Her name was Susan Cox Powell.
We went to high school together. Though we didn’t know one another very well, we had a lot of mutual friends. I remember her as someone who was gracious, intelligent, and kind. Susan had a beautiful smile. She disappeared in 2009. Interviews with Susan’s friends have shown that her relationship with her husband was abusive. He shoved her, slapped her, wouldn’t allow her to buy groceries for the family, and locked her out of the house. Her father-in-law had a disturbing obsession with her, and took voyeuristic photographs of her. Susan left a will in a safe deposit box that said if she disappeared it “wouldn’t be an accident”.
Her sons’ names were Charlie and Braden.
They were taken on an impromptu “camping” trip at 12:30am, in the middle of a snowstorm, by their father, the night that Susan disappeared. Three years later, Charlie and Braden had started talking about that night. Braden drew a picture of a car with three occupants, and when he was asked about his drawing, he said “Mommy’s in the trunk”. One year ago today, they were killed by their father, who took a hatchet to their tiny bodies before setting a fire that would ultimately kill all three.
I am convinced that Susan’s husband killed her. I am convinced that we will likely never find her, her friends and family will probably never have closure. I am convinced that we should learn from this, that we should be tireless advocates for those who are abused by their partners.
- Intimate partner homicides account for 30% of all deaths of women.
- Everyday, in the US, three women are murdered by their partner.
- Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
- Every year, more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes.
It is easy to think that you are smarter than a woman in an abusive relationship. It is easy, to look at the situation, and think “she should have left him”. In reality, it is incredibly difficult to leave an abusive relationship, especially when you have children. It is common for abusive partners to use children as a way to get their partner to stay in the abusive relationship. According to her will, Susan’s husband told her that he would “destroy” her if she tried to leave him.
It is hard to be the friend or family member of someone who is in an abusive relationship. It is hard not to have those thoughts. It is hard to watch someone’s personality deteriorate in the face of abuse. It is hard to be supportive, to lend an ear, to watch your friend or family member walk back into the home they share with their abusive partner. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has some very helpful tips on how to help a friend or family member who is in an abusive relationship.
Since the National Domestic Violence Hotline was established, domestic violence and intimate partner homicide has taken a drastic downward turn. The Hotline is funded by the Violence Against Women Act. The VAWA is currently being debated by our nation’s elected leaders, and it may not be re-authorized. This would be an unspeakable tragedy. Please, write to your senator, write to your congressional representative. Tell them to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
Her name was Susan Cox Powell.
Her sons were Charlie and Braden.
I am burning a candle in their memory today.
I am also emailing my representatives, in their memory, to try and make sure that other women in her situation have the resources necessary to leave abusive relationships.
Edit: For those of you who would like a form letter, please see the one I have drafted below.
Dear Senator/Representative/Congresswoman/Congressman ,
I am writing you today in memory of Susan Cox Powell, and her sons, Charlie and Braden, to urge you to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
This act provides the funding necessary to assist women who are in domestic violence situations, and since its inception in 1994, the number of domestic violence incidences have decreased dramatically.
Decreasing domestic violence is not a partisan issue.
There is a lot of misinformation about Plan B, also known as the Morning After pill. I’ve found that a lot of this is spewed by the same people who fail at basic chemistry (I’m looking at you, people who believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old!), and this video does a pretty fantastic job at explaining exactly how Plan B works. Contrary to what those protesting Planned Parenthood would have you believe, Plan B is not an abortifacient, in fact, if the fertilized egg has already implanted, it cannot harm the zygote. I know so many people who actually believe that Plan B is the same as RU486, the abortion pill. This is patently untrue. Plan B prevents unintended pregnancies, and RU486 aborts unintended pregnancies.
Another cool video from AsapSCIENCE explains some of the biological responses that men and women experience during orgasm. I’m sure that little in that video will be surprising to readers of this blog (savvy smart people that you are). I did find it both interesting and slightly vindicating that there is actual research to prove what many men and women in the BDSM scene have been saying for ages: that pain and pleasure are linked.
I’m really looking forward to more videos explaining the science behind sex. What did you think of these videos?
Because I am a terrible procrastinator, and I am desperately trying to stop doing so many “This thing makes me so ANGRY! HULKSMASH!” kind of posts, I was browsing Tumblr earlier for some post ideas. I found a few really awesome things, like the Hawkeye Initiative, where a talented artist has taken to re-drawing the poses of female comic book characters as Hawkeye. If you need to giggle a bit, and then weep when you realize how ridiculous female comic book characters are drawn, take a look. But that wasn’t enough for a whole blog post.
But this? This is seriously cool.
DrinkSavvy is the brainchild of Mike Abramson, and his invention could save lives. How many times have you heard to “never leave a drink unattended”, or “watch your drink, you might get drugged”? I know that I have definitely had my drink spiked by someone that I trusted, while I was dating him. Normally, this sort of advice is directed towards young women, but the creator was inspired after being drugged himself.
DrinkSavvy is a series of products (cups, glasses, straws and stirrers) that actually change color in the presence of GHB, a common “date rape” drug. Although it has a slightly salty taste, GHB is colorless and odorless, and can be difficult to detect in a flavored drink. Here’s what GHB can do to a person, according to Wikipedia:
Its effects have been described anecdotally as comparable with alcohol and ecstasy use, such as euphoria, disinhibition, enhanced sensuality and empathogenic states. At higher doses, GHB may induce nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, agitation, visual disturbances, depressed breathing, amnesia, unconsciousness, and death. The effects of GHB can last from 1.5 to 3 hours, or even longer if large doses have been consumed. Consuming GHB with alcohol is dangerous as it can lead to vomiting in combination with unrouseable sleep, a potentially lethal combination.
If these products become widespread, then we can effectively eliminate one tool in the date rapist’s arsenal. Do me a favor, share this indiegogo campaign on every social media platform you currently use. I want to see these used in every bar in the US.
I donated to the campaign, will you?
Jezebel’s new sex advice columnist is still absolute crap at giving advice. Here’s my responses to the questions directed at “Slutever”.
Dear Slutever, I do not engage in any sexual activity unless my prospective partner and I both get full STD testing. In the past five years, not one woman that I dated agreed to this. Why are so many women against getting tested prior to sex?
While I agree with Slutever’s assertion that you should probably start presenting this in a different light to your dates (and using condoms!), I’m more concerned with your reasons behind this request. Would you stop seeing someone if they tested positive for an STI?
As someone who has struggled with germ phobias, I would suggest that you engage the services of a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy so that you can get past this particular quirk. Condoms and dental dams, when used correctly, are extremely effective at preventing transmission of most STIs, and I suspect that you know this already. So, before jumping into the sack with someone, even if they’ve shown you a clean bill of health, take care of yourself first and talk with a trained professional about your concerns.
I’ve been at war for the past three years but I’m coming back next week, and I really need to take my mind off things and want to lose myself in some self-love. I’m in a small town with little access to sex shops, so I was wondering if you had any unique ideas for sex toys I could fashion out of household items, or any tips that would help achieve a great orgasm experience. I really need something to get excited about!
First of all, congratulations on finishing your tour of duty! I really wouldn’t recommend fashioning your own sex toys or using things from your kitchen. There are intricacies of the human anatomy that are better left to the experts. Fortunately, although you live in a small town, you can easily order masturbatory aids online that will be shipped to you in discreet packaging. Smitten Kitten comes to mind immediately! As for interesting sex toys, there are a plethora that you can choose from! If you are interested in penatrative objects, there are items like the NJoy butt plugs, or vibrating butt plugs/perenium massagers. If it tickles your fancy, you could also experiment a bit with sounding, though I can’t find any online retailers that I would wholeheartedly recommend. For other masturbatory aids, there’s the ever popular fleshlight, and along the same lines, you can purchase a Tenga egg masturbation sleeve, or the slightly more elaborate Tenga 3D masturbation sleeves.
Just make sure you eat and drink plenty of fluids, use lubrication, and go out of the house every once in awhile during your “me time”. It would be tragic to see a headline like “Soldier Starves to Death During Marathon Masturbation Session.”
I am a 31-year-old woman who has been married for 5 years. We still have frequent and awesome sex, but I have an issue that (oddly) seems to be getting worse with age. I orgasm way too quickly! And then I’m basically over sex. I’ve never had multiple orgasms, ever. I have one gigantic, eye-popping orgasm after about 3-5 minutes of intercourse and then I’m ready for sex to be over. I’m constantly telling my husband to slow down or stop totally during sex so I can prolong it enough for him to get off too, but it’s getting to the point where he’s a little hurt that I can’t “hang on.”
Much like last week’s column, I would recommend that you spend a lot more time on foreplay, concentrating on getting your husband close to orgasm. It would also help if you talked about this outside of the bedroom, and make sure that he knows you are asking him to slow down or stop because you want him to enjoy sex too! The numbing agents that Slutever recommended can help, but you also might have an adverse reaction to them. I know a lot of women, personally, who find that creams or lubricants that are supposed to numb their genitals give them a burning sensation instead.
It is uncommon for a woman to orgasm that quickly, especially if there isn’t some sort of direct clitoral stimulation during intercourse! A little more communication between you and your husband can really go a long way here.
I think this is going to be a regular post for Nice Girls, at least until Jezebel hires a better sex advice columnist. Some of Slutever’s recommendations are downright dangerous or unhealthy, and I hope my responses provide a needed balance. Let me know what you think in the comments!
It looks like medical professionals are getting on the sex-positive bandwagon, and it’s about time.
Yesterday, the American Association of Pediatrics recommended that pediatricians give their young female patients advance prescriptions for Plan B. For those of you outside the US, if you are under 18, you cannot get Plan B over the counter, and need a prescription. Plan B has been available over the counter for those 18 and over for about a year now.
The FDA originally decided that it should be available over the counter to everyone, regardless of age, but Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA’s decision because of her doubts that young women under 18 would use it properly. This is despite Plan B being safer to use than aspirin or ibuprofen, especially since it is impossible to overdose on Plan B.
This comes one week after the American College of OB/GYNs has recommended that hormonal birth control pills be available for everyone over the counter, just like condoms. I can’t tell you how excited this makes me. It is so important that young women have access to things like this, so they can engage in healthy sexual activity without fear of parental judgement, pregnancy, or the heartbreaking choice of abortion.
With studies showing that teenagers in the US have less sex than teenagers in other first world countries, but are getting pregnant more often, access to emergency birth control in conjunction with comprehensive sex education could help that pregnancy rate continue to decline.
In a somewhat sad turn of events, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has voted to ban public nudity.
Yeah, I can understand the sentiment behind the ban. The number of people who are grossed out or who find public nudity disturbing far outweigh people like myself, who find it mildly amusing at best. I always giggled a little when I saw our resident nudists in the Castro, and I found it outright hilarious when one of the gentlemen decided to go to Fisherman’s Wharf and give the tourists an eyeful. There were three women who were running from him and screaming while laughing. I’m sure they will be regaling their friends back home with the story of “that weird naked guy” they saw in San Francisco for years to come.
San Francisco has always been the place to go to push the envelope and challenge the status quo. From the Summer of Love in 1969, to Harvey Milk, to the Pride Parade, to Folsom Street Fair (don’t google that at work, please), we are a haven for those who don’t fit in with mainstream society. The nudists were part of that push against normalcy.
As a part of our mainstream society, it seems that people automatically equate nudity with sexuality. Naked bodies mean sex in popular culture. If you are a parent taking an adorable picture of your child in the bathtub, you’re suspected of child pornography, not thinking your child’s chubby thighs are cute.
If you want to sit outside and sip your coffee while naked, then you’re assumed to find the idea that someone is looking at you arousing. But that’s not what nudity is about. Just like any other subculture there are cultural rules, like putting down a towel before you sit down somewhere, and becoming visibly aroused is explicitly within the realm of Not Okay for nudists. It is about being free from clothing, not exhibitionism or voyeurism. It has absolutely nothing to do with sex, and I really think that is what the general population doesn’t understand.
I find it sad that the Board of Supervisors have banned public nudity. It seems like a cultural step backwards for San Francisco, especially considering the city’s rich history of being socially progressive. No one was being harmed by the city’s nudists. In fact, it forced me to re-think my attitude about nudity, and come to the conclusion that my initial feelings of “ewwww” were due to cultural conditioning.
There is nothing gross about the human body. It’s a pity that we can’t all just grow up and say, “If you don’t like it, don’t look!”
With reports from North Korea showing that the general populace has a hard time finding any sort of contraception, a group of South Korean activists have launched several balloons, hoping they will drift across the border and find their way into the hands of North Koreans.
Among other essential items like sanitary napkins, toothpaste, underwear, socks, anti Pyongyang information, and flashlights, over 5,000 condoms were airlifted to drift north. According to this article, the groups who normally send balloons like these are North Korean defectors, Christian groups, and the South Korean right wing party.
Does anyone else find it somewhat incongruous to see that list? I did a double take.
[I would like to give thanks to someone on the Jezebel fan page for the title of today's post. I'm unsure if I should thank them by name, due to Google searches, but thanks anyway. It made me giggle. If you don't know the reference, what, have you been living under a rock this whole time? Treat yourself to the magic that is the Gangnam Style video. Heck, do it even if you've seen it before.]
Today, the Director of the CIA, David Petraeus has resigned his post, citing an extramarital affair as the reason for his resignation. While I know that within the military there are laws against adultery, and his affair could have had the potential for blackmail and a subsequent security breach, I am outright disgusted at the way the media is treating this entire situation.
I have seen no less than 10 news stories questioning who he had the affair with, and, sure enough, someone has dug it up. Why are we, as a nation, delighting in what has to be an incredibly painful situation for General Petraeus, his family and friends, and his alleged mistress? He has resigned his position, and is effectively bowing out of the public life, and has done so with dignity and grace. To be quite honest, I am looking forward to my imagined utopian-esque future when non-monogamy is no longer a Big Deal for the media. Give the man some peace. He’s done the right thing here, and no one should be getting blasted by the media.
San Francisco has decided to no longer prohibit gender reassignment surgeries from the list of covered medical treatment under the city’s Healthy San Francisco program, a sliding scale health care coverage system that can be used by everyone in San Francisco. Though the city currently does not have the capacity or surgeons who are skilled in this particular type of surgery, so this is a mostly symbolic move for the city. Transgender patients currently are able to receive hormone therapy, counseling, and regular medical care under Healthy SF.
While I am glad that the city takes these concerns seriously, gender reassignment surgeries are extremely expensive, and can go into the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the specific services provided. As someone who is cisgender, I can’t imagine the mental anguish of someone who doesn’t feel that their body matches their identity and mentality. I am glad that there may be a solution for the transgender in my community in the next few years.
But to be honest, as someone who is currently covered under this program, I’d like to see Healthy SF start providing some other services first, specifically preventative and non-emergency dental care. So many other medical problems can be circumvented with regular cleanings and filling of cavities that seems rather odd to me that there hasn’t been a big push for this sort of service.
In other news, I am considering offering a weekly podcast compilation of each week’s posts. Do me a favor, and cast a vote below to let me know if you’d like to hear my dulcet tones reading my posts each week!
There’s been so much in the news in the past few months about abortion, contraception, and a woman’s right to choose that as I said in a previous post, I’ve been overwhelmed. I’d like to take a moment to get a little idealistic.
When I was in high school, I took a class about early human development. We learned about the stages of pregnancy, and the different stages children go through in their first two years of life. At one point in my class, we were given the task of brainstorming the ideal situation to have a child. We already knew that adoptive parents had to fulfill certain criteria in order to be able to have a child, so we were told to imagine a “test” of sorts that a woman (or a set of parents) would have to pass in order to have a child.
If I remember correctly, we came up with the following points:
- Financially stable, with at least six months worth of income in accessible savings.
We came up with this because pregnancy and raising a child are both expensive. There’s also the risk of complications with the pregnancy or child’s health leaving one or both parents unable to work for a period of time. We thought that at least six months of income in the bank would help ease that potential burden.
- Emotionally stable, with a supportive network of friends and family.
Just like the financial cost, pregnancy and raising a child can be unexpectedly difficult, emotionally. We learned about postpartum depression, and how the woman’s emotional state can affect the child’s development in the womb. Having a supportive network of friends and family, especially people who are geographically close, is important to making sure that the parents can have a break occasionally.
- Good health, and good health insurance.
Making sure that the woman is already in good health when she gets pregnant, and maintains her health during the pregnancy were also stressed during my class. Proper nutrition and regular exercise, as well as the ability to see a doctor when necessary, were things that we deemed of highest importance to the development of the child.
- A stable and safe place to live.
Being teenagers in the suburbs, we were imagining owning a house with a large backyard. While I no longer think that is necessary, I do think that living in a relatively safe neighborhood, and taking the proper precautions to baby-proof your house are incredibly important.
- Ease of access to hospitals, schools, and other important services.
I think this one is self-explanatory.
I am close to many women who have had children without checking any of these boxes. Their children are happy and healthy, and they are excellent mothers. I still think that all of these are important things to have in place before I consider having children, and that is why I chose to get an IUD. When I decide to have children, it will be because I am ready. This is not a criticism of any woman or her choices. I fully realize that this is an idealistic list.
I would posit that is also idealistic of the Republican Party to expect to reduce accessibility to contraception and abortion and to somehow still not have any unwanted pregnancies occur, or for parents to not need some sort of assistance to care for their children. Abstinence education just exacerbates these problems. People are going to have sex, and sometimes, despite precautions, pregnancies occur.
If you had to come up with a list like this, what would you put on it? Do you think that the list we came up with in high school was good? Have you formulated a similar list? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
There have been a few recent articles about the “moral case” of either completely abstaining from sex until marriage, or having sex with partners beforehand.
This all started with an incredibly egotistical and almost horrifyingly judgmental article by Steven Crowder on foxnews.com. In his piece, Crowder calls women who have sex before marriage “floozies”, and is openly disdainful of another couple after meeting the bride at breakfast the morning after their wedding. That newly married man’s crime? Deciding to drink at his wedding.
The people next to us that morning? Well, theirs was just one big party. And the morning after? Just another hangover.
Our “weddings” were the same event in name only. They know it, and we know it.
Honestly? That is precisely how I envision my wedding next summer: one big party. I want my family, Fiance’s family, and all of our friends to be there, and to be celebrating our union. I want dancing and toasting and laughter and fun. The fact that I am intimately acquainted with Fiance’s nether regions (and vice versa) does not make our wedding, our engagement, or our relationship any less than yours, Mr. Crowder.
Fiance and I lived together for quite some time, and, unlike you, we have already gone through the awkward stages of living together. We know that we are compatible in practically every way possible, and that includes sexually. Yes, it still annoys me that he forgets to put his dirty laundry in the hamper, and he is largely baffled by my beauty regimen, but we have reached a point of homeostasis in our relationship and we know that we can actually share the same space. You’re going to have to learn all of that, and you’re going to have to learn everything about sex. Don’t worry, Mr. Crowder, I’m here for you and your wife!.
On the other side of the coin, Jill Filipovic (of Feministe fame) wrote a fantastic response article for The Guardian, detailing precisely why it is better to have sex with your partner before a long-term commitment. I honestly couldn’t have constructed a better article. This is my favorite quote,
Sex is good whether you’re married or not, and certainly folks who wait until marriage can have a lot of sex once they tie the knot. But waiting until marriage often means both early marriage and conservative views on marriage and gender – and people who marry early and/or hold traditional views on marriage and gender tend to have higher divorce rates and unhappier marriages. We know that, on the other hand, there are lots of benefits to marrying later and to gender-egalitarian marriages. Couples who both work outside the home and also share housework duties have more sex. Financially independent, college-educated women who marry later in life have extremely low divorce rates.
It turns out that feminist values – not “traditional” ones – lead to the most stable marriages. And feminist views plus later marriage typically equals premarital sex.
I wish you luck with your marriage, Mr. Crowder. I wish you and your wife every happiness. It’s a pity that you, with your nose in the air, can’t find it in your “Christian” heart to do the same for me and others who are like me.
I spent a little time this past Friday at the opening evening of the XO Expo, hosted by the Adult Video Network. I was expecting to see fun new sex toys, maybe some interesting demonstrations, and crowds of people.
I saw none of those. Instead, there were tattoo and piercing booths, tables of the same sex toys I can find anywhere else, and the crowds were mostly men. These men were standing around the booths with the porn stars, and the booths that were advertising local strip clubs, staring and taking pictures of the women like they had never seen a woman in a bikini ever before in their lives. It was gross, and made me feel very uncomfortable.
One booth in particular caught my eye. It was pretty incongruous with the rest of the expo. This booth was for a group called the Pink Cross (I am choosing not to link to their website, because I really don’t want to direct traffic to the site.), which is a Christian non-profit dedicated to telling the young women who are involved in the sex industry that they are bad people who just need a little more Jesus in their lives. I was completely baffled, but after delving into their website a little bit today, I am even more baffled. Some of the testimonials are just ridiculous. One was equating BDSM with the occult and devil-worship. I actually laughed out loud at that one.
While I understand that there are some young women who are forced into sex work, there are even more who choose to be a sex worker. I have many friends who work in the local pornography scene, and they are happy with what their line of work. Equating all of the women who choose to work in pornography as unwitting and unwilling participants simply doesn’t ring true to me. What are your thoughts, dear readers?