What I learned from going viral on Twitter

Content Advisory: Suicide, graphic images, harassment.

I don’t really tweet all that much. I’ve had my Twitter account for years, but it hasn’t been something I’ve been really interested in until very recently. And even recently, it’s not a huge priority to me. I tweet sporadically, contributing to hashtags or commiserating with friends on occasion. I don’t even have 300 followers as of this posting.

Ten days ago I posted the following to Twitter in an effort to support the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag. I posted other things to, but, as you can see, this one got just a little more attention.

Pretty much immediately after posting it, I was inundated with tweets from trolls and internet abusers. And I wasn’t the only person to receive abuse over this. The originator of the hashtag, Amelia Bonow, was forced to go into hiding after the hashtag went viral. Which I guess just goes to show that the “pro life” set really is more “pro-birth” than pro actual human life.

At any rate, the first abuse that I saw was an image of a man holding severed heads sent to me by Twitter user @TwerkingSpider [GRAPHIC original tweet behind hyperlink]. I immediately reported and blocked him. I have since been told by Twitter that his message was “not in violation of the Twitter Rules.” Which I just… don’t get. Their rules specifically say you cannot threaten people, and I’m not sure how sending someone a picture of decapitated heads does not constitute a “threat.” But maybe I’m just being over-sensitive, right? There’s such a thing as a friendly beheading, right? Right?

Of course, it didn’t end there. There were other tweets telling me I was basically an ugly dude and that I should kill myself. Which, coming from supposedly “pro-life” people was just… confusing and enraging.

There were loads more. Luckily, I went on vacation and missed a lot of it. I also had cool people around me who told me about how to block the majority of the yuckiness.

I learned a lot in the few days that my tweet exploded. I learned that people on the internet do not know how to use basic logic when it conflicts with their opinions. I learned that the ease of tweeting lends itself to all manner of repulsive insults and hurtful words being slung about. And I learned that answering those people with ridiculous questions and comments like “ARE YOU A RIDDLE?” and “LEARN LOGIC.” brought me no small measure of joy.

There were two big things that the people arguing with me seem to have trouble dealing with.

  1. Bodily autonomy: fetuses are not more valuable than adults.
    • I know it’s hard to grasp, but a fetus does not have a right to live at the expense of the body of another person any more than a fully grown human does. If I have cancer and the only thing that can save me is your bone marrow, you cannot be compelled to give it to me. No matter how sick I am.
      I think the fact that fetuses cannot speak for themselves is the thing that gets a lot of people with this one. And I get it, you want to speak for the silent masses of developing blastocysts or whatever. That’s fine. But the fact of the matter is, even if they could talk, they would not have any more of a right to life than I would, dying of cancer because you didn’t want to give me your bone marrow.
  2. Abortion has always existed. And will always exist. Because sex is fun.
    • Sex is super fun. It’s true. People have been banging for the fun of it for ages and ages. Hell, the Romans drove silphium to extinction with their need for birth control to manage family size. This isn’t new information. It’s not a shockingly revolutionary societal development like lolcats or something. Society didn’t wake up one day and become this loose moral ground where people can bang whoever they want. People have always banged whoever they want. Acting like it’s a surprise just makes you sound like a totally disconnected idealist who doesn’t get how the world works. Or, you know, genitals.
      Since sex for funsies has always existed, so has birth control, and so has abortion. The difference between abortion now and abortion at the beginning of human civilization is that, not unlike childbirth, women have a better chance of surviving it now.

For the most part, I don’t have many friends who will argue with the rightness of a woman’s right to choose for herself whether to continue with a pregnancy. But I’d like to take a moment for the one friend who I had before the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag went up that did, apparently, stand in the opposing camp.

She’s religious, of course. And she has an issue with abortion. The strange thing for me is that, years ago, before she got married, she and I had a conversation about abortion, the end result of which was her stating that she was, in fact, “pro-choice.” Because even if she wouldn’t get one herself, she wasn’t the sort of person to stand in front of the rights of other women to a safe and healthy medical procedure that was perfectly legal.

Now, though, things have changed. I don’t know if she was merely paying lip service to me before, or if being married to someone who works for the Archdiocese changed her viewpoints. I can’t say either way. Needless to say, we got into a long conversation about my tweet and her views on abortion. I’m going to take the main thrust of our discussion and spin it out here for you.

In my original tweet, I re-posted an image talking about bodily autonomy, which is my chief reasoning behind my stance as pro-choice, as well as one of my core principles generally. The reason I say that I “had” this friend before we had this debate is that, during it, she called the autonomy argument “silly.” I have a couple of problems with that. The first of which being that the right of everyone on this planet to control what happens to their body is at the core of my system of beliefs about the world. The second of which is that, legally, our bodily autonomy is very important. It’s one of the things that makes rape illegal. Or assault. Consent and all of it’s trappings are important and valuable components of our legal system.

All in all, the conversation did not go well. But it made me think. And it made me realize that, if you do not value the autonomy of others and their ability to make the medical choices that are right for them and follow through with them safely, I can’t really be friends with you. That’s a line in the sand that I am more than willing to draw. And one that will happily stand by.

So #ShoutYourAbortion, my loves. Shout because it is nothing you should be ashamed of. Shout because you made the right decision. Shout because one day, the act of you shouting will not be something to be frightened of.

On flibanserin: The story of how low desire is stigmatized.

The FDA has approved drug flibanserin for use combating women’s low sex drive. At first, this seems almost like a victory for women’s sexual health. After all, Viagra and drugs like it have been around for a long time. However, there have been serious concerns raised by the drug across the board.

The first glaring issue lies with the name that has been ascribed to it. “Female Viagra.” Flibanserin does not do what Viagra does for men. Viagra lets you get your dick hard. Flibanserin is actually an anti-depressant that is designed to treat women’s brains in order to help them enjoy sex. Specifically, it treats hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), also referred to as inhibited sexual desire (ISD). And honestly, I have to wonder why they did not go ahead and create a drug that has a more immediate sexual effect. Maybe something to help women who have gone through menopause to self-lubricate, for example?

But the real problem for me lies in the diagnosis of HSDD in itself. Millions of women are diagnosed with it every year in this country. HSDD is defined by the University of Maryland Medical Center as:

…a low level of sexual interest. A person with ISD will not start, or respond to their partner’s desire for, sexual activity.

ISD can be primary (in which the person has never felt much sexual desire or interest), or secondary (in which the person used to feel sexual desire, but no longer does).

ISD can also relate to the partner (the person with ISD is interested in other people, but not his or her partner), or it can be general ( the person with ISD isn’t sexually interested in anyone). In the extreme form of sexual aversion, the person not only lacks sexual desire, but may find sex repulsive.

So I have a problem with this on a couple of levels.

First of all, if someone has a low level of sexual desire, it’s not necessarily a problem that needs to be fixed. Just like some people sweat more than others or don’t like loud music in the mornings, some people just aren’t focused on or interested in sexual activity.

The fact that HSDD is included in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) stigmatizes low sex drive and makes it seem as though people who don’t want to have as much sex as others are somehow dysfunctional. They’re not. And treating them as if they are perpetuates the myth of their stigma in their intimate sexual relationships and can lead to all kinds of issues inter-personally as well as within themselves.

Honestly, it seems to me that, by stigmatizing low sex drive, we are making it so that people perceive themselves as somehow not good enough for their partners, which leads to them seeking psychological help rather than accepting that they might not necessarily ever have a high sex drive and looking for a partner who doesn’t demand copious amounts of sex from them.

The cherry on top of this suck sunday? The side effects. Viagra’s side effects are, for the most part fairly minor, including such things as dizziness, headache, flushing, or stomach upset, the side-effects of flibanserin include low blood pressure, nausea, and fainting. And, unlike Viagra, which is taken only when needed, flibanserin is, at it’s root, an anti-depressant and must be taken daily.

So thanks, FDA, for pretending that you actually give a fuck about research into the sexual health of women. It’s clear that you don’t. I hope that no one takes this drug and it winds up banished to the annuls of history like the shitty, exploitative, damaging product that it truly is.

Being a “Real” Anything

Today I had a mini-kerfluffle on the internet. The topic doesn’t matter, really. But in that kerfluffle I was accused of not being a “real” fan because I hadn’t watched all of a particular show. I found myself bristling at the accusation even as I acknowledged that the opinion of some person on the internet as to the realness of my appreciation for a certain thing was a non-issue.

The contrast between the feeling of having to defend one’s fandom and the knowledge that it shouldn’t matter is something that I see myself and other fans struggle with all the time. Recently I even had a friend tell me that she was nervous to start watching the Star Wars franchise movies for the first time because she worried that she “wouldn’t like them right.”

I was aghast.

What is the “right” way to like something?

Listen, I know that there are a lot of people who froth about this thing or that thing not being canon and not really wanting to deal with certain aspects of a fandom. I have been guilty of doing that. I hated the treatment of the second trilogy of Star Wars films, for example.

But even I acknowledge that things change. And that people who did not grow up with the Star Wars films of my childhood are not going to bond with them in the same way that I do. That’s just the nature of the beast. It’s the nature of time and childhood and loving things differently than other people do.

And here’s the thing that I have learned over the last couple of years: It’s really awesome when other people love things in a different way than you do. Because I would never think of publishing a cook book based on a fandom that I love. I would never think to make little plushies or dress in costume or do any of a number of other awesome things that other fans do. And the fact that they do those things makes me endlessly happy.

Even more than that, when I introduce someone to a new thing that I love, I’m guaranteed to find out something I never knew about the person I’m introducing. I’m also guaranteed to be introduced to a new way of looking at something that I love. And that’s a GOOD thing.

The pressure around being “real” extends beyond just fandoms and nerd culture and what have you. Take it from someone who took forever to figure out her sexuality. For a really long time, I wasn’t sure if I was a “real” queer person. Even now there’s a whole lot of baggage that I’m sorting out around being a “real” lesbian. It’s hard. And it only gets harder when other people call your identity into question.

So here’s what I’m going to say.

You’re real. You are whatever you feel like you are. And don’t let anyone tell you any different.

P.S. Being creative this week has been super hard. So thanks for reading. Struggling with the whole “real” writer thing over here. Sigh.