I love your beard

by: third year UTK student

I grew up in a very sexually “vanilla” area of the Midwest, meaning that anything other than a husband-and-wife going at it in missionary with the lights off was a foreign concept to me. Cosmopolitan Magazine was where the devil had his vacation home, and homosexuality was worse than missing the perfect deer from your tree stand.

Living in such a sexually-deprived, rural wasteland made me under-develop my own sexual desires and fantasies. I knew I was attracted to boys, but the number of boys that weren’t related to me or my friends made my options back home limited. Needless to say, college has really opened my eyes to the world of sex and sexuality, and I’ve become much more open minded. However, it took me a solid year to fully accept things about my own sexuality, with a notable example being my… fetish.
Fetishes were something I always associated with creepy serial killers, like Norman Bates’ creepy Oedipus complex he has going on in Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho,” or weird body parts, like Quentin Tarantino’s foot fetish that prompts him to feature feet in every one of his movies. I never knew that “real” people actually had them, and I was scared that I was one of the “weird ones” that did.

I realized I had a thing for beards gradually, noticing more and more that my celebrity “10/10 would bang list” changed with an actor’s facial hair, with many gaining crush status when they grow their traditional “hiatus” beards or for movie roles.

Things really picked-up when I started somewhat-dating a bearded fellow my sophomore year. That’s when I realized how turned-on I was by the feeling of a beard, both on my face and in… other areas. 
I loved the prickly feeling and getting hairs in my mouth. I loved spending the next few days gently touching the parts of my chin and neck that had ‘beard burn’ with a thrill I had never experienced before. His attractiveness hinged on his beard’s status, and I would even bite it when we were fooling around.
Despite all the beard-lovin, I refused to admit that it was a fetish. 

“I just really like beards, okay,” I would insist. “They’re good looking and make men look lumberjack-ey”

My friends would roll their eyes and insist, “You follow multiple bearded models on Instagram and beard-centered blogs on Tumblr. Beards distract you from stories you’re telling. ‘No-Shave November’ is one of your favorite ‘holidays.’ You have a fetish.”

I was in denial, though. Which is sad; in actuality there is nothing wrong with a fetish. It’s just a person acknowledging the fact that something about a person or thing really just gets their sexual gears turning; they’re really just “super turn-ons.” The only thing they do is make a person more attracted to another person. They don’t make a person a serial killer or “weird.”

So join me: accept your fetish with pride and use it as a helpful tool in picking a future sexual partner. With all of the delectable options this university has, any criteria that can help narrow down the potential partner group is a plus. 

Oh and if you have a beard: call me.

Redefining Virginity

BY Brianna Rader and Jacob Clark
Is virginity an ultimate gift to be “given away?” Can one “lose” her virginity just like one loses car keys? Can she find it again? If one is queer, how does she lose her virginity? Does virginity only apply to vaginal intercourse? Who can give and take virginity?
The origin of “virgin” comes from the Greek and Latin word “virgo,” which means maiden. In Greek mythology, numerous goddesses such as Artemis and Hestia were described as virgins. These goddesses were unaffected by the temptations of seduction and wine. In the medieval era, the word came to be a sexual term for a heterosexual woman who had not been penetrated by a penis. It then took on a Christian context, as it was a gift from God to be “given” to a husband. This is when the myth of the hymen arose, which dominates ideas about sexuality in many parts of the world like India, the Middle East, and in conservative religious homes throughout the western world. It has been found that some women are born without hymens or with different shapes and sizes of hymens that are flexible, so the idea of “popping a cherry” is unsound. Today we have tried to label both genders, as well as members of the LGBTQ community, with the term “virgin.” This has been confusing, and still today, at its most literal, refers to a heterosexual person engaging in penis-vagina intercourse. And, let’s be honest, the importance remains placed on the female. The term has strong connections to the female gender and religion. Roughly since the 8th century BCE, the term virginity has remained unchanged. 
Is this problematic? Certainly! The conventional definition of virginity has controlled women’s bodies and lives for centuries. It completely excludes the LGBTQ community, as well. The question should not be “What is virginity?” but “What does virginity mean to you?” 
When we place such importance—such end-all gift giving on a single type of sex, the pressure is too high! The way we talk about virginity is the way mothers in Toys R Us discuss Tickle Me Elmo in December. Virginity should be redefined. Abstinence and virginity should not mean the same thing for every person! Our world is so diverse, and our sexualities are too. If you mutually masturbate or have oral sex, then you may not be a virgin anymore. Virginity should be about defining what you want out of your sexual relationship. Jane may decide she is not a virgin anymore after mutually masturbating or after having an orgasm. John may decide he is not a virgin anymore if he has anal sex. If society places so much significance on penis-vagina intercourse, then it better be the most pleasurable special type of sex, right? It may be for some people, but statistically only 20% of women experience orgasms from vaginal intercourse. The pressure placed on virgin girls in heteronormative sexual situations usually sets them up for disappointment and in some cases makes them vulnerable to sexual assault. 
Instead of continuing with an outdated, oppressive idea of virginity, it would lead to healthier and safer relationships if we reevaluated what this concept means. People should be able to define virginity for themselves individually or dismiss the concept entirely if it serves no purpose for them. Ideas of virginity and abstinence can be sex-positive and free of the weight of centuries of oppressive connotations.
Now, go decide what kind of car you want to drive with those car keys and when you want to lose them.
Published in The Daily Beacon: http://utdailybeacon.com/opinion/columns/guest/2012/oct/22/new-generation-redefining-virginity/

Genderbread Person

Breaking through the binary:  Gender explained using continuums (from itspronouncedmetrosexual.com)

Gender is a tough subject to tackle.  There are a lot of facets to consider, a lot of pressures at play, and we have all been conditioned in such a way that our first instinct is almost unanimously wrong.  But we’re going to tackle it.  No, we’re going to tackle the balls out of it.  Coming to our aid, I would like to present to you: The Genderbread Person!

The Genderbread Person
As you’ll see above, we have four elements.  I will break those down, but first I want to talk in generalities.  First of all, if you noticed that the first three categories all pertain to gender, while the fourth pertains to sexuality, great job.  Skip ahead to the next paragraph.  For everyone else: if that doesn’t make sense to you, or you’re unsure of how all four interrelate, worry not.  By the end of this post it’ll all make sense or you can have your money back.  And if you never gave me money, give me money. Whenever I talk to groups about gender, a common problem arises: people tend to assume that someone has to be on either the left half or the right half of all the continuums above, and when I explain that many people zig zag through the list, they give me blank stares.  I’m about to say something that will likely freak you out, but be cool, because it’ll all make sense soon.  Gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual orientation are independent of one another (i.e., they are not connected).  With that said (I’m going to say it again later), let’s move on.

On the left we have “woman” and on the right we have “man,” two terms you are likely already familiar with.  In the middle, we have the term “genderqueer,” which, you guessed it, is used for an identity that is somewhere between woman and man.  Another term for genderqueer that is accepted within the community is “genderfuck,” but that’s a bit racy for my taste.  It’s also important to note that many people consider their identity to fall outside of the traditional (and limited) woman to man spectrum.  These identities can be called genderqueer, agender, third-gender, bigender, and more.
Gender identity is all about how you, in your head, think about yourself.  It’s about how you internally interpret the chemistry that composes you (e.g., hormone levels).  As you know it, do you think you fit better into the societal role of “woman,” or “man,” or do neither ring particularly true for you?  That is, are you somewhere in-between the two?  Or do you consider your gender to fall outside of the spectrum completely?  The answer is your gender identity.

It has been accepted that we form our gender identities around the age of three, and after that age it is incredibly difficult to change them.  Formation of identity is affected by hormones and environment just as much as it is by biological sex.  Oftentimes, problems arise when someone is assigned a gender based on their sex at birth that doesn’t align with how they come to identify.  We’ll talk about that more later.

Gender Expression: How You Demonstrate Who You Are

On the left we have “feminine” and on the right we have “masculine,” the two expressive terms related to “woman” and “man.”  In the middle, we have a new term “androgynous,” which describes an ambiguous or mixed form of expressing gender.
Gender expression is all about how you demonstrate your gender through the ways you act, dress, behave, and interact–whether that is intentional or unintended.  Gender expression is interpreted by others perceiving your gender based on traditional gender roles (e.g., men wear pants, women wear dresses).  Gender expression is something that often changes from day to day, outfit to outfit, event or setting to event or setting.  It’s about how the way you express yourself aligns or doesn’t with traditional ways of gendered expression.  And like gender identity, there is a lot of room for flexibility here.  It is likely that you slide around on this continuum throughout the week without even thinking about it.  How about an example?

You wake up and you’re wearing baggy grey sweatpants and a t-shirt.  As you walk into your kitchen to prepare breakfast, you’re expressing an androgynous-to-slightly-masculine gender.  However, you see your partner in the kitchen and you prowl in like Halle Berry from Catwoman, then you are expressing much more femininely, so now you’re back on the left half of the continuum.  You pour a bowl of cereal, wrap your fist around a spoon like a viking, and start shoveling Fruit Loops into your face, and all-of-a-sudden you’re sliding back onto the right side of the continuum.  After breakfast, you skip back into your bedroom and playfully place varying outfits in front of you, pleading your partner help you decide what to wear.  You’re feminine again.

I assume this entire time you were imagining it was you, with your gender identity, acting out that example.  Now go through the whole thing, but imagine someone with a different gender identity from you going through the motions.  Now you are starting to understand how these concepts interrelate, but don’t interconnect.

Biological Sex: The Equipment Under the Hood

On the left we have “female” and on the right we have “male,” the two biological sexes we all grew up knowing about.  In the middle, we have a new term “intersex,” which describes someone whose sexual organs are not strictly male or female.  The term “hermaphrodite,” which you’ve likely heard used to describe an intersex individual, is frowned upon as “hermaphrodite” is a stigmatizing word that means someone who is entirely male and female, a biological impossibility.  P.S. How did you feel about me expressing my masculinity in the heading of this section?

Biological sex refers to the objectively measurable organs, hormones, and chromosomes you possess.  Being female means having a vagina, ovaries, two X chromosomes, predominant estrogen, and you can grow a baby in your stomach area.  Being male means having testes, a penis, an XY chromosome configuration, predominant testosterone, and you can put a baby in a female’s stomach area.  Being intersex can be any combination of what I just described.

For example, someone can be born with the appearance of being male (penis, scrotum, etc.), but have a functional female reproductive system inside.  There are many examples of how intersex can present itself, and below you can see some statistics from the Intersex Society of North America that describe the frequency of intersex births. (Check out the stat I bolded, but be prepared to be shocked.)

Not XX and not XYone in 1,666 birthsKlinefelter (XXY)one in 1,000 birthsAndrogen insensitivity syndromeone in 13,000 birthsPartial androgen insensitivity syndromeone in 130,000 birthsClassical congenital adrenal hyperplasiaone in 13,000 birthsLate onset adrenal hyperplasiaone in 66 individualsVaginal agenesisone in 6,000 birthsOvotestesone in 83,000 birthsIdiopathic (no discernable medical cause)one in 110,000 birthsIatrogenic (caused by medical treatment, for instance progestin administered to pregnant mother)no estimate5 alpha reductase deficiencyno estimateMixed gonadal dysgenesisno estimateComplete gonadal dysgenesisone in 150,000 birthsHypospadias (urethral opening in perineum or along penile shaft)one in 2,000 birthsHypospadias (urethral opening between corona and tip of glans penis)one in 770 birthsTotal number of people whose bodies differ from standard male or femaleone in 100 birthsTotal number of people receiving surgery to “normalize” genital appearanceone or two in 1,000 births

Sexual Orientation: Who You Are Attracted To

On the left we have “heterosexual,” meaning attracted to people of the opposite sex, or being straight.  On the right we have “homosexual,” meaning attracted to people of the same sex, or being gay or lesbian.  And in the middle we have bisexual, meaning attracted to people of both sexes.  Note: there is no place on the scale for “asexual”, which is the lack of sexual attraction to others, as it doesn’t fit into this continuum.
Sexual orientation is all about who you are physically, spiritually, and emotionally attracted to.  If you are male and you’re attracted to females, you’re straight.  If you’re a male who is attracted to males and females, you’re bisexual.  And if you’re a male who is attracted to males, you’re gay.  This is the one most of us know the most about.  We hear the most about it, it’s salient in our lives, and we understand where we stand best.  It’s pretty cut and dry, right?  Maybe.

Interestingly enough, pioneering research conducted by Dr. Alfred Kinsey in the mid-20th century uncovered that most people aren’t absolutely straight or gay/lesbian. Instead of just asking “do you like dudes or chicks?” (very science-y, I know), he asked people to report their fantasies, dreams, thoughts, emotional investments in others, and frequency of sexual contact.  Based on his findings, he broke sexuality down into a seven point scale (see below), and reported that most people who identify as straight are actually somewhere between 1 – 3 on the scale, and most people who identify as lesbian/gay are 3-5, meaning most of us are a little bi-.

0 – Exclusively Heterosexual
1 – Predominantly heterosexual, incidentally homosexual
2 – Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
3 – Equally heterosexual and homosexual
4 – Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
5 – Predominantly homosexual, incidentally heterosexual
6 – Exclusively Homosexual
Putting It All Together

Wow, that was a lot of information all at once, can we agree?  The crazy part: I held back.  I plan to write individual write-ups on each of the sections above, because there is still so much to say.  But you don’t need to worry about that right now.  We need to make this all make sense–synthesize some knowledge up in your brain.

Interrelation versus Interconnection

Remember earlier when I said that thing, then I said I would say it again?  It’s on the right, in case you forgot.  This me saying that again: though the four things I presented above are certainly interrelated, they are not interconnected.  What do I mean by that?

Gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual orientation are independent of one another (i.e., they are not connected).People’s sexual orientation doesn’t determine their gender expression.  And their gender expression isn’t determined by their gender identity.  And their gender identity isn’t determined by their biological sex.  And also every other mismatch of A isn’t determined by B combination you can dream up from those inputs.  Those things certainly affect one another (i.e., they are related to one another) but they do not determine one another.

If someone is born with male reproductive organs and genitalia, he is very likely to be raised as a boy, identify as a man, and express himself masculinely.  We call this identity “cisgender” (when your biological sex aligns with how you identify) and it grants a lot of privilege. It’s something most of us who have it don’t appreciate nearly as much as we should.

Genderbread Person v2.0

I would really like to see this model replace all instances of the old one.  It’s more accurate, more inclusive, and still just as accessible (adorable).  I’m calling it the “-Ness” Model (independent unidirectional linear continua model seemed wordy), and it overcomes most of the hiccups of the old Genderbread (continua-based), and other models (2D plots, universe models, matrices, Venn diagrams, etc.).

More Accurate

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus is a funny expression (and scientifically dubious), but it actually nails down the strength of this model.  Two planets, not two poles of one planet.  Placing man/masculine/male on one end of something (continuum, 2D plot, etc.) and woman/feminine/female on the other (as I did with the old model) creates and reinforces a fallacy central to gender misunderstanding: to be more of one, you need to be less of the other.  That’s incorrect.  You can have both.  You can have your genderbread and eat it, too. Let’s take “Gender Identity” for our example.  I identify as a man, but I identify with a lot of what it means to be a woman.  I’m sensitive, kind, familial, and I really like dark chocolate (kidding — stuff’s disgusting).  Possessing this “woman-ness” doesn’t make me any less of a man.  But it’s a large part of my gender identity, and those traits affect my life and influence my decisions as much and more than many of my “man-ness” does. This model allows one to define their gender in a way that accounts for varying intensities of -ness.  Identifying with aspects of femininity doesn’t make you less masculine, it makes you more feminine.  To understand gender, and in turn create a safer space for people of all genders, we need to realize that feminine and masculine aren’t in a tug of war, they’re separate arenas.

More Inclusive

What was lacking in the old Genderbread Person was the ability to define intensities of identification, or the amount of -ness one possesses.  What’s lacking in other models is the ability to define intensity independently for the two major aspects of gender.  Our new model comes up spades in both.

Let’s take “Attraction” for our example.  We know that most people aren’t 100% straight or gay.  A continuum of gay to straight (think Kinsey) leaves us with bi- in the middle.  What about folks who are pansexual?  Asexual?  Mostly asexual?  Hypersexual?  None of those identities can be mapped on our old model.  Ditto goes for folks who are agendered, pangendered, two-spirited, and the list goes on.

The amount of -ness is, in many cases, as crucial to one’s identity as which -ness they possess.  A man who is hypersexually attracted to women and a man who is attracted to women both may identify as “straight,” but there is no question that they are two different men.