Friday, 18 May 2018

How to survive EXAMS

Hello lovely people,

Today I’m going to be talking all about exams! Exam season can be scary and stressful for a lot of people,particularly those with mental illnesses (it me!).

Whether it be Junior Cert, Leaving Cert, University exams or even your driving test, the way we think about exams is really important. Exam related stress can be seriously detrimental to our health, which in turn will also affect exam performance.

Personally, I believe exam-based assessment is completely unfair. It is, in essence, a pressurised memory test. It tests short term memory capacity - that's all! It fails to take account of external factors that could influence performance on the day, situational anxiety and disregards the fact that test scores in a pressurised environment are often not indicative of an individual’s capability. That’s coming from somebody who got good grades in exams. However, even though I got good grades, I hated every second of my exams. My anxiety and hypersensitivity meant that the whole event caused a sensory overload! Let me stress one thing to you, if you take nothing else away from this - exams test your ability to do exams.

Huh? Girl, what are you on about?

I’ll say it again. Exams test your ability to do exams. Nothing else. There is nothing vocational about an exam. Exams have no real world relevance. They do not reflect your worth as a human being and contrary to popular belief, they do not dictate your future.

Without further ado, here are my top tips for surviving exam season.


1. STAY REAL

I’m a great believer in being realistic. ‘Think Positive, Be Happy’ B.S. does my head in. Welcome to adulthood - shit happens, and that’s OK. Often, suppressing your true thoughts and feelings around exam periods can cause bottled up emotions to eventually explode in some kind of majorly embarrassing public meltdown (not that I would know anything about that..cough..cough). By ‘real’, I don’t mean pessimistic or unambitious. I mean, stay grounded because when you’re grounded you realise that..

2. IT’S NOT AS IMPORTANT AS YOU THINK IT IS

Seriously. We live in an exam-driven culture. Despite that, exams are not the be all and end all - you will not remember your exam results in 5 years time, trust me. Especially as teenagers, our lives are seemingly dictated by exam results. Exam results, college courses and initials after our name all provide us with an illusion of safety and control. But, the truth is, you don’t NEED any of those things to be a good person or to be successful. Speaking of successful...

3. REDEFINE SUCCESS


Honestly, what does success mean to you? Getting X amount of points? Passing the exam? Getting your dream course /job? Doing your best? Exam ‘success’ is very narrowly defined. The only thing you need to ‘succeed’ in, this exam season is looking after yourself the best you can! Let go of numbers and grades and understand that you have much less control over this whole thing than it would appear. Also it’s important to remember that...

4. EXAMS ARE GODDAMN ABLEIST

Exams don’t care about your mental health. The education system doesn’t care about your mental health. Therefore it’s up to you, to look after it. YOUR HEALTH IS THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY HERE. If exams push you to the edge - postpone them, quit, leave - I don’t care what you need to do but get out of that situation. If exams are triggering self-harming behaviours - PRIORITISE THAT. If exams are triggering eating disorder behaviours - PRIORITISE THAT. If exams are triggering substance abuse, extreme anxiety, depression etc. - PRIORITI-

Yeah, you get the idea. You are not open to collateral damage, OK?

You need to prioritise YOU because guess what?

5. THERE’S ALWAYS ANOTHER WAY

Worst case scenario: you don’t sit any exams, you fail them all, you throw up in front of people and humiliate yourself (honestly honey, I’ve been there..) and ..........the world KEEPS SPINNING! You’ve got TIME to do something different. To try again. To rest. To heal. To start over. Failure is not a negative thing, because....

6. WITHOUT FAILURE WE WOULD NEVER LEARN ANYTHING

Failing your exams could be the best thing that ever happens to you. I’m serious. Leaving mainstream school at 14 was the best thing that ever happened to me. Did I feel awful at the time? Yes. But if I could go back and tell my younger self one thing it would be: it’s all going to work itself out, trust yourself, trust the process - you’re doing great. I’ve had an unconventional education to say the least. But I am so much more politically aware as a result. I am so much more independent as a result. I am so much more capable of looking after my mental health as a result. I am a much more well-rounded human being as a result. I needed to fail, to be the person I am today. And I will fail again - we all will! And that’s OK.

Besides, if I never left school, I would never have started this blog and pursued writing...so you could say that this virtual conversation we’re having right now is nothing short of destiny.

7. TRY AND FUNCTION

Drink water. Eat. Sleep. Do fun stuff. Don’t cram it all in at the last minute (just fail graciously - you’ll probably do a lot better than you think you will). Be kind to yourself. Please be kind to yourself. This system is fucked. You are precious. Remember that.

P.S. Any parents, relatives or teachers that try and put pressure on you or panic you - just remember - they were a teenager once. This all happened to them. For the most part, they think they’re doing it right. They think they’re doing what’s best for you and for them. But deep down, they’re frightened, because when they were your age they didn’t have friendly bloggers like me telling them it was all going to be OK. So, spare a thought for the lost ones. Then let that thought go and focus all your energy on you, because they are not worthy of your time and attention.

source: chibird.com -amazing adorable artwork - check them out!

Thank you so much for reading this post! I hope it has helped take some of the pressure off your shoulders!

Remember to follow this blog on bloglovin and like the Facebook page for updates and eternal happiness.

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Until the next time, Niamh xx


Monday, 7 May 2018

I don't want to be 'happy' - here's why


Hello lovely people,

Today I want to talk to you about being 'happy'

Every day, we are bombarded with messages from the media, the healthcare system, the education system, the wellness community and pretty much everyone in between that happiness is the one true goal in life. Furthermore, 'happiness' is equated with success, health and is viewed as a personal achievement. Happiness is constantly idealised as the best, purest, most desirable emotion out there.

Believe or not, this is incredibly dangerous. 

By idealising happiness we are creating a moral hierarchy of emotions. We are also actively disregarding the full range of human emotions.

Reality check: growth and healing are often incredibly uncomfortable and can bring up a lot of so-called 'negative' emotions. Even the fact that we label certain emotions as 'positive' and 'negative' is problematic and very telling of our attitudes towards them. 
Labelling our emotions creates a shame-culture surrounding so-called 'negative' emotions, We don't want to talk about them, we don't want to admit to having them and most importantly, we don't want to feel them.  In idealising happiness we degrade and discourage emotions like grief, anger, sadness and fear. 

Despite what we are told, we should not seek to erase these emotions; in doing so, we are simply suppressing them. Suppressed emotions will bury themselves deep in our subconscious and manifest themselves physically and emotionally whilst informing our every thought and action, whether we like it or not....

But what's wrong with wanting to be happy? Isn't that just optimism?

When we idealise happiness, we imply that happiness is a choice. Like health, happiness is rarely a choice. Of course, we can make choices that align with heath and healing but that does not guarantee we will experience happiness. For those of us with mental illnesses, we experience so called 'negative' emotions a lot of the time. I recently saw a poster advertising a 'wellness week' that said 'your happiness is your own personal responsibility'. I could not disagree more. Whilst I agree that healing is your own personal responsibility, we cannot apply the same rules when it comes to happiness

In in order to cultivate a healthy relationship with ourselves and our mental health, we cannot only accept so-called 'positive' emotions. We must accept and embrace all of our emotions and crucially, remove any judgement surrounding them.. Emotions are fluid. Health is ever-changing. 
Besides, it is not humanly possible to feel happy 100% of the time. This is a fantasy we must let go of. Feeling happy all the time would mean a complete disconnect from reality on an interpersonal and global level.  

Quite apart from anything else, I don’t want to be happy all the time. Being happy all the time would mean that I never grow, I never normalise my own discomfort, I suppress my own emotions and I never heal. 

Besides that, emotions are not mutually exclusive. I can feel anxious, sad and excited all at the same time. Aren’t humans amazing?! Why would we want to erase the technicolour spectrum of our emotional capacity? 

It is an unfortunate part of western culture that happiness is held in such high regard. 

Moreover, happiness is an ableist concept. 

Mental illness means that for many people it is not possible to feel happy at a particular time. Also it is important to note that health, happiness and beauty can all be correlated and equated with personal wealth. Happiness is a class issue. Happiness is a racial issue. Happiness is a gender issue. How accessible happiness is in your life is determined by your privilege

In order to recognise injustice and process pain we must feel uncomfortable feelings. Not feeling 'negative' feelings does nothing but delay the healing process. 

Processing and experiencing emotions is a vital part of maintaining our mental health. 
Scratch that, it is a vital part of existing as a human being.

We must surrender to our emotions. We must embrace our emotions, their complexity and multi-dimensional existence. 

When we welcome our emotions into our lives and offer them unconditional love, we are in control of them- not the other way around. 

Control, for the most part, is an illusion, my point is that when we surrender to our emotions we acknowledge the truth of our situation and as a result we are empowered

Emotion is a means of processing trauma. It is a line of communication between the mind, body and psyche that keeps us safe. We are not flawed for experiencing anxiety, fear, saddness etc. 

That’s not to say we should not seek help in managing our emotions - of course, that is always a good idea. However I truly believe that if we are to move forward as individuals and as a collective, we must stop idealising happiness and instead accept all of ourselves including the emotions that we do not want to accept or love. In doing so, we are free.

In the pursuit of happiness, we will only experience disappointment and failure as a result of the unrealistic expectations we set for ourselves.

So what can we do about our happiness paradox?

 ♥ We must give ourselves permission to experience all and any of our emotions.

♥ We must stop prescribing judgement alongside our emotions.

♥ We must embrace what makes us uniquely human. 

♥ We must actively encourage discomfort and normalise it.

♥ We must not seek to eradicate or discriminate against certain emotions.

♥ We must celebrate our emotional spectrum and share it with others.

Something that I have found very useful, personally, is reading and watching poetry. Modern poetry is a medium through which people often express and share their trauma. It is such a relief for me to hear others speak of pain in their lives so freely and so fiercely. It almost seems crass to call it beautiful  but in many ways it is just that. In writing about our pain in a way that is raw, honest and unsweetened, we celebrate our truth as a gift to the world.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur is a cult classic and was my first venture into modern poetry.

I have recently finished Salt by Nayyirah Waheed and that too, is really, really wonderful.

source: https://candidlykeri.com
I hope you have enjoyed this post, as always thank you for reading it!

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Until the next time,

Niamh xx

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

What to say to someone with ANXIETY // Ask an Anxious Babe

Hello lovely people,

Today's post is the second I've written talking about my anxiety disorder. I definitely want to make this a series, like my eating disorder recovery posts, with the very snazzy title - Ask an Anxious Babe (I hate myself for saying snazzy). For the non-anxious human, knowing what to say to somebody with an anxiety disorder is hard. In this post, I will cover some vital Dos and Don'ts which will (hopefully) make anxious babes like me a little easier to understand.

DON'T - Act like their therapist

As a friend/colleague/family member/partner/acquaintance etc. this is not your role. Don't try to 'fix' the person and give out unsolicited advice. The best thing you can do is exist in a supportive capacity - listen, encourage, reassure but don't expect yourself to be able to 'solve' somebody else's issues.

- Phrases such as 'You're doing better than you feel' 'You will survive this' and 'This too shall pass' are wonderful.

DO - Understand that you have NO IDEA what its like in their shoes

It's easy to come out with phrases such as 'I understand how you feel' or 'I know how you feel' and then trail off into some long personal anecdote about how you felt anxious on your Granny's wedding day blah blah... I realise that, from a non-anxious person's perspective, these phrases might appear to be reassuring and empathetic even - they're not. With the best of intentions, these phrases are not going to get you anywhere. Even if you have experienced anxiety before, even if you have an anxiety disorder right now, you still don't know the complexities that make up how that person is feeling.

- Phrases like ' I can't imagine what that must feel like' or 'That sounds so difficult' are great alternatives that ultimately achieve what you wanted to achieve in the first place - to show compassion. 

Also, side note - if you do have an anxiety disorder, it's still totally possible to show peer support; 'I have experienced something similar, I'm so sorry you've had to go through this' is a perfectly valid way of showing compassion without making the conversation all about you.

DON'T - Comment on the visibility of their anxiety

'I can tell that you're anxious' is my ultimate pet peeve. Like, duh! It is not your place to comment on how visible or detectable someone's anxiety is. Chances are they are pretty aware of that already and don't need reminding! It can be tempting to play the 'expert' in this situation but other than providing a self-induced ego boost, it's not going to help the situation one little bit.

It's not clever; it's actually quite rude.

DO - Encourage them to reach out for support

Just because you can't be their therapist doesn't mean you can't encourage that kind of support. However, do so gently and with caution. Understand that reaching out for help is a big deal in general and an even bigger deal if you're anxious all the time! 'I can't give you the support you need to work through your anxiety and I don't want you to have to go it alone - would you consider reaching out for help?' Reassure them that reaching out for help is an incredibly courageous thing to do. However, be sure to add that there is not pressure to do so if they're not ready right now. Finding the right therapist can be a stressful process, and they will need to be supported through that.

DON'T - Suggest YOGA/KALE/SPENDING TIME WITH DOGS/'INSERT BULLSHIT HERE'

I love yoga. Yoga is wonderful. But please, please don't suggest this to someone who is anxious. It comes across as flippant. Same goes for mindfulness/meditation/calming music - whatever.

1) Chances are they have indeed tried all of the above
2) They may not feel comfortable with any of the above
3)We hear this from the media the. whole. entire. time. 

Encourage them to find a way to chill out and recharge - whatever way that may be.

Also, be wary of damn DIET CULTURE. Stop presenting diet culture as a cure-all. Eating crisps doesn't give someone anxiety. Not eating crisps doesn't cure anxiety. I checked.

Also exercise is not always a healthy coping mechanism - read more here.

DO- Treat them like a normal human being

Don't act weird around your anxious friend. They are a human being. Their anxiety makes up a very small part of them. It is something they are experiencing - it is not who they are. Don't pity them. Don't do a weird voice/do weird nodding etc. when talking about their anxiety. Be upfront about it. Be open, honest - show them that you are not ashamed of their anxiety. It will give them permission to be themselves. Ask them what is fun for them - and do it.

DON'T - Get offended

Anxious people (for the most part) are not ghosting you - they are ghosting everyone, because they are taking time to recharge. Maybe they are experiencing a lot of anxiety attacks. Maybe life has gotten too hectic. Maybe they are too afraid to restart the conversation - send them a text, let them know you care. Also, don't be offended if somebody is anxious around you, it's probably nothing to do with you at all. Saying 'You don't need to be anxious around me' is not gonna solve it. You need to embrace their anxiety and make the person feel welcome and wanted, whatever state they're in.

DO- Talk about it

Tell them you BELIEVE them. Tell them you don't think they're weird. Tell them you don't think that their physical symptoms are weird. Tell them you will not JUDGE them. These are the fears an anxious person has. It is not your job to understand why somebody is anxious. It is your job to accept their anxiety regardless. They are not a puzzle to be solved - don't try and 'figure them out'.  Just be there when they need someone to listen. Respect them when they need time alone. An anxious person will LOVE you forever if you say 'I will not be offended if you need to spend some time alone' 'Are you comfortable with this?' 'Do you need to change/cancel/postpone plans?' Keep an open dialogue and show compassion - remember it is not their choice to feel anxious.

@thelatestkate drew this. She is incredible. If you're not following her on tumblr/insta/facebook then honestly what are you doing with your life. She also has a shop here - her art is out of this world and you need it in your life.

Thank you so much for reading this post, I hope it has enlightened you in some way!

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Until the next time,

Niamh xx

Friday, 13 April 2018

4 MYTHS about Emotional Eating

Hello lovely people,

Today I want to talk about emotional eating. For the purposes of this blog post, emotional eating could be defined as 'eating driven by emotions rather than hunger cues'. Emotional eating gets a lot of bad press - it is consistently linked to obesity, always as a result of personal negligence (which is not a thing btw), considered a 'bad habit' and generally a reliable indicator of 'not having your shit together' (having your shit together is, arguably, not a thing either).

What this all boils down to is control, or rather the illusion of control. If you can control your food intake, you can control your life - right?

Well, no.

Dieting, food control, disordered eating - whatever you want to call it, is about anything but control. It is about self-restraint, self-inflicted punishment and ultimately food ends up controlling you.

BUT IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. 

Let's do some myth-busting together and get some well-needed perspective.

MYTH 1: As babies, we only eat to satisfy hunger or thirst

Not true, as babies we feed for a number of reasons. We feed to feel safe, to calm down, to regulate temperature, to bond, for pain relief, to fall asleep and simply because we enjoy the sensation of sucking. This is sometimes known as 'comfort nursing'.

Food is innately connected with a sense of safety and security. That's why, at times in our lives when we feel unsafe, we use food as a coping mechanism to soothe and reassure ourselves.

Often, as babies, feeding is one of the only ways to soothe ourselves as we are not biologically ready to self-soothe. Nevertheless, one could argue that, since adults are far more developmentally advanced, that whilst emotional eating as a baby is healthy, as an adult is it unhealthy.

This brings us to myth number two.

MYTH 2: Emotional eating is an unhealthy coping mechanism

Not necessarily. I'm not saying that emotional eating should be your only coping mechanism or even your main coping mechanism, let's be real - it's not going to solve any root problems, but, as coping mechanisms go, it's a relatively safe one. 

Let me give you an example: you have a choice between eating an apple and a chocolate bar - you choose the chocolate bar, not because it satisfies your hunger any more than the apple, but because eating it is a more pleasurable experience.

Food is about so much more than satisfying hunger. It is about being emotionally satisfied. We cannot view food objectively, without the context of our own experiences.

For example: when I was in the throes of orthorexia, I forced myself to eat A LOT of courgette, even though I hated the taste, the texture, the visual - everything. Needless to say, I did not eat courgette for a long time after that, because it was associated with that negative experience. So, a nutritionist or dietitian could (and indeed did) say to me, eating courgette is good for you (because of X and Y nutritional values) but, until recently it was categorically, not good for me.

Eating courgette, would have complete disregarded my mental, emotional and physiological response to it and further fractured my relationship with food.

So, not eating courgette could be classified as 'emotional eating' (or avoidance, in this case) as could choosing the chocolate over the apple.

Neither of these acts were the result of a bad decision making - they were the result of actively listening and responding to my needs.

However, one could further argue that, in fact, if we only really ate what tasted good and made us happy, we would miss out on vital nutrients and fuel that our body (and brain) needs to be strong and healthy.

This leads us seamlessly on to myth number 3.

MYTH 3: Emotional eating leads to nutritional deficiencies and/or unhealthy weight gain/health problems

There is no data to support this. It is entirely possible to be nutritionally conscious, without completely disregarding cravings and emotional needs.

Preventing yourself from eating what you want to eat and/or beating yourself up for eating food that offers more pleasure than nutritional density is restrictive. Regardless of your size, weight, eating disorder type, this behaviour is and will always be, restrictive. This is the behaviour than fuels binging episodes which in turn fuels restriction and traps you into a viscous binge-restrict cycle.

Taking time to honour your cravings is self-care. We need to remember here, that weight gain is not inherently bad and cannot be used as a justification for self-hatred.

If all you can think about is chocolate, then, chances are, you're probably operating some kind of mental or physical restriction on that food.

If we include mental health in our definition of overall health, how does that shift our perspectives. If we eat to take care of our mental and emotional health, not just our physical health, how does that change which foods we consider as 'nourishing' and which foods are not.

In October 2000, Tufts University Health and Nutrition letter, reported a study, conducted by researchers in Sweden and Thailand that demonstrated how meal enjoyment significantly enhances nutrient absorption (source: Managing Business Change for Dummies, Evard and Gipple, 2009).

It's about finding balance, and understanding that appetite is fluid and ever-changing, as are cravings.

Building a amicable and flexible relationship with food is the healthiest thing you can do for your mind, body and soul.

MYTH 4: Emotional Eating and Disordered Eating are the same thing

Nope. Emotional eating is part of having a healthy relationship with food. Disordered eating is about controlling what you do and don't eat, fuelled by self-depracating thoughts. Submitting to emotional eating and self-forgiveness is the opposite of control, it is 'riding the wave' of your food needs, as and when they change. Disordered eating requires judgement over food. Emotional eating has no judgement attached to it.

But what if a health professional tells me emotional eating is bad?

As a health professional, when you prescribe judgement alongside eating, then you are endorsing disordered eating.

As a health professional, when you prescribe the same elimination/retricitive diets for each patient irrespective of the prerequisite detailed and intensely personal consultations, you are insulting your client's mind, body and spirit by blanketing their highly individualised needs with the latest food fashion fuelled by your own internalised weight stigma.

Emotional eating is not bad or good, it simply is. It is only when we try to control it, that it begins to control us. Ride the wave. Eat cookies on Monday, brocolli on Tuesday, both on Wednesday. You are not 'cheating' on your diet, and by believing that, the only person being cheated here is you.

Trust your body, trust your mind, trust your emotions - they are telling you everything you need to know.

Take time to figure out what works for you and what doesn't and understand that it will change, constantly, and that is OK.

Understand that the goal is never to eliminate emotional eating, simply notice it, figure out what's behind it and then move on. It is not something to be fixed. It is something to be embraced, accepted and provided with unconditional love.

PS: If you are in recovery from an eating disorder, please, please, please do not stress out about emotional eating, your emotional triggers will be stronger than most - this will not always be the case. I know eating is hard, harder than you ever thought that it could be, but you will get through it, this too shall pass. Eating doesn't always have to be enjoyable, but in order to feed our brains, our bodies, all of our internal organs that are working so hard to keep us safe and well, we need to eat. Even if we don't want food, we need it. For now, just focus on getting through this tough time, and in time, you will learn to love food all over again. I promise.


IDC about your diet, Susan

I hope you have enjoyed this blogpost, as ever, thank you for taking the time to read it.

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Until the next time,

Niamh xxx

Sunday, 1 April 2018

AM I A SLUT?

Hello lovely people,

Happy April Fools! Today I want to talk about women's sexuality (this is not a drill). Yes you read that correctly. SEX. SEX. SEX. SEX. SEX. SEX. SEX. Just had to get that out the way. Are we over it now? Good.

We exist in an era where slut-shaming is socially acceptable, where a woman's sexual expression (or perceived sexual expression) can be openly criticised by the masses. A 'slut' could be defined as a woman who engages in the same sexual behaviours as a man. Alternative terms include whore, hooker, hustler, slag, slapper, tart, tramp, trollop, harlot (if you wanna be all old-fashioned about it) and many, many more that I don't care to list here. Slut-shaming is a prime example of the major double-standard that exists between what is considered to be socially acceptable behaviour for men and women in society.

Examples of  so-called 'sluttish' behaviour can involve: wearing so-called 'promiscuous' clothing, flirting, having casual sex, having sex with more than one partner, having sex outside of relationships, masturbating, working as a sex worker, communicating sexual desires and showing literally any flesh at all. The warped ideas used to justify such criticisms are usually something along the lines of : women are precious fairy creatures who have no sexual desires/needs/wants at all and therefore any women that openly contradict this theory are crazy vicious witches with no self-respect. 

'Where did these strange, dangerous (and quite frankly, stupid) opinions stem from?', I hear you cry. 

Virginity has long been used as a means of commodifying women. Virginity is something that can be 'given' and 'taken', right? Even the tradition of a bride being given away by her father to her husband, is literally a transfer of ownership. Historically speaking, women who were not 'virgins' were considered to be damaged, soiled goods that could not be married off and were therefore of little use to their families or indeed, society. Virginity was like a ye-olde paternity test that ensured heirs were of the husband's bloodline. Still, in the 21st century, women are being killed for not being 'virgins', including women who are raped and those whose hymens have 'broken' by means other than sex (FYI hymens don't really 'break' - more on that here). The social construct of virginity has operated as a means of controlling women and maintaining a heteronormative, patriarchal world-view.

Indeed, the term 'virgin' is often used in a derogatory way towards men, but for different reasons. Although there is considerable pressure and expectation placed on men to have as much sex as possible, virginity and sexuality are not used as a means of controlling and shaming heterosexual men in the same way that they are used to control and shame women.

Slut Shaming and Rape Culture

This is particularly relevant, considering the recent rape trial, involving four Ulster Rugby players, and its appalling verdict. Since slut-shaming involves making inaccurate and ridiculous assumptions about women and their desires, it plays a significant part in normalising rape culture. The shame surrounding the topic of women's sexuality contributes to rape culture because it tells us that women who have sex, particularly in the aforementioned scenarios above, are dirty and morally skewed, and therefore any account of non-consensual sex is invited, deserved and most importantly their own fault. Victim blaming and slut shaming go hand in hand since the bigoted criticisms of slut-shaming culture provide ample evidence and justification for victim-blaming in accounts of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape. Commentary like 'what was she wearing?' 'were they drunk?' 'she was asking for it/leading him on/flirting with him' are prime examples of insidious victim blaming at work.

Masturbation

It perplexes me as to why this is still a taboo topic. As mentioned in this article here, the smash-hit musical The Book of Mormon contains jokes about literally f*cking a baby, which provoked uproarious laughter from the audience and yet, here we are unable to talk about non-penis-related-masturbation. The core beliefs underpinning this taboo are along the lines of 'women have little to no sexual desire' and crucially 'women cannot be sexually satisfied without a man' (hahahaha - no). As well as being ridiculously heteronormative, this is simply incorrect. It boils down to a question of empowerment; women being dominant, pro-active and taking ownership of their sexual pleasure. This is not something that the patriarchy are going to start encouraging anytime soon.

WHY oh Why don't we talk about masturbation in Sex Ed programmes?

Porn

Women watch porn. Trans people watch porn. Non-binary people watch porn. All genders watch porn. That doesn't stop the majority of it being intensely misogynistic and heteronormative, cis-normative, abled bodied, weirdly hairless, and for the most part, intended solely for the heterosexual male gaze. Porn is this generation's sex ed and it really shouldn't be. If sex ed in schools provided factual, frank information, then I believe young people would be equipped with the tools to discern fantasy from reality.


source: teenzonemagazine.co.za

So what is the moral of this feminist jaunt?

Women's sexuality is none of your business.
You cannot determine somebody's wants, needs and desires from their outward appearance/behaviour. 
Sex that doesn't occur between a cis-man and a cis-woman is equally valid.
Sex work is work and deserves respect.
Virginity is a social construct.
Slut-shaming feeds rape culture.
Women can and do have high sex drives.
Women do not and should not have sex out of duty or for purely baby-making purposes.
Masturbation isn't just a thing for penis-owners - sorry folks.
Sexual activity and self-respect have absolutely nothing to do with each other
Porn is viewed by all genders (and also needs to cater for all genders and levels of ability)
Sex Ed needs to be revolutionised to cater for the real-world needs of young people.

I am aware that non-binary and trans people have largely been excluded from these kinds of conversations. This is a really great article (containing much needed data) addressing just that. 

This is a fabulously factual myth-busting article surrounding masturbation.

This is a wonderful non-binary guide to sex and sexuality.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post, perhaps it has alerted you to your own internalised shame and stigma around these topics.

Remember to follow this blog on bloglovin and like the Facebook page (and check out my insta, while you're at it).

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Until the next time,

Niamh xxx
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