take control. If our desires are dangerous, then let’s be terrifying. If they want to take away our choices, then we’re going to keep making them: in our bedrooms, with our doctors, in the streets and at the ballot box.

I don’t mean to suggest that this is easy, or that many of us haven’t been standing up and getting trampled and standing up again for years. Of course it isn’t, and of course we have. And many of us — I have to assume all of us — have messed up some of the time while doing it. It’s hard, sometimes, to resist adopting the strategies that are used to keep us down, even as we’re struggling to stand. We lose sight of the fact that power doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game and seek power over, instead of power with. There has to be room for error in our movement, to be sure, but there is also enormous room for improvement. This war doesn’t trample each of us equally, and we have to stop pretending it does. I’m sure we’re all shocked by the recent, draconian efforts to deny us our right to abortion care and contraception (and, failing that, to shame those of us who seek it). But those of us who are poor have been shamed and denied access for literally decades, in ways that a lot of us just accept as status quo. We fight for our right to decide when and if we want to become mothers, but many of us fail to act in solidarity with immigrant women fighting for the right not to give birth in shackles, and to stay with and mother their children in ways many of us can take for granted. We’re justifiably outraged at recent efforts to pathologize our sexual desires, but those of us who are white can forget that women of color have never known it to be any other way in this country. Whether or not each of these are our own problems as individuals, all of these issues are ALL of our issues. They have to be. We can’t do the “easy” stuff now and come back and deal with the “other” stuff later. We all need to regularly check ourselves to make sure we’re not standing up by stepping on someone else’s head. Not just because it’s not a very nice thing to do. But because it’s going to take every single one of us standing together to create a movement that can stand strong on solid ground.

Standing up — really standing up –means going beyond responding to the terms of the debate. It means defining them. It means not struggling so hard for marriage equality that we have no bandwidth left to question the institution of marriage. For that matter, it means not putting all our eggs into the “gay isn’t a choice, and that’s why we should have rights” basket, instead insisting that those of us who do deliberately choose to live queer lives deserve rights too. While we’re shouting loudly and repeatedly that using birth control doesn’t make us sluts or prostitutes, let’s yell even louder that there’s not a damn thing wrong with being either or both. When we spend all of our time just fighting to keep agencies like planned parenthood funded, we forget to ask more fundamental questions like: why is basic health care for half the population treated as a nicety that a private charity can provide if it feels so moved? Why is “women’s health care” — and yes, I include in that abortion care and contraception access — why is it optional? Why is it a niche industry? We need to stand up and say: no more. “Women’s health care” is health care. Period. (Yes, even on our period.)

And as much as I love this action we’re all taking part in today, here and across the country, it’s because I see the potential of this gathering that I have to say: we must not get so focused on calling out the misogyny of these policies and propaganda that we erase the fact that they don’t just impact women. I’m not just talking about the ways that misogyny hurts the lives of men, though that’s certainly true. All the services we keep referring to as “women’s health care” – abortion, cancer screenings, contraception access, prenatal care, basic prevantative care, you know the list – these are fundamental health care issues for trans men and genderqueer and non gender conforming folks too. And the public health crisis that is sexual violence in this country transcends all gender boundaries. So, with all due respect to the organizers, it’s not enough to just unite women. It’s time to unite people.

Because we are having what they call a “moment” right now, and that’s great. We hold enormous power in the upcoming elections, and everyone seems to know it. We beat back Komen’s attempt to make us choose between breast health and abortion care. We’ve successfully defeated so called “personhood amendments” – bills that erase OUR personhood in favor of a microscopic clump of cells – in states as conservative as Mississippi and Oklahoma. Just this week, the Senate finally passed new Violence Against Women prevention legislation that sustains previous VAWA programs while expanding efforts to make life safer for immigrants, Native Americans, and same-sex couples. The Democrats may have introduced those new provisions for cynical reasons, hoping to make the GOP go on record against them. But I’m proud and encouraged to say that anti-violence activists do not seem to have played along. Even when the bill’s future seemed in peril, I heard no rumblings that we should ditch the quote-unquote special interests to increase odds of passage. We stood together, and we stood firm, and we won. Even in this most reactionary political climate, we didn’t just protect the status quo – we didn’t simply resist further injustice. We made this country a little more just. And that’s exactly what we have to keep doing. If we want real, sustained change – if we want this country to be our country, by and for all of us, not just rich white dudes – we need to keep putting our bodies on the line. We need to resist in every way possible those who want to save the “tatas,” but erase the inconvenient complexity of our bodies, our personhood, our lives. We need to keep standing up and taking up space where none has been made for us. We need to every day keep adding a “V” to this moment. That’s what makes it a movement.

So yes. There is surely a lot to be angry about. But there is also enormous reason for hope. And we need both. Hope without rage is a dream. And rage without hope can be destructive to ourselves and to our communities. But mix them together and they become the perfect fuel for transformative action. So if you’ve come here today full of one, I hope you’ll take with you some of the other. If you’re full of hope, take some of the glowing rage that’s been shared here today. Really listen to who’s angry, and why, and find ways to make their anger your own. You can start as simply as being angry on their behalf, then let it seep deeper.

And if you arrived here full of rage, please, take hope. Stay angry, but find in the testimony we’ve been honored with today reasons to believe that the changes you seek are possible. Then do whatever it takes to fan that spark of hope into a fire.

For me, I’ll be doing both. Every day until this work is done. I’ll see you out there.

By JaclynF

An Apology.

My recent column at GOOD* on Blue Ivy Carter has received some strong criticism, and rightly so. It erases the long, damaging history of white people (specifically white women) telling Black women the “right” ways to be sexual, as well as how to raise their children. Worse, it contributes to that dynamic. This was far from my intention in writing it, but intentions aren’t magic. I was wrong.

Obviously it would have been far better if I’d understood all of this from the get-go, and not written the column. The best I know how to do at this point is to offer my deep, sincere apology, commit to donating the fee I’ll receive for this column to SisterSong, and redouble my ongoing efforts to understand and undo racism, both within myself and beyond. These efforts take many shapes, but one specific approach I’ll be focusing more energy on is increasing my reading and listening to women of color who work on sexuality issues.

(*I’m publishing this here and in the comments at GOOD, but the piece will stay up as GOOD has no-retractions policy.)

By JaclynF

They like it! They really like it!

The reviews have begun to come in!

Honestly, I can’t imagine how to properly express my gratitude for the reaction some of my heroes have been having to advance copies of What You Really Really Want. But as much as I’m humbled by their endorsement of my work, I’m also bursting with pride and can’t wait another day to share them with you. So, without further ado, the very first sneak-peek reviews of What You Really Really Want (which you can, incidentally, pre-order at this link or at your local independent bookstore. Just sayin’.):

Susie Bright:

“In a world full of Pussycat Dolls and virginity pledges, What You Really Really Want carves out a path for real women to have real sex on their own terms. The information and exercises in this book have the power to change your sex life for good.”

Jessica Valenti, founder of Feministing.com and author/editor of four books, including The Purity Myth:

“Don’t have sex before you read this book! With her usual wit and candor, Jaclyn Friedman writes a manual for sex that teaches, engages, surprises and – most importantly – puts the reader in charge. What You Really, Really Want will change the way a generation thinks (and acts!) about sex.”

Anna Holmes, Washington Post columnist and founder of Jezebel.com:

“Jaclyn Friedman’s new guide — detailed, intelligent, and fun as hell to read — is a sorely needed addition to my bookshelf. Think of it as the anti-Cosmopolitan: A 21st century primer on fearlessly discovering and owning your sexuality while staying true to yourself without cutesy gimmicks, absurd tips and patronizing assumptions. It’s not an understatement to say that I wish WHAT YOU REALLY REALLY WANT had been around when I was first coming into adulthood. Actually scratch that: It’s as relevant to me now that I’m in my late 30s as it would have been in my late teens. Everyone can benefit from Jaclyn’s personable, progressive perspective on female sexuality and feminism.”

Tristan Taormino, sex educator and author of 7 books including The Secrets of Great G-Spot Orgasms and Female Ejaculation:

“As a sex educator, I always encourage people to embrace their authentic desires to create an empowered sex life, but Jaclyn takes both the theory and practice of this one necessary step further: she gives specific, useful tools to help girls and women navigate the complex world of sexuality. She busts myths and shreds double standards about female sexuality, exposing the hypocrisy, misogyny, and sex negativity inherent in all the crap we’ve been fed. This book will simultaneously make perfect sense, blow your mind, and crack you wide open—and by the time you turn the final page, you will be changed. It should be required reading for every girl and woman—heck, every person—on the planet. There is more significant, sex-positive, shame-free, life-changing knowledge in a few pages of this book then you’ll find in the entire public school sex education curriculum. Clear, compelling, and courageous!”

Heather Corinna, founder/director of Scarleteen and author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College:

“If you’re like many women, you probably came into your sex like with a sense of what women should or shouldn’t want, but with little sense of what you, the one, unique woman you are, actually did want and all of what you could want. If you’re like many women, you’ve gone through your sex life trying to walk a shaky tightrope of everyone else’s shoulds and shouldn’ts, rather than enjoying the freedom and comfort that only shoulds or shouldn’ts you create and choose for yourself can provide. If you’re like many women, when someone asks what you do really, really want for yourself in a sexual life, the answers don’t easily fly off your tongue. Instead, you may struggle to find them at all or to voice them for fear they’re not the right answers, even if you’re very sure they’re right for you.

In a much better world, no one would have those experiences. Instead, the picture of your sexuality and sex life would start as a colossal, blank canvas where only you painted the picture, where only you chose the scale, proportions, colors and textures and applied — or did not — rules or limits. And the world that painting of your sexuality existed in would be a world without any art critics.

The bad news is we don’t live in that world.

The good news is that what Jaclyn Friedman has provided you with this book is an powerful, creative, truly useful and holistic panacea to the world many women have lived in.

I believe this book and all your process of utilizing all it has to offer can help heal the impact so much negative, soul-sapping messaging can have on you, can renew and recalibrate the way you see the limitless, first-person possibilities of yourself and your sex life and can help you experience and provide that much, much better world for yourself and for everything your sexuality can be. Yep, even though you still have to live in this world.”

Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D., Co-founder of SPARK and Professor of Education and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Colby College

“Jaclyn Friedman is my new hero. If I hadn’t read it for myself, I wouldn’t believe a self-help book could cut through so much structural sexism and cultural subterfuge to reach a place of genuine insight and personal truth. Friedman is this generation’s version of Dr. Ruth—young, sassy, direct, and so very wise. As someone who teaches undergraduates and witnesses the gendered nature of sexual shame, blame, and fear, what I really really want is to hand this book out free to all my women students. I’ll settle for dog-eared copies in every college and university Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Resource Center.”

Lena Chen (of The Ch!cktionary and formerly of Sex and the Ivy):

“For every girl (and woman!) who’s ever felt condescended to or misrepresented by sex and dating manuals, What You Really, Really Want is exactly the kind of book for which you’ve been waiting. Choosing nuance over one-size-fits-all dating rules, Jaclyn Friedman treats her readers as equals in the quest for sexual empowerment, helping them sort through confusing expectations and desires without judgment or paternalism. Interweaving advice with personal anecdote, Friedman challenges readers to rethink how they make sense of their bodies, sexuality, and gender. All the while, she offers an honest take on risks like sexual assault, unintended pregnancy, and STIs. By interrogating assumptions about gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, and relationship models, Friedman reveals the diversity of the human sexual experience and the choices available to her readers. Most importantly, she emphasizes fulfillment not through relationships with others, but through one’s relationship with oneself.

Unlike other so-called ‘sexperts,’ Friedman isn’t prescriptive and doesn’t pretend to have easy answers. But then again, why should she? Any reader of this book will realize by its conclusion that the answers lie in their own hands. By teaching girls how to become more attuned with their own bodies and sexualities, Friedman doesn’t just give her readers the tools to say no to social expectations and gender roles, but also teaches them how to say yes to their desires — the very definition of empowerment!”

By JaclynF

I’m beyond honored to be attending the Nobel Women’s Initiative’s conference on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, at which over 100 women from around the world – activists, academics, security experts, corporate leaders, and Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebdai and Mairead Maguire – are coming together next week to forge a new security, and a future free of sexual violence in conflict. You can read a great (though definitely trigger-warning-worthy) overview of the issue and the conference’s approach to it here.

I’m also super excited that I’ve been given permission to liveblog and livetweet some of the proceedings, so that y’all can listen in and I can share some of your comments and questions with this incredible group. I’ll be doing the liveblogging right here (as well as at Feministe), and I’ll be focusing on the three overview panels, which are:

Monday, May 23 @ 11:00AM Eastern

Where are we now and what needs to be done? This panel will review what is being done and what needs to be done to prevent sexual violence in conflict. Reflecting on successes and obstacles, speakers will discuss initiatives/techniques at the international, national and local level to prevent atrocities and protect women.

Moderator: Joanna Kerr – Action Aid International, South Africa
Speakers (TBC):
Joanne Sandler – UN Women (including special message by Margot Wallstrom)
Charlotte Isaksson – Armed Forces, Sweden
Binalakshmi Nepram – Manipur Women Gun Survivor Network, India

Monday, May 23 @ 3:00PM Eastern

This panel aims to give a round up of efforts to prosecute perpetrators at the international and local levels. From the International Criminal Court to grassroots mobile courts, women have spearheaded various alternative and innovative forms of justice. What is needed to strengthen these efforts to ensure greater accountability and prosecution?

Moderator: Susannah Sirkin – Physicians for Human Rights, US
Speakers (TBC):
Anuradha Bhagwati – Service Women’s Action Network, US
Naw K’nway Paw Nimrod – Women’s League of Burma, Thailand
Dr. Emily Adhiambo Rogena – University of Nairobi, Kenya
Andrea Medina Rosas – Red Mesa de Mujeres de Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

Wednesday, May 25, 10:00AM Eastern

What does a survivor-centered strategy look like? How are women activists on the frontline defending and surviving violence and risk? This panel is meant to spark discussions around possibilities and approaches for a comprehensive response for women activists and survivors of sexual violence in conflict. By drawing the links between trauma, justice, health, livelihoods, security and reconciliation, participants reflect on what is needed to support women in finding their voice and reclaiming their lives to forge a new security.

Moderator: Lisa VeneKlasen – Just Associates, USA
Speakers (TBC):
Wangu Kanja – Wangu Kanja Foundation, Kenya
Shereen Essof – Just Associates Southern Africa, South Africa
Safaa Adam – Community Development Association, Sudan
Patricia Ardon – Sinergia N’oj, Guatemala

You can click on the links in the panel names to get a reminder for any of the liveblogs, or just tune back in here at the start of the liveblog. I’ll also be livetweeting as I can from the rest of the conference – you can follow me at @jaclynf.

All of this talk is going to conclude with Thursday’s Day of Action to End Sexual Violence in Conflict — details coming soon on how all of us can get involved. I really hope you’ll join me.

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