In 2011 we went to Hawaii. It was intended as a getaway from the quakes so things like first world plumbing were a large factor in our choice of destination. It turned out to be an utterly perfect family holiday – the kids were both of an age to be easy travelling companions and to be delighted by everything.
These photos show the wreck of the USS Arizona (Pearl Harbour), Steam Vents in Volcanoes National Park and Bananas in our hotel garden (Hilo).
Oh, the dignity and courage in that letter!
I recently uncovered a stash of letters written to me, by assorted friends, when I'd gone home from university one summer. It was quite hilarious to read four different accounts of the same scandals.
I’ve been a piss poor sleeper for as long as I can remember. Add children, chronic neck pain and a world that doesn’t fit my natural rhythms very well and I am, basically, screwed.
I find that the right bedtime helps. Anytime before elevenish and, even if I drop off ok, I am done for the night after the first sleep cycle.
Reading is almost essential. Sex is hit-or-miss as to whether it makes me drowsy or bouncy. An evening snack (yoghurt and banana is good) helps quite a bit.
If I have a lot of things to do the next day, writing a list before bed helps me not stay awake going over and over everything I need to remember. Conversely, if I do find myself lying awake, planning a detailed, fantasy event (like a swanky party) can still my mind.
Yesterday, at 5am I was awoken from a dream that my partner was cheating on me by the cat spewing on the bed. I may never recover.
I'm so sorry this happened to you, Helen. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective.
As Danielle mentioned above, I have sons, the oldest of which is rapidly hurtling towards adolescence. I’ve been thinking about the messages I need to impart to them as they venture out into the world. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far (for the record I don’t believe I’d be giving any daughters a different message).
No one’s worth is determined by their gender, sexual orientation, dress or number of sexual partners (or a bunch of other things).
People are not prizes to be won.
Sex is something people do with, not to, each other.
No one owes anyone sex, ever.
Other people’s needs and desires may not be the same as yours.
Many situations are easy to misread – communicate before you act.
Talking about it can be hot as hell.
Everyone has the right to determine what happens to their own body.
Good people, with good intentions, can still do awful things if they don’t stop to check their perceptions and assumptions are correct.
I don't count myself as having been sexually assaulted but I can think of several times where it was a pretty close thing.. There has been more than one occasion where a (perfectly nice and normal) guy has assumed consent and I've had to decide, in the moment, whether I'm ok with what is happening. I have to trust that a 'no' would have been heard but I don't know for sure.
These guys were not bad people, they probably didn't see themselves as potential rapists. They were doing sex according to the dominant memes of the time where spontaneity is sexy and women like men who are masterful. They were young men who were embarrassed to talk about sex so leapt straight to action.
You know what would make me feel safer and less likely to think of the men around me as possible rapists? If I could be sure that the men around me acknowledged their potential to rape and therefore took steps to mitigate against it. It can be painful to admit that we are all capable of doing wrong but awareness is the best preventative.
If someone is aware of their own potential to rape (and does not wish to commit such an act) then they will take care to check their partner is sober and alert enough to consent and remains so throughout the act, they will know that a dinner bought or lift given does not equal sex owed, they will treat every ‘no’ at face value, they will check in during sex to make sure their partner continues to be ok. It’s people who believe they couldn’t possibly become a rapist who cut corners on these things.
Consent is not like the golden rule. It's about genuinely listening to the other person without projecting one's own likes or dislikes. Do as you would be done by is a good place to start but a dangerous place to finish.
When you say that women can prevent or invite rape by how they behave or what they wear or where they go, what you are really saying is that rape is a legitimate punishment for stepping off the proscribed path. The threat of rape is (almost) as much a tool of control as the act itself.
We can do a lot to teach people about consent. We can teach preschoolers to ask before starting physical play, to watch the other kids' faces to make sure they feel ok. We can empower young people to talk about their desires and limits before their clothes come off. Most importantly, we can create a culture in which women are not prizes to be won and in which no one owes anyone sex no matter how fancy the date, or how many other people they've slept with, or what they did last night.