Self-marriage goes mainstream in this remarkable 7-minute documentary on Nightline/ABC. And as my friend Melissa Banigan said about this piece, “YES to women taking charge of the ways we define and love ourselves.”
I’ve been writing about self-marriage now for over a decade, since I first wrote about it in Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics. I have observed the trend grow from a fringey thing only performance artists do to a meaningful ritual being practiced by women (and some men) who work in more mainstream occupations. It’s starting to take off. The cutting-edge of marriage is self-marriage.
The radical question we’re asking is, What if you were to make vows to honor and believe in yourself? In a world full of war and hatred, the planet definitely needs more love. In a world full of self-loathing of all kind, Americans need more self-love.
What would the world be like if our coming-of-age ritual involved committing to treat yourself well as an adult, whether you marry another person or not?
In this marvelous documentary, Nighline explores the concept with a depth that is rare for TV.
Nightline put seven minutes of attention on a woman taking herself seriously as a full human being, whether she has a husband or not–having fun with it at the same time!
There are so many incredible bits in this piece. My favorite part of me, personally, is the B-Roll. Producers tape B-Roll stuff of a person doing something, so they have more than boring talking head footage. They taped me walking around Columbus Circle in New York. It’s a bit awkward to be taped walking about, What should you be doing?
A guy selling honey in the farmer’s market in Columbus Circle started making jokes with me so you can see me laughing with him. . . the interaction with the honey salesman feels like joy. They also show a moment from my own self-marriage three years ago in the Japanese Gardens in Buenos Aires where I kiss my hands after the vows, and that feels like joy also. Erika Anderson, a woman who married herself, who is the star also exemplifies the joy. This whole segment is so joyful. It’s a deep, meaningful thing to do to commit to value yourself–and self-marriage can be a lot of fun!
The realness and vulnerability of Petra Hanson sharing her intention to marry herself with her friends is also wonderful. This is not, ahem, an easy thing to do.
Helping a woman marry herself is just about one of my favorite things to do. It’s creative. It’s deep. It’s meaningful. It will change your life.
I get lifted up each time I’m in the presence of a woman who has married herself too. When one person marries herself it definitely lifts everyone else up too.
The haters will hate, of course. There will be people who will confuse self-marriage with a commitment to being alone or a barrier to marriage with another person, or the people who will call us insane and narcissistic.
When I started to share the story of my self-marriage, I knew that some people would think I was crazy.
I didn’t share the story immediately. It took me three years to work up to that point because I needed to let the experience bake into the cells of my being before I was ready to go public.
Choosing to take a radical stand means there will be misunderstanding and backlash.
But in all honesty, I can hardly take their criticisms of narcissism and selfishness seriously.
Over on twitter, some dude writes me:
@sashacagen are u high? It’s creative? By the way selfishness, self love & narcissism are at an all time high & the u.s is @ #1.
@sashacagen only thing u accomplished with that is making yourself look like a narcissistic insane woman. Single is great but not special!
I’m so glad he wrote these tweets–because they help me to clarify the true meaning of self-marriage.
How you treat yourself is always a reflection of how you treat others.
If you are relentlessly critical of yourself, you will also be critical of others.
If you treat yourself with compassion and respect, you will treat others with compassion and respect.
Therefore, the most generous thing you can do is commit to love yourself.
It will make you a better partner, a devoted friend, a more caring family member, and more compassionate to others.
My self-marriage vows were all about the theme of accepting all of me, even the parts I don’t like.
I vowed to love even the dark parts I reject, even those nasty, critical, vengeful parts of me.
When you marry yourself, you marry the whole world.
Vowing to love all parts of me, even the parts I don’t like, helps me receive these nasty hateful tweets and say, Ha, it’s OK. I know that nasty, critical part of me too, and I also love them.
You haters, don’t worry. I love you too.
My self-marriage has affected me in many ways. I’m working on an essay (this is just a hastily dashed off blog post) about the whole experience, how it’s affected me, what I’ve learned, and how I now help others to take this step of self-respect. If you’re a magazine or newspaper editor and you want that essay, contact me. I’m in so deep working on my memoir I don’t have the time or energy to pitch my work. But I really want to publish this piece, so if you are interested, contact me and I would love to work with a visionary editor on it!
If you are feeling like it might be time for you to marry yourself, and you want some support and guidance, you should contact me too.
Unclassified Woman is a wonderful podcast about combatting “limiting female narratives”:
“With almost 25% of women over 40 child-free by choice or childless through circumstance, it seems absurd that women still have to justify their decisions or endure pity about why they’re not mothers. Motherhood is not a mandate and yet so many women are made to feel ‘less than’ or viewed suspiciously or disparagingly, if they are creating a life of meaning beyond biological mothering.
All of these outdated stereotypes lead to one dangerous assumption: what’s your value beyond being a mother? As mainstream society still tends to over-celebrate mothers juggling ‘it all’, and under-celebrate women who, whilst not mothers, have created lives of purpose and service – Unclassified Woman is the perfect antidote to limiting female narratives.”
Michelle Marie McGrath, the creator of Unclassified Woman, and I recorded an intimate conversation last year.
I remember the conversation being so personal that I was afraid to listen to it when she sent it to me. I summoned the courage, pressed play and found the conversation very nourishing.
I hope you will find the realness nourishing too.
In our Unclassified Woman conversation, we go into:
– the messy truth about why I haven’t had children, and many women today do not
– social infertility and circumstantial infertility (our choices are not always entirely choices)
– a near-death experience I had that helped me see I can’t put myself through so much pain around comparing myself and the value of my life to friends who are mothers
– the process of grieving not having a child even though I was never sure I wanted to be a biological mother
– the delicious moment when you figure out who you are and stand for your own value
International Quirkyalone Day is an alternative to Valentine’s Day that I started way back in 2003. It falls, of course, on February 14. It’s just a coincidence. Well, that’s our story and we’re sticking with it.
Since then Quirkyalone Day been celebrated in more than 40 cities around the world as an inclusive holiday to celebrate all forms of love, including, of course, self-love! Self-love is the foundation for all your relationships, ultimately–with friends, family, and a romantic partner.
If you are new to the concept and the holiday, here’s a video to get you up to speed.
Let me highlight also that in 2017 it’s more important than ever to recognize that Quirkyalone Day is a celebration of independence.
This year I encourage to celebrate your independent voice and encourage you to use it to speak out!
Political leaders such as Elizabeth Warren are exhibiting this independent streak–and they deserve our support.
I look at the CNN video where Elizabeth Warren talks about being silenced when she tried to read Corretta Scott KIng’s letter on Jeff Sessions and I see people making nasty comments about her that are so similar to the 25-year campaign against Hillary. “Not an Elizabeth Warren fan. I find her loud, abrasive and a liar.” My sense is that any woman who is outspoken is going to get this kind of blowback from men and women. When are people going to wake up to their gender bias?
Just keep on trucking. Just keep on showing up with your quirkyalone spirit.
There have been times in my life when I have doubted, are there really liberated guys out there who want to date liberated women? Sometimes, when you are swiping on Tinder, you lose faith. (Perhaps Tinder is not the best place to look for feminist men!)
Now, after the historic Women’s Marches, now being called the largest demonstrations in U.S. history, with more than 3.3 million attending more marches in more than 500 cities across the country, I can say with more confidence that you are out there. To all the feminist men at the Women’s Marches, whether you came out to join us or you were home watching the kids so your partners could come. We see you. We heart you. We want you. Men supporting female quality is hot!
The Women’s Marches on January 21 showed that when women lead, they bring out the soul of a country.
But it wasn’t just women at the Women’s Marches. There were also lots of men at the march in DC–of all ages, races, and sexualities. (As well as trans people.) A lot of men watched kids so women could go.
The Women’s March was a great reminder that millions of people believe in female equality, but also that there are lots of feminist men out there.
So for a moment, I want to pay tribute to the men. The men who support nasty women!
We don’t need male approval but it’s great to have male allies. We feminist women need you feminist men now more than ever now that we have a pussy-grabbing president until we don’t.
At one point, I was meandering through the crowd in the Women’s March in DC with my friends and I overheard a guy use the words “male privilege.” Where in my life did I ever hear men talk about their male privilege? I didn’t hear the context of what he was talking about, but I could imagine the privilege to negotiate more bluntly at work without fear of being viewed as a bitch, to be single without being called a spinster, to go out at night without fear.
Here’s a guy who acknowledges male privilege and speaks of it. Right on.
I whispered to my friend Sara, “There are so many cute feminist boys here. Awwww.”
A few minutes later I saw a guy with a sign “END LOCKER ROOM TALK.” Again, awesome. A man who wants to challenge the idea that pussy-grabbing without consent is a joke. Swoon again.
For those of us who are single, the feminist men at the march are a great reminder that there are liberated men who want to date a strong woman. I definitely was not thinking of the Women’s March in DC as a place to pick up a guy but by the end of the march, I was thinking, wow, the world is full of way more feminist men than I knew.
The next morning I held a quirkybrunch for single women who had attended the march. We discussed the men at the march and agreed they were awesome. “I want to meet a man like that,” one of the women said.
I told them, “I’m going to put a new picture on my online dating profile: a photo of myself in my pink pussyhat. With the caption, at the Women’s March in DC.” (I can’t let them think it’s a fashion statement devoid of feminist context!)
For my male readers, I’m not telling you to call yourself as a feminist as a come-on. But if you do support women openly and embody feminism you are going to win with great women. Wouldn’t any self-respecting heterosexual or bisexual woman want a woman-supporting man in her bed?
For married women the feminist men at the Women’s Marches are a reminder of all the men out there who want equal relationships.
I was talking with my friend’s husband who stayed home with their two kids, young boys under the age of 6 so she could come out and not spend all her time tracking down the kids. He said, “A lot of it doesn’t affect me personally as a white guy, but I think expecting that people are treated fairly with compassion and dignity is what we all expect. There’s this American idea of fairness. The American dream is about fairness, even if it’s not true we should strive for it.”
At the end of the day, we got our tired selves home to my friend’s neighborhood on the metro. Crowds were streaming off the metro into Takoma Park just outside DC and when we emerged onto the plaza by the metro entrance we passed a sweet, nerdy-looking guy in his thirties with a baby stroller. He was holding a sign scrawled on 8.5 x 11 paper written in blue-ball-point pen that simply said, “THANK YOU.” He must have been there to wait for his wife as she came home and to thank all the others who had gone to the Women’s March.
We said, “Thank you!” to him as we walked by. Really moved by him.
He said, “This is what a feminist looks like,” pointing to the baby inside the stroller. I couldn’t tell if the baby was a girl or a boy.
My friend Sara said, “You too.”
Here are some more of the men from the marches in DC and NY. NY photos supplied by my hottie feminist male friend in Brooklyn.
I was talking to someone yesterday about the political situation in the U.S. and she asked me what I mean when I said we have to fight to avoid the disaster of Trump.
She asked, “What do you mean by the word ‘fight’?” I could hear the note of concern in her voice.
I said fighting means making our voices heard. You could call that being vocal. Or resisting.
I’m afraid many people don’t understand why we live in the world we live in today.
Women have the vote because they fought for it. Men didn’t just wake up one day and say, hey, you cuties, let’s give you the right to vote. Women fought hard for suffrage. (Watch the movie Suffragette for a reminder.)
Schools are desegregated because of the civil rights movement. That’s not because people in power decided, let’s do away with discriminatory laws. That’s because Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and millions of others came together to march for justice over and over again.
Weekends exist because the labor movement fought for them. TGIF was not inevitable!
At the moment, Democratic leaders are not bucking up and fighting (at least that we can see) and it’s up to we the people to fight. Elected leaders take action because their constituents force their hands. That’s what the Tea Party did with great effectiveness in 2010. Nothing good is going to happen when we “wait and see.” Things change when we become vocal. When we fight.
I think a lot of Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of being a fighter. Argentines are much more into fighting than we are. We are a kind of conflict-averse people in general.
You might associate fighting with a shouting match or pulling a gun on someone. That’s not what I mean. By fighting, I mean getting clear about your role as as an advocate and resister. When you are resisting fascism, being a resister is being a PATRIOT.
FIghting means working together with others for a vision of a better way. It means connecting with your values. It means writing letters, making phone calls, going to physical events, and hosting meetings.
In addition to being an author, coach, the founder of the quirkyalone movement, a tango teacher, and many other things, I’ve been working for social change for my whole life. I’ve fought for health care access or the right to organize a union. I’ve advocated for bisexual respect in the gay rights movement (I went went on Ricki Lake to do it!) and fought for tenant rights in San Francisco. I also studied social change in college.
My very first job out of college was doing PR for labor unions and I learned a lot about which messages work to motivate people to want a union in their workplace. No one wanted to fight. The messages that tested well were “working together works” because people wanted a voice at the table with their bosses. Coming together via a union would give them a voice.
That sounds great, and I think it’s what most of us want. We want to be collaborate. We don’t want to fight.
But we can’t live in la-la land. Trump does not want to work with others. He wouldn’t even want to work with his own supporters. He has shown us that with every appointment to his Cabinet: wealthy, billionaire types whose animating mission has been to destroy the very thing each agency is designed to protect: the environment, public education, civil rights, drug safety, world stability. White House policy is being shaped by chief strategist Steven Bannon who published stories with headlines like “The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ is Simple: Women Should Log Off” and “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews.” It’s a fantasy to think we can work with them.
I know you don’t all believe as I do, and that’s perfect. That’s quirky. We all believe differently and that’s how it should be. You might even think Trump is a great leader or that his presidency won’t really be that bad. I don’t want to tell you exactly what to do because that’s not my role.
What I propose is this. I ask you to consider all the people who have come before you and the sacrifices that were made for your comfort and voice. For your ability to choose, to have birth control, to go to school, to have the freedom to divorce even, or go to desegregated schools. I ask you to feel into your own truth, and act accordingly!
There is still time to make a difference. The Electoral College was created for exactly this situation. Only 37 of the 538 electors need to vote their conscience on Monday, December 19 to change the outcome. This is doable. Today a Harvard professor who has been offering free legal counsel says he believes 20 are already considering not backing Trump.
Which means if you share that goal, we need to make our voices heard THIS week before the electors vote Dec. 19 to avoid a fascist catastrophe.
If you have never taken an activist step before now is a great time to make your voice heard by sending a letter, an email, making a phone call, attending a vigil, going to a protest, or even going to an event where your Congressperson will be.
This experience has made clear for me that my work for the personal development and empowerment of women (and quirky men) is in service of larger societal goals — I want women and men to speak out and use their voices for the goodness of society. I want you to feel empowered and connected to your voice.
In the absence of leadership from above, we are the ones we have been waiting for.
It’s time to make our voices heard THIS WEEK.
Changes happens when you speak out.
Even though this is as draining as fuck. I know. I’m drained too.
But your phone calls, emails, signatures, and physical presence matter.
No matter what happens, at least we can say we tried.
A lot of people are saying, “It’s not that bad,” “Let’s wait and see.” Some men I know are telling me “everything is going to be OK.” I personally don’t want to be told that everything is going to be OK right now. This is the power of denial. When someone shows you who he is, believe him. If someone mocks a person with disabilities, believe that person is cruel. If that person lies and say they never mocked the person with disabilities, we are dealing with a pathological liar.
I think I have a high capacity to look at the terrible shit that is happening in our country now because of the commitment I made to healing my own shit about four years ago, and this is what I am writing about in my current book project and what I help some coaching clients with. Healing from sexual abuse or assault. Sometimes people didn’t come to me with that but it comes up as we talk about other parts of life.
As I am reviewing a draft for a class where I need to submit 125 passages and an outline, I see a lot of the passages I wrote about my own life apply to this political situation too, the desire to throw your whole life up in the air in a radical way because everything feels so shitty (what some Trump voters wanted to do, voting for Trump for them was like throwing a grenade, and I did that in my own personal way years ago), the natural human tendency toward denial to stay comfortable (what many liberals such as Jon Stewart have been doing by saying, It’s not so bad, and what I did for decades), the need to look the truth in the face to make change and heal (that’s our only way forward, being real about what is going on).
I am writing about a churn in my life, and I think we are going through a churn in our country.
Here’s one passage that makes me feel this.
“I was in denial for a long time. It was too painful to look at the past. So I just kept moving, making lists, making plans, next date, next man. Until someday the fun catches up with me and I realize I never actually got to connect with anyone because I realize that I never unraveled whatever painful things that were holding me back. If we never look at the truth, we will repeat the same patterns. I would never suggest that everyone should move to another continent, but I would suggest that everyone take the courage to look at whatever they have been avoiding looking at. The thing you have been avoiding does seem to hold the key to freedom. What I would say much later is that the churn is for people who need a radical change in life, and the churn is what will bring their subterranean problems to the surface. There were things in me that were so deeply embedded that the problems were not obvious, what was causing me to be so unhappy, to believe I was unlovable, and to get lost in a job that I didn’t want, and it was through submitting to the wild ride of the churn that I could even discover what was actually even going on in my life. In essence, a churn is not to solve all your problems but to even know what your problems are. This is a big step. In order to heal you need to look at the thing you have most been avoiding looking at. In that thing you avoid the most, that’s where you find the path forward.”
Many will deny reality. In personal growth work and politics I believe that the path forward is always about coming into contact with reality, painful as it may be. Denial is very seductive but we cannot afford denial. And there’s a lot of fertility in shit. We need shit to fertilize our gardens.
Believe in yourself, believe in your voice. Quirkyalone is permission to take up space in the world whether you are single, coupled, gay, straight, bi, trans, disabled, any race, any religion. You as an individual have a dignity that is sacred. The worst instincts of people are being unleashed and magnified by a pseudo-leader who has legitimized cruelty and hate. But your dignity exists and it cannot be taken away.
This vision of the world being advanced by Trump would take us back 50 years before the civil rights and women’s movement. Quirkyalone emerged in a historical context where women have economic freedom. Where we learned we could choose relationships out of desire and not because of our need to be in them for economic survival. The world that Trump is advocating and his supporters long for is a patriarchal world where the white man is at the head of the table, and he saves us (and jobs) with his so-called strength. It doesn’t matter what his policies are or that they change constantly because his supporters trust him as the white male savior. We have come too far over the last 50 years to give up our dignity and go silent.
Your voice matters. It matters now more than ever. Every individual voice adds up to a vaster chorus of people calling for kindness and sanity.
From Pussy Riot’s amazing new music video “Straight Outta Vagina”
Susan Sarandon says she wouldn’t vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton because she doesn’t vote with her vagina. But what’s wrong with voting with your vagina? It seems like a great way to vote to me!
Here are five reasons that I invite you to vote with your vagina. And if you’re a man, go ahead and pretend you have a vagina! We women are asked to act like men all the time, especially at work, so hey, try it out, just for a day, see how it goes and let us know. My friend and fellow author Robin Rinaldi, author of The Wild Oats Project, says, “I’m proudly voting with my vagina. If I could get it to hold a pen or pull a lever, I would. Well, maybe not, but you get the point.”
Maybe you can’t hold a pen with your vagina or imaginary vagina, but here are some reasons why you can proudly vote with the intention of your vagina, at the least.
1) Your vagina knows things. Just ask it how it feels.
The vagina is a surprisingly strong place for intuition. Voting with your head and your heart too, but don’t leave your vagina out. Ask it! See what it says. I consult my vagina on all kinds of decisions. I just ask it, how do you feel? I wait and see if it purrs. I’m serious. I am not kidding! I’m writing about this in Wet!
2) When you vote with your vagina, you are voting for safety of all vaginas.
The vaginas of all women need to feel safe in order to walk through life healthy, happy, and to feel turned on. The Orange Cheeto who boasts of grabbing pussies doesn’t feel like the candidate who would give us that safety. My vagina for one instantly snaps close to the suggestion of a Donald presidency. No!!! Some people would say, well, Jill Stein also has a vagina but Jill Stein is not going to win and protect us from the threat of a Donald presidency.
3) The vagina is the source of human life–it must have something to say
The vagina has tremendous creative power. It’s where all human life comes from. This is literal and symbolic You don’t have to be a mother to feel the creative power of your vagina. As the proud owner of a vagina, you can give birth to many things in life–creative projects, gifts, communities, friendships, and your life itself.
4) The vagina likes pleasure and a Donald presidency does not feel pleasurable.
One woman mentioned that her vagina would prefer George Clooney in 2016. That’s a nice thought but if we must be real, a Donald presidency does not feel pleasurable. It feels terrifying. Terror disrupts the nervous system and puts us on high alert all the time. So if we are interested in pleasure we must do everything we can to avoid this fate.
5) It’s high time we have a vagina in the White House.
Since 1789, there have been 43 U.S. presidents. There has never been a vagina in the White House presidential office. Malcolm Gladwell explains here why people don’t like Hillary Clinton by saying what I have been saying over and over again. The answer is simple. The answer is sexism. The right wing has been going after Hillary since the 90s when she dared to say she wanted to fix health care and do more than bake cookies. No other First Lady ever was so bold to take on real policy projects and not diminish herself. She went on to become a Senator and a Secretary of State, and her approval ratings are high when she’s doing her job and low when she seeks power. Why? In 2016, people are still very uncomfortable with an ambitious woman. The dirty secret which is not a secret at all is that the US is still uncomfortable with women in leadership positions. That’s why people chant “lock her up” on the basis of nothing and slap bumper stickers about the size of Hillary’s bum on their car.
To move our country forward though it’s time to tap the power of our vaginas. And someone’s going to have to be first. Hillary is the one with tremendous grit to withstand so many attacks and keep going. And she’s tremendously qualified.
So, will your vagina be voting tomorrow? What does it have to say?
Before you vote, be sure to watch this new music video “Straight Outta Vagina” from Pussy Riot. It’s amazing!
PS. If you like me want to avoid four years of Donald, there’s something you can do to help. Make some phone calls right now, even ten minutes makes a difference when we all chip in. I endorse this calling tool for phone banking. This tool is great, I made calls using it Saturday. As my fellow author Sara Eckel (It’s Not You), who also writes on singleness, has put it, using this tool is a great way to alleviate election-eve anxiety.
PPS. I don’t normally do a lot of political endorsing through my platform as an author and coach. But this election is extraordinary we are looking at a situation where democracy is in danger and dictatorship is a possibility. States that were thought to be firewalls for Hillary Clinton like New Hampshire are now in play. Itt’s time to pull out all the stops to steer the country in the right direction. Vote, vote, vote, and make calls tonight if you are inspired. And the rest of the world, thanks for pulling for us!
If you are a quirkyalone, and you’re looking for someone to be your life partner, you may find yourself single for an extended period: months or yearssssss. How do you keep touch, sexuality and sensuality present and alive in your life while you are single? How can we be “wet” when we are single?
To answer these questions, I’m taking a little tiptoe into the world of podcasting with this podcast with the great Carolyn Arnold, a social scientist, educational researcher, and friend. At the age of 58, Carolyn started a 50 Dates project to find her life partner. She found him by date 49! I’ve interviewed Carolyn about what she learned about loving herself while she went through the ups and downs of dating here. What’s interesting about Carolyn too is that she had a lot of lovers while she was looking for love because sex and touch are important to her. She didn’t want to be celibate and she knew she wanted healthy touch in her life.
In this podcast, I interview Carolyn about how to have lovers and have sexuality be present in your life when you are single and looking for a life partner, and don’t want to be celibate. How do you avoid the pitfalls of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, fantasy/illusion (I thought this was the start of something but he never called!), crossed boundaries, doing more than you really want to do, and more. In essence, we’re talking about how to have clear communication before you get busy and have clear access to your yes and your no at all times. We give you some scripts you can use even.
Carolyn is working on a memoir about her 50 First Dates Project, and in this podcast, we talk about what she learned about having having sex and lovers while looking for love. Carolyn has gone to many Northern California alternative relationship and sexuality seminars and she has learned a lot about how to set boundaries and communicate what you want with a partner in open, honest, loving communication. I’ve been on a parallel journey, and so Carolyn and I have often talked over her kitchen table about how to have conversations about sex when you are dating.
Here are some things we talk about in this conversation:
• How to have a conversation about sex before (or while) clothes come off to avoid misunderstandings and disappointment. We give you some scripts you can use to open a conversation about sex. In essence, the conversation starts with the question, “Do we want to be sexual?” Carolyn thinks you can have this conversation before anything happens. I think it’s a little more natural after kissing.
• The “monogamous mindset of dating” (if you start dating and quickly become exclusive, you can get awfully attached when you start having sex, but are you sure this is really the person you want to be with?)
• Being truly at choice in sex at every moment and why this is important to have access to your yes and your no at any moment, and never feel you have to finish what you started (you have to be able to say no so that you can truly say yes)
• What is sex (is it just intercourse, or can we have a more expansive definition that might or might not include intercourse and might feel like what you actually want to do?)
• How to have supportive lovers while you are dating and looking for “the one”
• Menopause and why you might want to keep your sexuality alive during your 40s (based on Carolyn’s experience)
The psyches of all women are affected now. One of my friends posted on Facebook, “All women I talk to right now are so filled with fear and anger right now that someone who hates women this much and denies their consent could be president.” Another female friend wrote me, “I feel like Trump has climbed into my bedroom and I am thoroughly disturbed.” I have been on edge, more anxious that he could win, more worried about what I wear when I go out in the street, angry that a man who boasts about sexually assaulting a woman is at the top of the Republican ticket. I sent out a version of this editorial to a couple of newspapers and one op-ed editor wrote me back, “Interesting piece but this story has dominated the public conversation since Friday and now readers are starting to move on. I can’t use the piece.” The news cycle may move on, but we have not.
Trump brushes off his 2005 comments about grabbing a woman’s genitals without her consent by saying they are a distraction from important issues facing the country. It is not just a “distraction” when a woman (or man) experiences a sexual assault. A sexual assault has lifelong psychological and health consequences, not just a person’s ability to enjoy sex but also her mental and physical health on every level. Sexual violation certainly has not been “just a distraction” in my life. My experience was childhood sexual abuse, and it’s made it difficult to be in a healthy relationship and may have contributed to my autoimmune disease. Not a distraction. Not really.
How did we even get to the point where a man who boasts about sexual assault, and then says this is “locker-room talk,” is the Republican candidate for president? I wrote a calm clinical essay prosecuting Trump for consistent disrespect of women but when I showed it to a friend she said, “Where’s the emotion?” I wanted to stay factual because I was afraid of being called an “angry woman.”
There’s a lot to be angry about but I suppressed my anger for many years. I stayed silent about the abuse that happened to me as a child, never telling anyone until I was 18. No one told me to stay silent, but I grew up feeling it was my job to protect everyone else from the truth. Everyone else’s feelings mattered more than mine, and it was better to leave the room rather than stay in the same room with the abuser. The cost of sexual violation accrues in the silence and the shame that goes along with that silence.
I’m unwilling to be silent anymore. Trump is an abuser and he’s abusing (and gaslighting) the whole country. It’s obvious this is not normal locker-room banter. Most men don’t gleefully brag about sexually assaulting women. His pattern of extreme disrespect toward women is well established. Just last week he was up in the middle of the night tweeting about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, calling her “disgusting,” and a “con,” and claiming she appeared in a sex tape with no evidence. He has been accused of rape three times (Jane Doe in California alleges he raped her when she was 13) and he’s said if his daughter Ivanka were sexually harassed it would be up to her to find a new situation. He also said on The View, “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” (To which, the hosts laughed, “Oh, you’re known for saying outrageous things, who are you, Woody Allen?”) People making jokes about these comments is exactly how we got to this point.
Too many people don’t realize there are lifelong psychological and health costs for survivors of sexual assault. I’ve been researching the links between sexual abuse and emotional and physical health because I’m writing a memoir where an incident of sexual abuse is part of my story. Men and women who experience sexual violation often face years of feeling damaged, alone, and unlovable. Abuse and rape lead to clinical depression at rates 11 times the general population. Survivors struggle to enjoy sex, feeling like they are objects, and to form trusting bonds in intimacy. There’s a growing body of evidence that rape and sexual abuse negatively impact physical health too. Recovery from sexual assault and abuse is possible and it takes effort, courage, money, and often years.
Canadian writer Kelly Oxford shared five of her sexual assault experiences and asked other women to tweet theirs. She told the UK Guardian, for 14 hours, she was getting 50 stories a minute. Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network estimates that 1 in every 6 American women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. I’d hazard those numbers are low because many people never tell a soul. As I’ve told people in my network about my writing project, 60% of the people I tell eventually confide a sexual violation happened to them too in childhood. They don’t always say immediately. That’s how deep the shame and silence goes.
Donald Trump will continue to say outrageous things for the next month, but let’s not forget: he was 59 when he boasted that he could he could grab women by the pussy whenever he wanted because he is a star. What I’ve realized from my own healing from sexual abuse is that anger has its place. Let’s not be afraid to be angry. Anger is a chance to draw a boundary, to say no more, to say back off. So it is with all my righteous anger that I say it’s inconceivable that we have even gotten to this point where this man is up on the national stage in the debates. A vote for Trump tells other people this behavior is OK. Republicans, you need to take responsibility for nominating this man. He needs to be off the Republican ticket. Now.
The election is now just five weeks away. It’s impossible to avoid the news about the candidates (whose names in this sentence, anyway, shall go unmentioned), but in the end, we are not just voting for individuals, we are actually voting for our future. And more than that, this election is a chance for us to recognize our own power.
What kind of world do we want to live in? Do we continue to promote policies that reflect a vision of the world that used to exist, or do we start to create a world that reflects who we are, a country were now unmarried women are actually in the majority? The question is, do we wake up as a group and start to exert our influence on public policy (which then affects our possibilities–can you take time off from work to care for your sick single aunt, can you get birth control paid by your health insurance)?
Rebecca Traister, author of All The Single Ladies, wrote an important essay in New York magazine on the rise of the single American woman voter as the most potent voting bloc in the country, back when Hillary and Bernie were still slugging it out in the primary. Now, we have the opportunity to make Rebecca right but only if we actually vote.
“. . .how much of an impact single women will have on this election and on public policy in the years to come depends, in large part, on whether they begin to recognize their growing political power. Part of this is simply a matter of getting out the vote. According to Page Gardner, in 2016, “for the first time in history, a majority of women voters are projected to be unmarried,” but going into the previous presidential-election season, nearly 40 percent of them had not registered to vote. . .
The independent woman, both high earning and low earning, looks into her future and sees decades, or even a lifetime, lived outside marriage, in which she will be responsible for both earning wages and doing her own domestic labor.
This is the new social compact that she requires: stronger equal-pay protections that guarantee women’s labor will not be discounted because of leftover assumptions that they are likely to be supported by husbands; a higher federally mandated minimum wage, which would help to alleviate the burdens of poverty on America’s hardest and least-well-remunerated workers; a national health-care system that covers reproductive intervention, so that those who want to terminate pregnancies or have babies on their own or wait until they are older to do so are able to avail themselves of the best medical technologies; more affordable housing for single people, perhaps subsidized and with attendant tax breaks for single dwellers who choose to live in smaller, environmentally friendly spaces; criminal-justice reforms that address and correct the injustices of our contemporary carceral state; government-subsidized day-care programs; federally mandated paid family leave for both women and men who have new children or who need to take time off to care for ailing family members; universal paid-sick-day compensation, regardless of gender, circumstance, or profession; increases rather than continual decreases in welfare benefits; reduced college costs and quality early-education programs. Come to think of it, these policies would benefit lots of people who are not single women as well.
None of this is easy, or likely to happen quickly, especially not with a Republican-led Congress. But it is the beginning of a new kind of relationship between American women and their government. Single women are taking up space in a world that was not designed for them. They make up a new republic, a new category of citizen. If the country is to flourish, we must make room for free women, and let go of the economic and social systems built around the presumption that no woman really counts unless she is married.”
I'm the author of the cult hit book Quirkyalone and To-Do List and a life coach who helps quirky, creative women and self-aware men. I'm also the founder of the Tango Adventure in Buenos Aires.
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Sasha Cagen is the author of the cult favorite Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. Her work as an author, life coach for women and entrepreneur has been featured everywhere from NPR and the New York Times to CNN and Vogue.
In her well-loved newsletter going to thousands of women and men who identify with "quirkyalone," Sasha is the voice for people who don't want to settle--in any area of life.
In her coaching practice, Sasha helps smart, successful women (and sensitive, self-aware men) get clear on what they really want and then to achieve their goals while always helping her clients focus on core issues such as self-worth.
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