Why I don’t need to be a doctor

I don’t want to be a doctor.

Don’t get me wrong, doctors are amazing people. Saving lives, every single day. Working ridiculous hours to ensure that people get the healthcare that they need. Being part of cutting-edge research that improves the lives of millions of people. Doctors are incredibly important to our society, and I am so grateful that we have them.

But I wouldn’t want to be one.

I would make an absolutely terrible doctor. Seriously. I faint at even the thought of needles, let alone the sight of them. I hate blood and get all queasy if people talk about it too much. I was okay at science at school, and I found some of it quite interesting, but it never inspired me the way literature and history did. I find maths and chemical equations beyond GCSE level difficult (for non-Brits, those are the compulsory exams taken at age sixteen here), and the thought of spending at least six years of my life struggling with them does not appeal.

And lets not forget, being a doctor takes a lot of work, a hell of a lot. I have lots of friends at various stages of the medical process, from first-year medics who are dissecting their first cadaver, to clinical students who actually get to go into hospitals and care for patients. These people work incredibly hard. At my university, if a medic is sick for more than two weeks, they have to take the rest of the year off and restart, because they’re never going to catch up. Personally, I think I work pretty hard at my subject too, but then, I love it. If I wasn’t doing something I enjoyed this much, I would be miserable like, all of the time. So I look at my medic friends and think thank goodness, there are enough people who want to be doctors that people like me, who would hate it and be terrible, don’t have to. I have a huge amount of respect for them, and I certainly value them (especially when I have a cycling accident and break my ribs, or come down with a horrible case of labyrinthitis). But I don’t want to be one.

The thing is (and this is where it gets controversial), being a mother and a housewife is, in my mind, exactly the same thing. Women who choose not to have a standard career but to raise their children and run a household full time can work incredibly hard. They are also caring for other people and devoting their lives to what I think is a very noble calling. And I am genuinely happy for them that they are able to do something they love and enjoy, that benefits other people as well.

I could never be one, but then, that isn’t the point.

All too often in feminism, you see the divide between women who want a ‘conventional’ or ‘traditional’ role within a family, and woman who want high-powered careers without even the thought of children. One side thinks the other is unfeminine and selfish, and the other thinks their opponents are brainwashed by the Patriarchy, devoid of any kind of choice or personal agency. And that argument hurts both sides. I have no trouble believing that some women really do want to devote their lives to their husbands and children, and I wish them all the best with that. It is not what I personally would choose, but no one is asking me to choose it. I wouldn’t choose to be a doctor, but I don’t judge doctors, or think they’re incapable of making their own decisions. Rather I respect them for doing something that I never could.

Of course, the problem is that women have conventionally been seen as mothers and housewives, so it’s often difficult to tell whether a woman who does fit such a role has chosen it, or has been pressured into it by her family/husband/society. And that’s a difficult situation, and one I can’t condone. But then, you see the same thing with doctors too. So many of my friends, mostly from certain religious or cultural backgrounds, were told in no uncertain terms by their parents that they had to go to medical school. It didn’t matter what they wanted (one, I vividly remember, wanted to study Spanish and Philosophy), they had to be doctors. And my heart goes out to them, because spending seven years in medical school and clinical school if you have no passion for it must be horrible. Yes, they are doing something worthy and noble, but that doesn’t matter if it isn’t a choice.

I should probably reiterate here that the thing that makes being a doctor, or a mother, or a fricking astronaut okay is choice. Choice choice choice choice choice. 

(Incidentally, I know a girl called Lavinia who is in her fourth year of training to be a doctor, whose greatest ambition is to be a mother and have lots of children and give up work to raise them. She is at one of the best universities in the country, for which the competition to get onto the medical programme is fierce. She worked unbelievably hard just to get this far, but she is still ready to move on when she has the opportunity to settle down and have children. I’ll admit, I don’t understand her reasoning at all. She has taken two decisions which are completely alien to me. But she is an intelligent, talented woman, and I respect her enough to trust that she is choosing what she wants. And that’s all that matters.)

There are going to be people who think that being a mother and housewife isn’t even comparable to being a doctor. Doctors are intelligent and hard working and do a job that most people couldn’t cope with. And I say, so? You think being a mother is easy? You think having a tiny human depend on you for every aspect of their life means hours of leisure time? You think organising family life so that everything runs smoothly and there is always food on the table and the house always looks spotless leads to a life of luxury? I couldn’t do it, and I admire women – and, equally importantly, men – who can. If I ever have children, I’m going to want a nanny and a child-minder and a nursery school close by, so that I don’t have to be solely responsible for that kid’s well-being, because that would drive me slowly insane.

Equally, there are going to be people who tell me that women are just better at cooking/cleaning/child-rearing than men, that I’m not a real woman unless I’m a mother, that it’s selfish to put my career first, that my potential children will suffer, that I’ll love it once I actually give birth. No. Some women are better at this stuff than some men. Some women only feel complete when they have children, just like some men desperately want to be fathers. But not me, at least, not yet. And that’s actually a really good thing, because if I have children and give up my life in order to raise them, I will be unhappy and frustrated, which will not make my children happy, or my theoretical husband, or anyone I interact with. And the only person who knows when, if ever, it’s the right time to make that decision is me. Because, you know, I’m the one living it.

With this in mind, I try very hard not to tell people that their decisions are wrong, even if, like Lavinia, I cannot imaging living their lives. That’s okay, because no one is asking me to. I do not judge women who choose not to have careers so they can live like Betty Draper from Mad Men and have the traditional family life they want. That would be like judging someone for choosing to spend their days up to their elbows in blood, performing open-heart surgery. The world needs its mothers, and fathers, just like it needs its doctors. But it also needs its lawyers and teachers and accountants and postmen and writers and artists, and it’s not for me or anyone else to say who should fit it what category.

I’m a feminist. I believe in choice. And that means the choice to do the conventional, as well as the unconventional.

Good luck, Lavinia. I wish you all the best.

The internet is for porn… and fanfic, and erotic art!

Let’s talk about porn.

Actually, let’s talk about masturbation, which may or may not involve porn. There isn’t that much of a discussion when it comes to male masturbation. Guys jerk off. We somehow know this instinctively. Some people might disapprove, some might refuse to talk about, but for the most part, outside of strictly religious environments, it’s sort of accepted that guys masturbate. All I would say is please, not in a public place, or somewhere that I might end up naked in, like, every morning. (Jerking off in the shower in a student hall of residence? Not cool. I’m pretty open-minded, but seriously, not cool.)

Girls on the other hand? Girls don’t masturbate! That would be all icky and dirty! And everyone knows that women only have sex so men will want to be in a relationship with them, so what’s the point of them doing it themselves? That would mean they actually enjoyed sex, and we all know that’s just laughable, right?

Yeah. Right. I’m exaggerating, but the sentiment is there. Maybe because women don’t physically have to masturbate in the same way that men often do? Or, more likely, because as a society we have a big problem with women enjoying sex and embracing their sexuality. If this were a Classics essay, I would talk about how this idea can be seen in the citizenship laws of classical Athens, where the men were so terrified that women might enjoy sex that they basically kept them under house arrest. But instead it’s a blog post, so I’ll set aside the history and, as I always do when I’m not sure where to start, I’ll go back to my own experiences.

I did not know what masturbation was until I was fourteen, and even then I only found out because I heard some others girls talking about it and worked out what they were referring to. I mean, I’d been doing it for years. I just didn’t know what it was. I’m still not entirely sure how I discovered it, but it just happened, and I thought it was totally normal. I didn’t even equate it with sex, because at that point, no one had ever told me that sex was meant to feel good.

Let me say that again. At the age of fourteen, I had no idea that having sex was meant to be a pleasurable experience. I mean, I’d had sex ed, so I knew about gonorrhea and chlamydia and how to put on a condom, and that I should not feel pressured and should only do it with someone I really loved and trusted at the age of thirty-five. But I didn’t know it was meant to feel good. So naturally I didn’t associate it with this fun, pleasurable, harmless thing I’d been doing on my own.

When I found out, I suddenly started thinking that it was wrong or dirty. I kept doing it, of course (I was ignorant, but not stupid), but I understood that this was not something to be talked about, to be mentioned, even to think about. And then I discovered fanfic, and everything suddenly made sense. People were writing erotic Harry Potter fanfic, and often (especially given that I started off only reading femmeslash) that involved masturbation. Girls! Touching themselves! Touching each other! Enjoying it! In the fantastical, magical world of Harry Potter, somehow this was okay.

Electra once said to me: ‘Everything I ever needed to know about sex, I learnt from Harry Potter fanfiction’. She was sixteen at the time, and I’m fairly certain she’s learnt a few more things since, but I understand where she was coming from. Fanfic is amazing. It’s like porn, only you can visualise the characters the way you want to. I mean, how awesome is that?

So back to masturbation. I can’t orgasm from penetration alone. This is occasionally a little inconvenient, because I really, really like penetration, and it would be nice to orgasm from it once in a while. However, according to Scarleteen only about 30% of women can come from penetration alone, so I don’t feel too bad. The problem with fanfic, of course, is that it’s fiction, and therefore about 100% of the female characters seem to be able to orgasm from a couple of hard thrusts. If it’s femmeslash, then all it takes  is the slightest pressure on their clit or stroking between their legs, and they’re all having mind-blowing orgasms. Hot, right? And fun to read. But also pretty unrealistic. If that’s the only sex-positive media you have, the only place where people are talking openly about female pleasure and not being all ‘wait until you’re ready and get married first’ about it, then suddenly there’s this horrible dichotomy. Either I can be awesome and sexy and come sooner than you can say ‘clitoris’, or I can be a prudish virgin who doesn’t want to do it til she’s married, and even then, only for babies.

This is what feminists call the virgin/whore dichotomy. But you don’t have to give it a fancy name to understand what it is. There isn’t really a middle ground for women who like some sex, sometimes, with some people, which is odd because that is where the vast majority of women fit in. And it means that you either end up not doing stuff that you want to because you’re worried about what people will think, or doing stuff that you don’t want to because you don’t know how to express anything otherwise. Like me, having what I thought was ‘great sex’ with girls, where I didn’t come and didn’t enjoy it and ached afterwards, because I didn’t know how to express what I wanted. It wasn’t their fault – I kept telling them how awesome it was. Because I didn’t know any better. Because I still didn’t really get that sex was meant to be enjoyable. Because the women in the fanfic always came, so why couldn’t I?

The first time I came during actual sex wasn’t from penetration, or getting head. It was me, touching myself while my partner held me, trying to eliminate the stigma and the slut-shaming messages I’d somehow managed to internalise. ‘You want me to touch myself? Really? You don’t think it’s weird or gross? You don’t mind? You want to hold me and kiss me while I do it? You’re sure?’ And then I shut up and did it, and next thing I knew I was seeing stars and sex was suddenly so much better.

Now, I was lucky. I discovered masturbation before I discovered the stigma about it, so I already knew what I was doing and liked it too much to stop. Some of my friends weren’t so fortunate, and spent years trying to work out how to orgasm. And some others are afraid to try. ‘I don’t want my first time to be with my own hand’, a girl at school once told me. And that’s a valid decision – of course I’m not to going to tell anyone they have to masturbate. It’s a personal choice. But I do feel like that statement just gets it wrong on so many levels. Masturbation isn’t an alternative to sex. Masturbation is the means by which sex can get really good. The first time anyone fingered me, it hurt. It would have hurt so much more if I hadn’t done it myself before. I knew my own body pretty damn well, and it still took me years to work out how to get pleasure with a partner. Years. Think how much longer it would have taken if I hadn’t had a clue. And that’s why I think it’s so sad that female masturbation gets sidelined. It isn’t dirty, or wrong, and unlike sex there’s no chance of getting pregnant or transmitting any nasty infections. It’s fun and harmless, and it helps you work out what you want so that when you’re with a partner, you have this massive headstart, and when you’re not with a partner, you can get that kinda release on your own.

I have written extensively elsewhere about my thoughts on the Dirty Girl Ministries (no, it’s not a lesbian club, I was disappointed too), and that kind of slut-shaming, negative attitude which makes women feel bad about something that is meant to feel good. All I want to do now is get the message out, as many times as I possibly can, that masturbation is good! Find out what you enjoy! Keep doing what you enjoy! And if you don’t feel comfortable with it or don’t want to, that’s okay too, but we should at least be able to talk about this. I want to be able to exchange tips on vibrators and swap favourite fanfics or porn films, and not feel like the world is judging me because yes, I have a sex drive, and I am not afraid to use it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with an erotic novel about a masochistic courtesan. I’ll leave you to have fun on your own.

Three reasons why I’m a feminist today (TW for rape and sexual assault)

The sex-positivity will happen, I promise. But before I can go into that, I feel like I should explain where I’m coming from, and why. So this is my attempt to describe what happened to me, and why it’s made me the person I am today. It involves sexual assault and rape, and if for any reason you’re not comfortable reading about that, then I completely respect that. If you do continue to read, well, I’ve tried not to be graphic, but I have also tried to be honest. Aside from changed names, every word is true, and I get that that might be disturbing. The next post will probably be about masturbation and porn, and why it’s awesome, so if you’d rather skip this and read about that instead, stay tuned.

Ready? Okay. Continue reading

My sexual history, briefly, for future reference

I’m young. Like, really young. You know how when you’re fourteen and fall in love for the first time and you are so totally sure that no one else has ever felt this way before? And then you grow up a few years and look back at yourself and laugh at how utterly naive you were? (If you are reading this at the age of fourteen, than I apologise. I’m fairly certain you will see where I’m coming from in a few years, but if not, then good on you, you got it right first time.) Anyway, the point is, I am in my early twenties. I have been doing this whole sex-relationships thing for all of six years. That really isn’t that long at all. I have learnt a hell of a lot, but the most important thing I have learnt is that I am going to keep learning for quite some time. And that is awesome too.

That said, I have definitely learnt one of two things, and those things are obviously going to influence how I write. So before I get into talking about bisexuality and kink and threesomes, and how I feel about all of the above, it makes sense to have a bit of an overview, and there are a couple of characters who are probably going to crop up as examples once or twice.  These are people who have all been hugely important in my life, and have really shaped the way that I feel about sex and sexuality. And because I am a Classicist, they are all going to get awesome Classical pseudonyms, that I feel best describe them.

Electra Electra was my first girlfriend, my first everything in fact. She gets this name not because of any similarities to the actual Electra (a controversial character in various Greek tragedies), but because she is also a Classicist, and I vividly remember her  telling me the story of Orestes and Electra when we were at school. Yes, we were at school together. She was two years above me, shy, geeky, obsessed with fantasy novels, and utterly awesome. We briefly went out just before I turned fifteen, but broke up very quickly, mainly because neither of us were brave enough to be out, and we were both incredibly insecure. Then I turned fifteen and we drank too much and somehow we ended up in a sort of threesome with another girl. There was lots of drama. This was the first time I realised that sex and relationships didn’t always follow the standard format that I’d seen played out in rom coms all my life.

Salmacis This is the girl I started seeing while I was getting over the drama with Electra. She was four years older than me, gorgeous, glamourous, and completely mad. We met over the internet, which was probably the most ‘normal’ aspect of the relationship. Being around Salmacis was the most intense experience I have ever had. She lacked even the semblance of empathy, and the only real difference between her and Shane from the L Word is that she was British (and also not fictional). For the two and a half years that I was on-and-off with Salmacis, I learnt more about sexuality and LGBT+ activism than I even imagined existed. It was because of her that I went on my first Pride march, and to my first gay bar, and first started reading LGBT+ blogs. It was a messy and drama-heavy time for everyone involved, but looking back, the whole thing was also kinda awesome. (Salmacis, by the way, is the name of the nymph who falls in love with Hermaphroditus and tries to rape him, resulting in their bodies becoming joined for life. The header image on this blog is of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus.)

Tereus (Trigger warnings for sexual assault and rape.) In my first post, I talked about the story of Procne, who took revenge on her absolutely despicable husband in a rather dramatic way. His name was Tereus. My Tereus doesn’t fit the story entirely, but it comes pretty close. I spent a rather dark year of my life in an abusive relationship with this guy, and it’s thanks to him and his treatment of me that I discovered feminism. He verbally and emotionally abused me. He refused to wear condoms and put me at risk for a number of STIs while he continued to sleep with other people. He separated me from my friends. He took financial advantage of me. And on one memorable occasion, he raped me, and laughed about it afterwards. Not long after, when we argued (about said rape), he twisted my arm backwards until I felt something snap in my wrist. He is one of three men who sexually assaulted me within the space of a year, and the worst thing is he doesn’t even think he did anything wrong. He is the reason I began to learn about rape culture, about victim blaming, about apologists and slut shaming. He will probably be mentioned often on this blog, as an example of what not to be. (The other two men, who I will refer to as Domitian and Tarquin, will also probably feature in this way.)

Alexander The guy who quite literally rescued me from Tereus, and to whom I owe a huge amount. He has asked not to mentioned too much on this blog, so I will keep it brief. Alexander is an absolute amazing man who I dated for two years, and who helped me discover a hell of a lot about my sexuality. It is down to him that I even know what sex positivity is, let alone how to practice it.

Others that may be added at some point when I know what to write about them, in no particular order: Leander, Atalanta, Iphis, Ariadne and Phaedra.

An entrance into the mad and fantastical world of feminist blogging

I am Procne, a feminist, and this is my blog. Well isn’t that exciting. Of course, everyone knows it’s impossible to be a feminist and to blog about anything other than feminism, so I apologise if every so often I stray from the rules slightly. I have a personal blog for intimate personal details, and no one reads that one either, which makes everything a lot easier.

Let me start again.

I am a cisgender, bisexual, BDSM-oriented twenty-something woman. I am also an arts student at a British university, but everyone knows that my gender and sexual orientation are far more important than the subject which I spend hours every day studying, right? I am also a sex-positive feminist. For people who are confused by any of these terms, here is a helpful guide:

* Cisgender woman: my biological sex matches my gender identity, and I identify as female. I mention this because the fact that I’m not trans* or genderqueer means there are almost certainly some huge gaps or assumptions in what I write. I know this, and I am trying to avoid it, but I will screw up sometimes.
* Bisexual: pansexual is probably a better term for it. I like men. I like women. I like genderqueer people and trans*people and people who don’t fit into any of those categories. Basically, I like people.
* BDSM-oriented: I like BDSM. Not all aspects of it, not even most aspects of it (though I will try most things once), but enough to happily take on the label ‘kinky’, and to enjoy it.
* Arts student: I spend hours of my life reading literature in a variety of languages, panicking, reading commentary on said literature, panicking, sleeping, drinking alcohol, panicking, writing essays at 4 in the morning, reading some more, feeling briefly awesome, then panicking again. Oh, and I love it.
* Sex-positive: I think sex is awesome. No, really awesome. Even more awesome than that. If I had the time, and enough willing partners, I would probably have sex three times a day at least, in a variety of exciting positions. Seriously. I think that owning and accepting and embracing your sexuality is one of the best things anyone can do. And I don’t have a problem with talking about that.
* Feminist: I believe that men and women are equal. In fact, I believe that most people are equal. Hardly a radical suggestion, I know, but one I think think sometimes needs stating.

In this blog, I plan to discuss my sex life, a lot. Also my experiences as a queer woman in a world that still sometimes has a couple of problems with this, but it’s the sex part that will probably come across. Intimate details and TMI? Probably. All names will be changed, of course, but other than that I will try to be as honest as possible, because too few people are honest about sex. And sex is so much better when you’re able to say what you like and what works and what doesn’t, and to laugh about that time your partner accidentally gave you an STI from oral sex the same time that he made you come for the first time. (True story, and very amusing one.) So, no real names, but very real experiences.

And who is this Procne chick anyway? The original Procne was a mythological badass. Look her up, seriously. Her husband kidnapped her sister Philomela, raped her, and cut out her tongue so she wouldn’t be able to tell anyone. But Philomela wove a tapestry telling her story, and when Procne discovered it she killed her own son, cooked him up, and served him up for her husband (the kid’s father) to eat, as a punishment. Then all three of them turned into birds, and Procne was a swallow. So there you go. Yeah, it’s a crazy fucked up story. But Classics is full of fucked up stories (there’s a great one about a girl getting turned into a guy so she can marry this other girl she’s in love with), and I like to lead with that. I promise not to harm any children in the writing of this blog. If you’re under sixteen and reading this, you probably shouldn’t be, but as long as you don’t tell you parents I think it’s probably fine.

Any questions? Ask me. The oral sex story will be coming up shortly.