Vicariously living through my characters

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A while back now I posted a teaser from a story I’m working on, focused on a guy and girl – Chris and Emily – who finally get up the courage to give in to the sexual tension that has been building between them for two years.  Both were in relationships so never did more than flirt (okay, there was ONE kiss), but then it comes out both are single and one thing leads to another.

You can read the two part teaser here (part 1) and here (part 2)

The story has moved on and in a move that isn’t exactly uncommon for me, they are dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.  Emily and Chris agree that having an abortion is the best option for them, they have, after all,  only been seeing each other on a (monogamous) casual (very regular) basis, are still (relatively) young and have a lot they want to experience before they think of settling down and having children.

This is a situation I have personally experienced and like the characters in this story, I made the decision to have an abortion because it was ‘what was best’, according to society, according to all the ‘rules’, according to what everyone else would say was best for me, and for my baby.  Throughout the whole experience I convinced myself an abortion was right because… well, because it was what everyone else said was right.  I blanked off and stopped myself thinking about what I truly wanted.  I was only 18, how could I possibly know what was best for myself?

So I went through with the abortion.  It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was what was ‘right’, right?

Wrong.

It wasn’t the right thing for me and because of it I have suffered emotional trauma that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  Even 13 1/2 years on, I am still dealing with it (albeit a lot better than in the past!), and from the start I’ve known I needed to incorporate an abortion storyline into a story of mine.

To start with it was going to be a general fiction story, then I began accepting that the type of fiction I enjoyed writing was erotica, and so it was to become the part of an erotic romance story.  This was going to be the story.  Emily and Chris were going to get pregnant and decide to have an abortion.  I was going to write about the pressure the abortion placed on their relationship, it was going to be about their journey, trying to find their ‘new normal’ together.

I couldn’t write it though. I just couldn’t.  I couldn’t let Emily go through with an abortion that I, as her creator, knew she didn’t really want to have… even though that was the whole point of the story and of the character.  I wanted her to go through what I through, so I could use the story as a form of therapy, as a way to finally get my thoughts surrounding my abortion out on paper.  Creative cleansing, if you will.

On its own, the story went down the path I wish I had gone down in ‘real life’, and I found/find myself living vicariously through Emily, and wishing I had had a Chris in my life at the time of my own unplanned pregnancy.

By the time I found out I was pregnant, my ex and I had broken up.  I told him about the pregnancy and to start with we were going to keep the baby, but two days later he told me he thought I should have an abortion and rattled off a list of reasons why.  I gave in.  He didn’t go to the abortion with me, didn’t even ask me afterward how it had gone.  We didn’t speak about it until close to a year later, when he admitted to me that he hadn’t actually wanted me to have the abortion, but didn’t say anything to me because he thought it was what I wanted.  On he continued, telling me he thought about our baby a lot, wondered what he’d have looked like, etc etc etc… sad fact was, the way he had been feeling was the way I had been feeling.  It broke my heart to know that if we had communicated properly the abortion probably wouldn’t have happened.

All of this fed into the character of Chris and his middle of the night confession that he didn’t want Emily to have an abortion.  It is the conversation I so badly wish I had had with my ex.

Emily and Chris are the scenario I wish had played out for me, back in 2001.

Life isn’t going to be easy for them, perhaps because I know that if I had continued my pregnancy, life would likely have been damn hard, certainly not all baby smiles and laughter, but it would have been life with my baby… the life I wanted.

I don’t know that it is healthy per’se, to live vicariously through my characters… but I have found that when it comes to writing, you aren’t always in charge of where the story takes you!

(if you are interested in the scene in question, I have just added it, you can read it here)

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Sex positive parenting: the book we are going to burn

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My wife and I are huge book lovers, the word ‘bibliophile’ definitely comes to mind.  On top of this, we are also very sex(uality) positive when it comes to parenting, both wanting our four children to grow up with a healthy understanding of sex and sexuality, theirs and in general.  Our eldest daughter is 11 now and is going through puberty; she loves reading puberty books, demolishes the damn things, then reads them two, three, four more times… and a month later will get them out from the library again.  It got to the point we ended up buying the books for her.

A few months back we were in our regular secondhand bookshop, perusing the shelves full of booky potential.  I came across a hardcover book – ‘Questions Kids Ask about Sex: Honest answers for every age’, Melissa R. Cox (ed) – and thought HEY!  THAT SOUNDS FUCKING BRILLIANT!  I checked inside and saw it was published in 2005 – great – the information would be relatively up to date and would probably be from a modern viewpoint.  It was $3.00, I had to get it!

Home we came.  Into the bookshelf the book went.  Forgotten it was.

For whatever reason, my wife got it out of the bookshelf… the next thing I heard from her was a gasp of dismay.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.  She began reading :

Masturbation isn’t inherently physically damaging unless excessive force or instruments are used; however it can be emotionally destructive and even become a substitute for relational intimacy in marriage.  Your child should understand that masturbation can become addictive and he can lessen the risk for this addiction by having an honest sex education grounded in the values of abstinence until marriage…. In addition you should strongly encourage him to avoid the use of pornography, drugs, and alcohol if he wishes to avoid the consequences associated with becoming addicted to masturbation.  If you’ve discovered (or heard) your child masturbating… remind him of the dangers of pornography; obsessive, all-consuming masturbation; and group masturbation.  (pg 147)

I wasn’t sure I had heard right, but she then went on to read another juicy little segment, leaving me with my mouth wide open, looking at her in shock.  What the hell?  How could such a book be in our house?  Only a few weeks ago I posted on this very blog about why women should embrace masturbation, and here this book was, explaining just how evil it is, listing numerous reasons to encourage your child not to masturbate.

Notice the use of the pronoun ‘him‘?  I guess girls don’t masturbate, right?  Nor would they look at pornography.  Na ah, as a 16 year-old no way did I masturbate, and I have never ever ever EVER looked at porn.  Yeah right!

After my wife had flicked through it she threw it at me (literally threw it) and told me to have a read before we burnt it.  Yes.  We are going to burn this book.

Not only is masturbation addictive, so is pornography.  Here is a handy little hint for what to say to your son if you catch him looking at porn:

Pornography is the stimulation of sexual curiosity and drive outside the bounds of a healthy, nurturing marriage relationship with a real person; in effect, it can become a substitute for healthy relationships and become addictive.  In fact, anything that takes the place of a healthy relationship will, by nature, become addictive.  (pg 145)

Porn though, as well as being addictive, is a harmful marriage killer!

While pornography is harmful to single men, for married men, it’s a marriage killer.  Simply put, pornography destroys an individual’s ability to be satisfied with sex with a real person and puts a spouse in an unfair competition. (pg 190)

Yeap, that’s the truth, anything that makes you feel good is bad for you, mmmkay?  *I am now rolling my eyes and scowling*

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Speaking of things that feel good being bad for you, anal sex is a big no go, did you know that

Anal sex is never a healthy behaviour, not even in marriage. (pg 191)

And loosely related to the subjec of anal sex…

Homosexual curiosity doesn’t mean you’re homosexual.  Feelings and attractions aren’t always under one’s control.  Behaviour choices are controllable.  Choosing to engage in homosexual behaviour can be physically emotional and dangerous. (pg 201)

And then we have some pearls of wisdom from the ‘Abstinence is Attainable’ easy reference box

Don’t let your teen be home alone with the opposite sex – after school or anytime!
Remind your daughter that how she dresses will communicate to guys the type of girl she is.
Have a man (dad, uncle, grandpa) discuss with your daughter what turns guys on. (pg 177)

But what about when he (or she!) puts a ring on it?

Is there any danger in having sex while I’m engaged?
The engagement is a time for a couple to get professional counselling to uncover any basic problems that are likely to lead to divorce . They either deal with these issues or cancel the engagement.  Sexual intercourse during this time may mask some basic personality differences that might lead to divorce. (pg 259)

And there is, after all, nothing worse than divorce!  No. Thing.  At. All.  It’s much healthier to stay in a loveless and/or unhealthy marriage!  Chances are if you are considering divorce, you probably had sex while you were engaged.  Bad, bad, BAD you!

I have to say, I also love the way this book remains neutral, particularly when discussing emergency contraception:

The pill can alter the lining of the uterus so that if the first and second actions fail, the tiny baby will die because it cannot attach to the lining of the uterus. (pg 291)

I am absolutely convinced that the wording ‘the tiny baby will die’ won’t evoke any emotional response.  Nope   In no way would it make a young woman feel guilty about considering taking the morning after pill.  It definitely isn’t intended as guilt trip!

As with all books about sex, unplanned pregnancy comes up, and the options are listed in order of preference; (1) adoption, (2) keeping the baby as a single parent, (3) marrying the father of your baby, and finally, the last option – abortion.  Naturally abortion is also dealt with from a very neutral position:

… life begins when the sperm from a male fertilises the egg of a female.  The new life has inherited 23 chromosomes from each parent, 46 in all.  This one cell contains the complex genetic blueprint for every detail of human development – the child’s sex, hair and eye colour, athletic ability, musical ability, and personality.  Then only food and oxygen are needed for the baby to grow from one cell to a seven pound baby nine months later.  The baby’s heart begins to beat on day 21.  By day 22 the foundation for every organ system is established and developing.  At nine weeks, the baby is unmistakably recognised as a human being… While pregnancy can be terminated by an abortion, the memory of the pregnancy will last a lifetime… Abortion isn’t without risks, and complications can and do occur.  Some women are never able to get pregnant in the future, and then you must live with the fact that you ended your one and only pregnancy. (pg 215)

Considering I have had an abortion, this last part really got my hackles up.  It’s enough to get your head around without essentially being told ‘you’ll be murdering a baby, you know that, right?’.  I am pretty sure that each and every woman will understand that by having an abortion she is ending a pregnancy, therefore ending a life – or potential life – depending on the individual woman’s views.  Who cares if you are poor?  Who cares if you are in an abusive relationship?  Who cares if you’re 14?  Who cares if you have dreams?  Who cares if you want to provide a better life for your child than you could even come close to at that point in time?  Who cares about what that child’s life might be like after their 9 months inside?

I think now is a good time to finish this post, because quite frankly, looking at this book is making me feel sick… and it is making me want to throw it at the wall, to burn it; to douse it in petrol, strike a match, toss it on and watch it – and its shitty advice – go up in flames.

After reading it I understand why so many  people have issues with everything related to sex and sexuality.  If this is the type of bullshit fed to kids from an early age (I kid you not, there are techniques for dealing with sex-related issues with INFANTS in this book), no wonder they grow into children, teenagers, young adults and adults with screwed-up ideas about sex and sexuality.  No wonder there are adults who are ashamed of masturbation, no wonder there are couples who argue endlessly about pornography, no wonder there are adults who are ashamed of their bodies, no wonder… ugh, you know what I am getting at.

I am sure there are people who found this book useful, some for whom it is a parenting handbook of sorts… and to be honest, it makes me scared for their children.  Yes, children, teens, young adults need to be educated about sex, they need to know the dangers and risks, they need to be given the tools to make healthy decisions, there NEEDS to be communication… but I don’t know that using scare tactics is the way to go.

Is it right to be telling children (of any age) that masturbation is unhealthy?  That pornography is evil?  That forms of sex are wrong?  That the way a child feels is wrong, or something to be ashamed of?  Quite simply, the answer is no.

It really does scare me that books such as this are in existence – and I guess more than the books – it scares me that these attitudes toward sex exist.  Parenting is by no means easy and I understand the need for this type of book, just not for THIS book in particular.  Luckily there are some really great books out there that are aimed at older children/teens which give a more positive outlook on sex and sexuality.  It is these books our children should be reading, it is the attitudes toward sex and sexuality in such books, that can only have a positive effect on those reading them; that goes for both parents and children.