xoJane

Street Harassment Forced Me to Quit Playing Pokémon Go

As much as it irritates me to have to do so, I take precautions when I go out in public. I don't walk alone unless I am in a well-traveled area (a designation I sort of arbitrarily set as having at least 10 other people within sight). I don't walk at night. When I do venture out alone, I try to look as inconspicuous as possible. I started taking these measured precautions after my rape three years ago.

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I Need Painkillers, but the DEA's Reclassification of Hydrocodone Makes Them Way Too Hard to Get

It's been a weird week for me—painful, confusing, stressful. I've had to deal with a lot of questions I never thought I'd have to ask or answer. I've had to deal with a lot of awkwardness from other people that I didn't realize I would be so bothered by. 

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An Open Letter to Trump Voters From His Staff Defector

Even Trump's most trusted advisers didn't expect him to fare this well.

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What I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self About an Abusive Relationship I Was In

When I was 20 I found myself in an abusive relationship – but if you'd have asked me before I met him if I'd ever be with someone who made me feel less than respected, I would have given you a resounding "No." 

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How Writing Helped Me Heal From Rape Trauma

I realized I was a writer long before I was raped. Both conclusions have had comparable impact on the trajectory of my career. As a disillusioned adolescent desperate for guiding words to live by, I found solace in a self-help tip from a fortune cookie: “If you’re feeling down, try throwing yourself into your work.” I obeyed for as long as I could.

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A Life Coach Actually Changed My Life

It was around my last birthday when I finally acknowledged I needed a little help. 

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What It's Like to Be a Celibate Christian When All You Want Is Sex

I was raised Christian. My parents weren’t religious, and they’re still not, but they wanted good things for us, and this included feeling like a part of something bigger. Plus, a requirement for getting into the best schools in the area was immaculate church attendance. 

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I Pretend to Be an Introvert, But I'm Really Just Kind of a Jerk

Like many women in touch with modern technology, I spend a lot of time dicking around on the Internet, delighting myself with videos of cats falling off things and filling in answers on clickbait tests to discover the innermost workings of my psyche. 

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Why I Had to Leave My Sexless Marriage

I used to think marriage was forever. I know people get divorced. The rate’s at like 50 percent now, but same as most people who take the plunge, I thought I’d be married longer than 28 months. Just sayin’.

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#ShoutYourAbortion: This Is What a 22 1/2 Week Abortion Looks Like

As #shoutyourabortion trends on social media, encouraging women to shed their shame over having chosen abortion, I have my own story to tell. 

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I Became Addicted to Online Dating

I was Ladywriter99 on Tinder, OKCupid, Plenty of Fish and J-Date. 

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I Grew Up Watching My Mother Being Physically Abused and I Am Done Keeping It Secret

I was a preteen when he and I officially met. I say "officially" because I had seen him in my mother's bed a few nights before as I had to tip-toe through her bedroom to get to the bathroom. The room was dark and they were curled up together, asleep under the covers. His boxer briefs and jeans were sprawled out on the floor and I had to quietly leap so I wouldn't step on his discarded clothing.

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A Mom Called the Police on My 3-Year-Old Son After a Playground Accident

I wasn't sure whether or not to write about this. I generally prefer not to write about my son, out of respect for his privacy, and I don't want to put myself in a legally questionable situation by writing about what happened. But it's been several days since the incident and I've still got a crazy cocktail of rage, panic, and sadness churning inside my chest and I don't know how else to get it out. 

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14 Things I Will Start Wearing Now That I Am 30

The other day this gem floated through my FB feed.

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I Was A Victim of Reddit's FatPeopleHate Because I Refused to Be Ashamed of My Body

Everything I needed to know about fat hate, I learned in high school.

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I Tried 7 Natural Self-Care Products So You Don't Have To: Guess How Many Worked?

Hardly a day passes without the results of a study, a news article or TV show highlighting the part we all play in guarding the environment, reducing food waste, opting for natural products above heavily processed ones and of course, looking after our health.

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I Witnessed Shocking Discrimination and Racism Working As an In-Store Abercrombie Model

I’m not really sure what went through my mind when two chiseled male models came up to me at the mall and told me I had a “great look” for Abercrombie and Fitch.

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What Happened When I Posed As a Man on Twitter

Last weekend I became a man. I’ve dreamed about becoming a man before, wondered what it would be like to have genitalia that hangs, imagined myself free to walk alone with headphones on, fantasized about running at night. I didn’t get to experience that. But I did become a man on Twitter.

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I Was Pro-Life Until I Accidentally Got Pregnant and Wanted an Abortion

When I was 22 years old, I left my boyfriend of four years. We had grown up together in rural America—went to the same parties, had the same friends, etc. The breakup was a difficult one. My friends fractured and took sides, which I should have seen coming but did not.

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My Bipolar Disorder Landed Me in the Psych Ward Three Times in the Past Four Months

By the third time you are admitted to an inpatient psychiatric ward, the process becomes almost routine. There’s the obligatory blood draw to test for drugs, the chat with the social workers, and then the meeting with the doctors who finally articulate what is painfully obvious to everyone around you: you’ve completely lost touch with reality and need immediate, intensive psychiatric attention. 

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What I Learned Working as a 'Hooters Girl'

I was 23, jobless and full of Sheetz milkshakes when I made my way past the highway signs promising my destination.

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10 Creepy Sex Apps You Definitely Never Asked For

Two things I love are sex and technology. I think 99% of 20-something women can agree that sex and technology are two things which vastly improve one’s quality of life. But while they say two wrongs don’t make a right, two rights almost certainly can make a big fat wrong.

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Dear Florida: How Can You Arrest a 90-Year-Old Vet for Feeding the Homeless?

When my dad retired a couple years ago, I was terrified.

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5 Things I Learned Working at a Strip Club

It was 2004. I was a year out of college. I had moved back home and was living with my parents in a Washington, DC suburb. I needed a job, but with my liberal arts degree and lack of work experience, I kept hearing "no." I would look through the classifieds every day, trying to find something, anything. 

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I Was Forced From My Home and Am Living In Constant Fear Because of Relentless Death Threats From Male Gamers

They threatened the wrong woman this time. I am the Godzilla of bitches. I have a backbone of pure adamantium, and I’m sick of seeing them abuse my friends.

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13 Most Ugly, Offensive,and Weird Costumes for Halloween 2014

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I Was Too Poor to Get an Abortion

I had been getting fatter and throwing up nearly everyday.
I assumed it was because I had been eating (free) pizza proffered by a friend on a near-daily basis, despite being lactose intolerant. I'd had irregular periods all my life, even while on hormonal birth control, so I wasn't concerned that I hadn't had my period for a couple of months. 
My husband was concerned, though. He had noticed my midsection growing larger, and thought it should be addressed, at least. Neither of us wanted children, and even if we did, we certainly couldn't afford it. We had a credit card, and it was used just for buying groceries and gas.
I was unemployed and attending college (fully paid for by a loving relative). My husband was working full-time at just a few cents above minimum wage. We could barely afford ourselves.
"I really think you should just take the test," he said.
So, finally, one day after class I stopped at a Safeway and picked up a pregnancy test.
I was pregnant. I had purchased a pee-stick that "Pregnant" or "Not Pregnant" so it was a little hard to get confused at the results.
I didn't feel anything. Others talk of how their head swam, or they were terrified, or elated, or any number of emotions. Not me; I was blank. Perhaps it was shock.
I turned the corner from the bathroom to the bedroom, where my husband was lying in bed, reading.
"I'm pregnant." I'm deadpan. Blank. Nothingness.
"Fuck!" His voice is terrified, erupting. But he doesn't move. We stand there, silently, staring at each other.
***
I went to the doctor, where I dutifully peed in a cup to verify that I was, most definitely, with child. The doctor gently palpated my belly, and estimated that I was 14 weeks along.
The doctor asked me what I planned to do. Have the child? Terminate? Adoption?
"I want an abortion." The words shot out of my mouth. There was no hesitation; I had known for years that if I had ever gotten pregnant, I would terminate. I had no moral qualms about it, even though my family was all devoutly pro-life. 
I was given the number of a clinic in town that did abortions through the second trimester.
The clinic told me it was 800 dollars and a one-day procedure, if I could get in soon enough. After 15 weeks, the price would go up and the procedure would take two days.
I felt like throwing up, and for once, it wasn't from morning sickness. How the hell could we scrape together enough money? There was no one we could ask for such a sizable amount. We couldn't even afford a third of that in a week by ourselves.
After some frantic and tear-filled Googling, I discovered that our state covered abortion. Well, sort of. There was a full reimbursement, but we would have to get the money up front. Plus, we had to get insurance.
This was the most stressful point in my life, ever, and it severely strained our marriage. I was growing larger by the day -- turns out I am not one of those women that stay small for quite a while; I had a definite baby-bump going on.
As a pregnant lady, I was allowed to have my request for insurance expedited. This meant that I should have insurance in 30 days. Thirty days meant that I would be nearly 20 weeks along. I hoped that the bureaucrats would be quick.
The bureaucrats were maddeningly slow. It had been two weeks, and we had heard nothing. Finally, one day a thin white envelope from the state arrived. I let my hope get the better of me, and my stomach dropped like lead when I realized the letter was informing me to get documents from my doctor. Documents I thought the clinic had already mailed out.
In a panic, I called the doctor and asked her to please, please get whatever it is mailed out. Turns out she had been on vacation for a week and nothing had gotten done. She promised to fax it over that day.
It was 30 days exactly before my husband and I got a letter saying that we now held state health-care. I got on the phone immediately with the abortion clinic, and made the soonest possible appointment -- a few days later in the week. I was told the fees would now be around $,1200 and I would have to make two trips there: once for counseling and to have my cervix softened, and the next day for the surgery.
We still didn't have the money, not even close. What we did have, though, was our credit card. We would max it out, and then later be reimbursed some months down the line.
A few days later I had just finished with the counseling session and was undergoing an ultrasound to see just how far along I was. No one had ever actually verified where in my pregnancy I was, other than a guess made by my doctor.
My doctor was wrong. How far wrong, I'm not actually certain and will never know. The ultrasound technician had an unreadable expression on her face, and let me know that I was further along than I had been told. However, she was going to mark it down as 19 weeks and some number of days. 
Most likely, I was 20 weeks or more along, which meant that had she not done so, I would have been unable to get an abortion, as there was no medical need for it. If it had not been for that kind woman (and health care), I would have a five-year-old today.
I was too poor to have a baby, and too poor to have an abortion.

I'm a Conservative GOP Mom Who Buys Weed for her 12-Year-Old Son

To say I’m your standard Conservative Suburban Mom is probably an understatement.
I’ve voted with the GOP hardline in the last three elections (which is probably enough to get me burned at the stake with most of you reading this.) I wear sweater sets with pearls. We go to church every Sunday.  
And I score drugs for my 12-year-old son.
Why yes, that is my SUV (with the “Romney 2012” bumper sticker) outside Milo’s cheesy college apartment, picking up this month’s supply. I always guiltily hit up 2 different ATMs to get the money, not wanting the nice girl at my bank branch to wonder why I’m always getting cash. I dose my son with a nice home-baked chocolate chunk cookie. (Important: keep those cookies in a separate jar.) 
As a baby, my Matthew developed in a perfectly normal fashion. He hit every milestone right on time, like walking at 12 months, complete sentences at 18 months (“Mom, that was a fart.”)  And at 22 months, my son disappeared. Autism is a cruel disorder; 4 out of 5 children are born neurotypical and then regress into the silence of those beautiful, mysterious brains.
As the final F-U, one in four kids with autism develop seizure disorders. Matthew was one of them. His first seizure was at Target when we were shopping for a new bike for his 9th birthday. He gave out a loud bird-like screech and fell to the floor, shaking and moaning. To see my child frothing at the mouth and shrieking makes me understand a little better why so many cultures thought seizures were actually demonic possession. The kindly EMTs nodded knowingly when I gasped that Matthew had autism.
“Sorry to hear it, but we see this a lot with the autistic kids,” the paramedic said, injecting my baby with Versed to stop the seizure.
Our pediatric neurologist put Matthew on a potent cocktail of three different anti-convulsant medications. They didn’t stop the seizures from increasing in frequency or severity. But Matthew endured endless rashes, nausea and sleeplessness. One of the other autism moms was the first to suggest marijuana.  
“How is getting my son stoned going to be any help!” I hissed.
She rolled her eyes. “There are several different types of cannabis. You want one with a lower THC -- that’s what gets you high -- and containing a higher CBD level.”  
I held on to the slip of paper she gave me for three weeks, watching Matty continue to suffer. His neurologist shifted his meds around, lowering some doses, increasing others. And the seizures kept hitting my little man. Spending two sleepless nights online, I researched everything I could find about CBD enhanced marijuana treatments for autism and epilepsy. I finally called Milo, my lone "stoner connection," asking what he might have for a kid with seizures.
“Autistic?” he said knowingly. “Whatcha got him on, Lamotrigine? Probably Trazodone or Tryliptal?”
Turns out my stoner connection is a chemist major who has been growing different strains of cannabis for a couple of years. He’d narrowed down a few with a generous composition of CBD. I handed over my money and took the bag home, wiping my sweaty palms on my khaki skirt. I was a lawbreaker. I was giving an illegal drug to my 10-year-old son.
Matthew’s seizures became shorter, the days between them started stretching further and further apart. He started gaining weight again and one day I heard something utterly alien in the family room. Matty was laughing at “Spongebob Squarepants.” I hadn’t heard my boy laugh in four years.  
As his mother, I consider marijuana a miracle. The CBD extract Matthew takes has almost completely stopped his seizures, and there’s a growing body of evidence that these marijuana strains may be healing neurons damaged from repeated seizures.
In my ultra conservative state, I could be sentenced for drug possession: up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. I could lose custody of my son. But he is living, laughing proof that thousands of children suffering with these challenges could be helped by marijuana. And it’s still illegal in 27 states. If this keeps up, I’m going to have to vote *shudder* the Democratic ticket.
Here’s my recipe for “Matthew’s Chocolate-Chunk Cookies.”  They’re delicious, “enhanced” or plain.
Ingredients
• 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
• 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 large eggs
• 1 3/4 chocolate chunks (I use half white chocolate, half dark) 
• 1 cup chopped nuts
Directions
PREHEAT oven to 375º F.
COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chunks and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
*Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved. 

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I Was Wrongly Arrested for Armed Bank Robbery Because I am a Tall, Black Man

On Friday afternoon, August 22nd around 5:20 p.m., while innocently walking by myself from a restaurant on Wilshire Blvd., to my car up LaCienega Blvd my freedom was taken from me by the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Within seconds, I was detained and told to sit on the curb of the very busy street, during rush hour traffic. 

Within minutes, I was surrounded by 6 police cars, handcuffed very tightly, fully searched for weapons, and placed back on the curb. 

Within an hour, I was transported to the Beverly Hills Police Headquarters, photographed, finger printed and put under a $100,000 bail and accused of armed bank robbery and accessory to robbery of a Citibank.

Within an evening, I was wrongly arrested, locked up, denied a phone call, denied explanation of charges against me, denied ever being read my rights, denied being able to speak to my lawyer for a lengthy time, and denied being told that my car had been impounded. All because I was misidentified as the wrong “tall, bald head, black male,” ... "fitting the description."

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I Was Friends With a Rapist

Sometime last year, I started hearing scary rumors. At first it was vague, little more than a general aura of badness around a certain person. Then the allegations started to come into focus. I didn't want to believe it, but I asked people in a position to know—and when I found out it was true, it felt like my insides had been scooped out with a melon baller. A good friend of mine, a man I loved and trusted, had sexually assaulted a woman.
I'm not going into details here. The survivor's story is her own to tell when and where and if she feels like it. She is not someone I know personally, and to the best of my knowledge, no charges were pressed. I don't have any interest in convincing you that the assault took place. All I want you to know is that I am convinced it did.
If you had asked me six months earlier whether he was capable of such a thing, I would have told you no. He wasn't someone I spent a lot of time with—we lived in different states and mostly kept in touch via Facebook—but I thought of him as a “good guy,” someone honest and kind and caring.  
We both traveled a lot, and when we passed through each other's hometowns, we always knew the other would have an open couch and a few beers to share. It’s hard to suspect someone of wrongdoing who has provided you with food and shelter and comfort when you needed it.
When I found out what my friend had done, I spent an hour crying as I wrote him an email explaining why I wasn't going to speak to him anymore. I sat with my mouse hovering over the send button, willing myself to click it, desperately wanting not to. Maybe it's not true, I thought, knowing it was. Maybe I can pretend I just don't know. I didn't know yesterday. Why should today be the day everything has to change?
It took me 15 minutes to work up the courage to hit send. I haven't heard from or spoken to him since.
I am one of the four in five women who has never been sexually assaulted, but that doesn't mean I haven't been affected by rape culture. I live in the same world we all do, one that excuses men for sexually aggressive behavior on the grounds that “He was just joking” or “Come on, it's a compliment” or “She wanted it, look how she was dressed.”
I haven’t been raped, but I've been catcalled and groped and followed and insulted and threatened, and I’ve watched friends struggle through the aftermath of assault. Some stories begin with “I never thought it could happen to me, but it did.” My story is the opposite. It hasn't happened to me, but I've always known that it could. I know better than to believe that rapists are cartoon monsters devoid of redeeming qualities, but I was still taken aback.
My best friend in high school was assaulted by her boyfriend. For weeks, she stayed silent; then she hit some internal breaking point, ended their relationship, and started telling people what he’d done. His friends rallied around him, called her a crazy bitch. Even some of her friends stayed in touch with him, refusing to “take sides.”
I will never forget how much that hurt her, how her boisterous personality became quiet and anxious, how she spoke like her voice was sore and moved like someone bruised. I sat next to her at the police station when she finally worked up the nerve to file a report, watching her fingernails dig into her palms as the officer pressed her to recount specific, painful, physical details of the attack.
Then he brushed her out of the room, saying that because she hadn't broken up with her attacker until weeks after the assault, there was no point pressing charges. Her ex went to jail a year later for assaulting another girl. Many of his friends still insisted it just wasn't in him to hurt anybody.
My former friend made a pass at me once, when we were still speaking. Respectfully, cheerfully, from several feet away—a very straightforward “I think you're really attractive and I'd love to sleep with you,” and when I said “Nope,” he shrugged and laughed and changed the subject. He never pressured me. I've been alone in a room with him. I've been alone in a house with him. He is much taller and stronger than me and never once in our years of friendship did he make me feel unsafe. 
But every person a predator does not harm is just as intentional as the people he does. That I escaped being abused by my friend is not just luck, and it's certainly not because I deserve to be hurt less than the person who actually was. It's because he made the choice not to hurt me. I wonder if, consciously or subconsciously, he feared that one day his behavior would be brought to light—if he was good to me because he wanted to make sure I would be on his side.
I think back on all the times I supported this man, all the times I called him my friend, and I can't help remembering my friend in high school, the purplish welts her long fingernails left in her palm. I remember all the times people stuck up for her rapist, every time that someone said something affectionate or even neutral about him, and I would see her fists clench. I wonder how many people I've wounded unknowingly just by speaking a certain name with kindness. This is what stops me when I think about texting my former friend, out of habit, just to see how he's been. It’s what keeps me from grieving too long over the loss of our friendship. There are people with so much more reason to grieve.
I miss my friend. He was smart and generous, and we had similar senses of humor and liked a lot of the same books. He made me laugh and cheered me on. None of those things are in any way incompatible with his being a perpetrator of sexual violence. I still love him and care about him and want the best for him—which includes being held accountable for his mistakes—but I have to do it from a distance. I can't imagine a way for us to be close again.
It is much, much easier to choose not to believe someone you care about could do such a thing, but everyone has someone who cares about them, even people who commit violent, unforgivable crimes.
I don't mean to say that you should be paranoid or stop trusting everyone you love. But even people who seem good can do terrible things, and redeeming qualities do not outweigh an abusive history. Dismantling rape culture means holding people responsible for their actions, even people you love, and supporting survivors, even the ones you don't know. It means refusing to condone abuse and being honest about who predators are: someone's friend, someone's brother, someone's loved one.
Abusers rely on their communities' affection, ignorance and silence, and on the natural reluctance to take sides. I refuse to let my friendship or my neutrality be used as a shield for predators. Given the option to stand with a survivor, that's always the side I'll choose.

I Took a Christian Virginity Pledge As a Child And It Nearly Destroyed My Life

"Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate and my future children to be sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship. As well as abstaining from sexual thoughts, sexual touching, pornography, and actions that are known to lead to sexual arousal."  

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