Thursday, June 11, 2009

Our Not So Secret Lives

The post-exam glow has resulted in this protracted opinion on something most of you will not care about. Read on anyway.

Our Not So Secret Lives is a semi-fictional (I think) blog, whose link I got from Sara, about four teenagers(?) on life, love and sex. The site has a disclaimer saying the 'characters and events have been dramatised, but the issues are real'. As far as I can see, that could mean anything from artistic license on the storytelling to a complete fabrication of details. The entries cover only the month of February in which drama unfolds, following which they hold a blogging contest for people to draft the 'ending' of the story. Forgive me if I highly doubt the authenticity of everything in it after that O.o

But I don't care about that. The posts are witty; the layout and the graphics pretty and pleasing to the eye. All said and done, it was an entertaining read.

On the whole however, some things grated on me. Spoilers below, don't go further if you want to read the blog for yourself.

I think it's safe to say, taking into account the semi-fiction and dramatisation, that this blog means to tell a story. A story with moral lessons. Jesse and Ellie are best friends even though they are polar opposites. It doesn't take a genius to realize that they have been paralleled with each other for their differing views on sex and life in general: conservative and liberal. The issue addressed being repercussions in the form of HIV.

So one day, Ellie with the active sex life receives a phone call telling her that her ex is HIV-positive. She then has to wait out a whole month to get tested, and her fate is at the whims of the contestant blogging the 'ending'. Cue the agony and pseudo-philosophical reflections, courtesy of Jesse. Only two of the four blog - the two being the chaste couple Jesse and Trey - although it also chronicles Ellie's HIV ordeal and her rocky relationship with Cameron (the fourth dude).

Okay, I get that HIV is very real and very serious. I know it is The issue the creators of the blog were trying to introduce, but I just didn't like the way it was presented. Call them pet peeves if you will, but it ruined the whole thing for me.

1. Ellie, in her video profile, shamelessly and haughtily proclaims to have liberal views about sex. And really, they're not even all that radical. Sex is fun. Girls can enjoy sex. Guys talk about it all the time, girls can too. It all sounds good and pretty vanilla to me. So how the hell does all that translate to promiscuity? Because that was definitely what Trey's (and possibly even Jesse's) thoughts hinted at. From what I can gauge, she was sexually active yes, but she had regular boyfriends, which probably meant she had sex with her boyfriends (only?). Far from the casual hook-up with strangers her behaviour was being amounted to. Moral panic much?

2. When she finds out she might have gotten HIV from her ex , her boyfriend Cameron rages at her, seemingly not because she might have transmitted it to him, but because she had the nerve to get it (I assume he's well-aware of her views on sex). He calls slut. I call wtf? Cameron's response to the news was nothing short of hypocritical (assuming he was sexually active as well) and callous, yet it was all taken in stride, as if he had the right of it. Talk about condoning slut-shaming.

3. Trey admits to having less-than-sympathetic thoughts about Ellie's predicament, hinting that she may have deserved it for all her 'Beverley Hills lifestyle'. Harsh and possibly true, but this just takes the cake. It puts his prejudiced views into perspective, and it's really jarring how it appears that Ellie is the only one being blamed here (and in all his posts). No mention of her irresponsible ex. No mention of Cameron's presumably equally active sex life. Way to prove a double standard.

All those underlying stereotypes and double standards are only hinted at, but they are confirmed in the blog's choice of 'ending' to the story. In fact, the direction that Our Not So Secret Lives was intending to take couldn't be clearer from it. The winning blog entry completely sums up what they were trying to say, in less witty prose: No Ellie doesn't have HIV, but she reforms - no more 'casual unprotected sex' and 'wild sexcapades' she says!

Funny how I haven't seen any reference to said sexcapades in the previous entries, but since they did pick the entry, I suppose it must be congruent with their own idea of Ellie The Slut. The blog has managed to shy away from calling her one outright so far, but they don't deny the impression it has given readers, because it's evidently what they meant all along. Meanwhile Jesse says, 'I am a virgin and proud of it! Not many people can say that nowadays.' Because yknow, virginity is a commodity.

4. They appear to advocate safe sex in words, but there is no discussion or mention whatsoever of Ellie's sexual practices. We are not privy to whether she has been safe, or even if she has been indiscriminate in her choice of partners, only that she is having sex. That pretty much rounds up what the issue here is, doesn't it? She's having sex, that's obviously the problem.

There's no question that the real message here is abstinence. Oh come on, juxtaposing sweet, virginal Jesse who gets her guy with highly-sexual Ellie who risks HIV and loses her guy (in the chosen ending)? Rather akin to hitting me over the head with a sledgehammer, I think. The whole pleasure-has-consequences and HIV issues examined here are directed to girls, and it shows. Isn't it interesting how abstinence is always associated with girls? That the views being examined here are female-centric? What I would give for a male perspective...

I'm not even saying 'save yourself for marriage' because there's no mention about that here, only an overwhelming feeling of Sex Can't Result In Anything Good. It's good that they're bringing up the issue of HIV and how it may very well pervade our normal, it-won't-happen-to-me lives. I just think they could've handled it better than plain ol' 'Girls, don't have sex'.

Edit: There was quite a bit of a lag between my reading the blog and my writing this post (which I did off the top of my head), so it is possible that I may have gotten some facts wrong. If you've read it and noticed any, do comment and let me know :)

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Firsts

I have come to a tentative conclusion about sex and girls.

The first time for a girl will probably not be all that pleasant; highly unlikely in fact. I just don't see any way around it, unless the guy's like...the lover of all lovers or something (sex slave! rawr). So you ask, what's in it for us? My answer: the sense of deep connection and intimacy inherent in the act itself. In other words, the girl will need to at least have some degree of affection for the guy (or have a damned good lover) to make it palatable. Admittedly good firsts are not necessary for her to eventually come to enjoy sex, but they're still a wall to punch through.

What I mean is, everyone knows sex doesn't equate to love. Still, it's easier for guys to indulge in that philosophy, because it's easier for them to enjoy it. Oh I imagine foreplay will be lots of fun, but the actual penetration... Unless it feels good, or the guy is caring or cared for, I can't see how she'll come out of it feeling it was worthwhile (in more ways than one).You can see where I'm going here. I'm not saying all girls should do it with someone they love, just rationalizing away one of the reasons why it might seem that girls tend to be touchy-feely about sex.

And when I put it that way, it seems more practical than foolish sentiment, no?

But then I realize I know very little on this subject anyway. Perhaps the girl experiments and knows her own body well enough to achieve orgasm without significant help from said guy (for their first time). Then it's a different matter from there.