The To Do List: A teenage girl having sex without punishment

images-1I once read an interview with author Judy Blume, where she said that one of the reasons she wrote “Forever” was for her daughter, who said she wanted to read a book about a teenage girl losing her virginity without getting pregnant or getting an STI or worst of all, dying.

“Forever” was published in 1975, and remains on the banned book list because way too many people still think any story about a teenage girl losing her virginity needs to include her getting punished for it.

Sadly, stories like it still aren’t that common almost 40 years later.

But stories about boys losing their virginity without some gruesome consequence? There are plenty of those, and lots of them have been put on film. From “Risky Business” to “Porky’s” to “American Pie” to “The Girl Next Door,” boys have, and continue to, get it on with gusto and live happily ever after.

That’s why “The To Do List,” written and directed by Maggie Carey and starring Aubrey Plaza, is such a nice change.

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How to Have a Feminist Valentine’s Day

The incessant marketing would lead you to believe that Valentine’s Day is about romance and love. But it creates more anxiety for couples and singles alike than any other holiday. So, here’s a refresher on how to survive V-Day, feminism (and self-esteem) in tact:

Don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, celebrate the love in your life. This could mean the person you’re with, of course, but it could also mean your best friend, your mom, or your dog. Those who give you support, kindness, an always-there shoulder to cry on, and even tail-wagging every time you enter the room deserve to know how much you care for them more often than one day a year. And that goes double for the person with whom you’re partnered.

Reject all forms of consumerism tied into this holiday. Not only does no one even need chocolate, roses or jewelry, but supporting these industries this time of year further propogates the idea that coupled love is the only kind of love that matters—and that women should be the ones receiving these trinkets for their service as lovers to men.

Stop watching The Bachelor. Reality television that casts women as desperate for love and willing to do anything to “win” a man—as if it were the ultimate accomplishment a woman could ever make in her lifetime—are bad for feminism and also just bad.

Support the real V-day. It began as a play about vaginas and has turned into one of the biggest social movements to end violence against women through education and political activism. More than a billion women experience violence every day around the world. Doing something about that—even something as simple as signing the petition here, or joining the Twitter conversation, here—is an act of love even Cupid couldn’t conjure.

Feminist Dating Resolutions for the New Year

Look, we’re not going to tell you how to date, who to date or that you even need to date. But if you’re looking for love, it’s worth looking for it in the right places—and going about it the right way. Here are some  ideas to consider for the New Year.

By Kristin Tschannen

Listen for Real Compliments. Start paying attention to what a potential love interest is really saying. There is a significant difference between a pick up line and an authentic compliment or question. Any lover you are considering bringing into your life should want to know the real you. He or she will admire your zest for life or your passion for travel; your family and the things that are important to you and make you smile.

Don’t Male Bash. Straight women, say it with us: Men are not the enemy! Leave your past disappointments and negative, preconceived notions about men and dating in 2012. It’s not only counterproductive to your efforts, but its downright unfeminist. We need men on our sides—in the board room and the bedroom—to make the kind of progress we still need to make. Start the New Year with a positive outlook in love.

Set Standards that Matter. Throw tall, dark, and handsome out the window and call in smart, funny, and spontaneous or any qualities you deem important in a potential love interest. Seek fit and a chemistry that keeps you buzzing. Date men who understand what it means to be a feminist woman and one who isn’t afraid of letting you know he’s a feminist man. Date men who have no problem talking to you about sex and are mature enough to have open communication and want an equal partnership. Then hold up a mirror and make sure you’re following the same standards.

Stay Single If You Want to Stay Single. Tons of alone time, a schedule beholden to no one, and the freedom to be as selfish as you want to be doesn’t exactly suck—especially if a little “me” time is what you really need right now. The New Year is a great time to start focusing on your relationship with You. You can surround yourself with people who really stoke your fire and who you can focus on having fun with. This is the time in your life to travel and have adventures and meet new people (see how non-sucky this is?). Don’t put expectations on your relationships with people; let them unfold naturally and enjoy it!

Open Relationships: Feminist or Not?

Putting ourselves first in life and love can lead to a happier, healthier existence. Namely, because it allows us to be ourselves. But when this translates to a romance without borders—call it polyamory or an open relationship—does the same satisfaction ring true? We weigh the pros and cons of an open relationship from a feminist perspective.


Some women feel that to settle is to sacrifice. One woman I talked to said, “Open relationships are empowering.” She’s been in one for three years and counting. She describes a sense of liberation, and though she and her partner rarely venture outside of their primary relationship, she says being able to openly discuss and partake in experiences with others promotes a higher level of honesty, a deeper understanding of one another, and brings them closer as a couple.

Researcher estimates indicate that 30 to 60 percent of married people are guilty of cheating on their spouse.  With statistics like that, it makes one wonder if it’s even biologically possible to be completely fulfilled—sexually, physically, and mentally—by one person for a lifetime. Not everyone takes their coffee the same way, why should we accept that everyone wants the same things when it comes to relationships? Understanding that choice is the power.

Open relationships are no different than casual dating. In fact, one woman in a traditional relationship described her opinion of open relationships as “renting versus owning” in the sense that people in them seem to be with one another out of convenience and are not willing to put down roots just in case something better comes along.

When some venture outside of a relationship, it’s often on a quest for something they’re not getting. A little bit of self-reflection may be what’s in order, not a string of one night stands. It’s important that couples look at what each partner is, or is not, bringing to the table by way of mental and physical stimulation and try to understand why each is not being satisfied. If it’s fixable, fix it together. If it’s not, everyone is better off by moving on.

– Kristin Tschannen

A Love Letter to the Men of New York

You may have heard any number of unflattering things about New York’s male dating pool—their slacker attitudes, their commitmentphobia, their lack of ability to plan a date beyond drinks in a bar. But as a woman who just moved to New York City from Los Angeles, I’d like to openly declare my love for the men of New York, and to come to their defense. Men of New York, you give me the impression that I’ve finally made it to the dating big leagues.  In the four months that I’ve been dating here, I’ve found a refreshing maturity and sense of character in the men I’ve been meeting and I’m afraid there’s no going back.

There are women in LA who argue that men there are more adventurous than men in other parts of the country, that they’re young at heart and a blast to date. These women enjoy dating the dreamers and find that men in New York are too serious and obsessed with their work.  There have been women here in New York who look at me with shock and horror when I relate my positive outlook on the scene here.  It’s possible I am having such a unique experience because I’m starting over in a new place and therefore radiating a positive energy of optimism, freedom, and fearlessness.  A fistful of great guy friends have confirmed this: Men can read that energy from a mile away and are drawn to it. If there’s a real lesson to be drawn from my experience, that’s probably it. It’s crucial to be happy with myself; to respect myself, love myself, and treat myself the way I’d want or expect any man to. It’s just as important to follow my heart as it is independently of a man.  If I feel like living in New York, I’m not going to wait for a man to take me there, I’m going to be on the move.

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Sexy Feminists Read: ‘The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies’

Need we say anything beyond that awesome title? Just in case, we’ll add that Lynn Messina‘s adorable mocku-relationship book/chicklit novel (buy it here!) takes place in a near future when a virus has turned “99.9999 percent of human males into zombies,” thus making dating … challenging. We talked to her about books for ladies, zombies, vampires, and challenging relationships.

Since you wrote about being a “chicklit” author for us, first we’ll ask: Is this chicklit?

On one level, it’s absolutely chick lit. I self-consciously and intentionally hit every chick lit convention I could think of. But I poked fun at them too. For example, my characters frequently drop the names of famous designers, but they are the most ridiculous names I could think of. So I’m not sure if something can be the thing and the thing it satirizes at the same time.
And how do you think that market has changed in the time since you wrote Fashionistas?
Publishers would have me believe that the chick lit market has completely dried up since Fashionistas. My manuscripts have been roundly rejected for being chick lit at a moment when chick lit no longer sells. In the meantime, I think readers have gotten more sophisticated. When chick lit blew up, publishers increased their output to the point where they couldn’t sustain quality. Readers figured that out quickly enough and grew suspicious and scornful of the label, a label that, to be fair, invited a fair amount of scorn all on its own. I’m not sure where the market is now–whether the backlash is still in full force or starting to recede. Personally, I’m trying my darnedest to create a backlash against the backlash. How am I doing?

Sexy Feminists Read: ‘Much Ado About Loving’

A dating blogger and a PhD in medieval and renaissance literature picked through the best of novels new and old to glean the relationship lessons held within, and the result, Much Ado About Loving, breaks it all down for you. Being passionate readers and obsessive relationship analyzers, we couldn’t wait to pick it up — and talk to co-author Maura Kelly, a seasoned relationship writer (and the onetime dating blogger in the pair), about her heroic efforts with Jack Murnighan to bring us love advice from the likes of Gatsby and Jane Eyre.

Why look at old novels for wisdom about relationships?
Because the real experts on love have been around for a while! There’s a reason why great novels are embraced generation after generation; it’s because their insights ring true through the decades and centuries. The great novelists are so great because of the timeless lessons they impart. There’s plenty we moderns can learn from them.

Learning How To Date When You’re A Divorced Mother

I’ll be upfront and say that this whole dating thing is really weird for me. I got married at 20 to my college boyfriend and split up 16 years later, now with two kids. The dating I did in my teens couldn’t really be called dating. And my marriage was a dysfunctional mess that started off with bad dynamics that only got worse. As my therapist reminded me, by the time I was 36 I needed to spend a lot of time learning about myself, the kind of life I wanted and what kind of partner I wanted to go with that. That’s been easier said than done.

Since the split I’ve made plenty of time for sex but not really for dating. I figured out pretty early on that I needed sex on a sort of maintenance level to offset the stresses of my job and raising two preteens. It took a while for me to open that door but once I did I had no problem finding willing partners, mostly men I’d already known. But in order to do so, they had to accept the the terms of my relationship: You take what little time I can squirrel away from work and kids, and you never meet my children.

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Girl Kisses (and More) In TV and Film: A 20-Year Retrospective

It’s been twenty years since two women first kissed on a prime time television series. (To find out which show, read on.)

So to celebrate, here’s a brief chronology of girls-who-like-girls characters in TV and film. While many such story lines are produced to merely titillate audiences (see Virginia Heffernan’s 2005 New York Times article on television series using lesbian subplots during sweeps week), I can’t deny that these shows also opened up a larger dialogue in our culture. Here are some of the most positive examples of girl love from the past two decades:

1991: L.A. Law delivers the first on-screen girl-on-girl kiss in the episode, “He’s a Crowd.” Here’s how it goes down: Abby and C.J. (played by Michele Greene and Amanda Donohue, respectively) share a meal together after Abby is turned down for a partnership at the firm. Afterward, they kiss outside in a parking lot. C.J. identifies herself as “flexible” (possibly the first character to ever use that term on television) while Abby considers herself completely heterosexual. Although this subplot doesn’t go very far (and was mostly used as a ratings ploy), I have no doubt that without it the list that follows probably wouldn’t exist.

1996: While the ten-year run of Friends did not primarily feature a lesbian relationship, the episode known as “The One With the Lesbian Wedding” is quite a milestone. Long before the legalization of gay marriage and civil unions, Carol and Susan walked down the aisle and declared their love in a relatively traditional ceremony. On a particularly sweet note, Ross, Carol’s ex, offers to give her away in lieu of her father who disapproved of the marriage.

1997: Ellen DeGeneres as Ellen Morgan comes out on Ellen in the now-infamous “Puppy Episode.” While the show’s ratings suffered and DeGeneres’s own personal revelation that she is gay set off a major backlash, it wasn’t long before she was back on top—hosting the Emmys in 2001, performing a new stand-up comedy routine on HBO, and of course, launching her daytime talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Oh and need I mention marrying one of the most gorgeous women alive, Portia De Rossi? She’s also a Cover Girl—which is both a milestone and an awesome slap in the face to her critics.

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Sexy Feminists Read: Anna David’s ‘Falling for Me’

In Anna David’s new memoir, Falling for Me, the author sets out to find the empowering side of being single by following the advice set forth in Helen Gurley Brown’s groundbreaking 1962 book Sex and the Single Girl. So should we be living more like women in the ’60s? We talked to David (whose book launch we’re sponsoring in New York City Oct. 10) about that — and why it’s still so hard to be single.

You recently ignited a bit of a blogger controversy by asserting in a post that “women had it better in the ’60s.” Do you really think women had it better then, hands down? Or just in certain ways?

Definitely just in certain ways. Which is what I said in the piece! But I get that when people want to pick a fight with you — or are, say, angered simply by the title of your piece — they don’t see words that might minimize their vitriol. My point was that I wish women would stop making statements about things that don’t matter. I love Gloria Steinem and am incredibly grateful for all that she’s done, but for her to go around making a stink about the Playboy Club TV show when everyone knew the show was terrible and wasn’t going to make any kind of cultural impact seems silly. Instead, I’d rather she talk about things that do matter and we can change, like how judgmental and cruel women can be to one another simply because we always see each other as competition.

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