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ISIS Leaves Beheaded Corpses After Battles In Syria

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What is it like to be buried alive?

Michelina Lewandowska transfixed Leeds crown court this week as she described clawing her way through 10cm or more of soil after allegedly being buried alive in a cardboard box. Little wonder: dread of premature or live burial is, despite its rarity, one of our most potent fears, well amplified by Edgar Allan Poe in stories such as The Premature Burial and The Fall of the House of Usher, and widespread enough to have its own medical name, taphe- (or tapho-) phobia.

According to Jan Bondeson's Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear, live burial was long used as a particularly cruel method of execution: in medieval Italy, murderers who refused to repent were buried alive, a practice referred to in Dante's Inferno. Women convicted of murdering their husbands suffered the same fate – known as "the pit" – in 17th-century Russia, and photos exist of Chinese civilians being buried alive by Japanese soldiers during the Nanking Massacre.

But it is the fear of being buried having been wrongly pronounced dead that alarms us most. Until little more than 100 years ago, medical science meant it was not an altogether irrational concern: among methods advocated for diagnosing death in the 18th century were tickling with a feather quill, whipping with nettles, mouthwashing with urine and sticking needles under the toenails. The wealthy paid their physicians to slit their throats or pierce their hearts before burial.

Horror stories abounded: a pregnant women who gave birth 6ft underground; coffins opened to find corpses with fingertips ravaged by hours of desperate scratching; an aristocratic lady woken in her tomb by a grave-robber trying to chop her hand off for her rings. In 1905, the social reformer William Tebb documented 219 cases of near live burial, and 149 actual cases (horrified, Tebb founded the London Association for the Prevention of Premature Burial and specified before his own death in 1917 that "unmistakable evidence of decomposition" be visible before he was cremated).

To allay people's fears, Victorian inventors in Britain and elsewhere patented coffins with periscope-like breathing tubes and breakable glass panels linked to bells and whistles above ground, and automatic alarm mechanisms that would detect chest movement. And even today, near-mistakes do happen: only last year, a 76-year-old Polish beekeeper, Josef Guzy, certified dead following a heart attack, narrowly escaped being buried alive when a faint pulse was spotted as his coffin was being sealed. Be warned.

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Stop Fem-Splaining: What 'Women Against Feminism' Gets Right

The latest skirmish on the gender battlefield is “Women Against Feminism”: women and girls taking to social media to declare that they don’t need or want feminism, usually via photos of themselves with handwritten placards. The feminist reaction has ranged from mockery to dismay to somewhat patronizing (or should that be “matronizing”?) lectures on why these dissidents are wrong. But, while the anti-feminist rebellion has its eye-rolling moments, it raises valid questions about the state of Western feminism in the 21st century — questions that must be addressed if we are to continue making progress toward real gender equality.

Female anti-feminism is nothing new. In the 19th century, plenty of women were hostile to the women’s movement and to women who pursued nontraditional paths. In the 1970s, Marabel Morgan’s regressive manifesto The Total Woman was a top best seller, and Phyllis Schlafly led opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment. But such anti-feminism was invariably about defending women’s traditional roles. Some of today’s “women against feminism” fit that mold: they feel that feminism demeans stay-at-home mothers, or that being a “true woman” means loving to cook and clean for your man. Many others, however, say they repudiate feminism even though — indeed, because — they support equality and female empowerment:

“I don’t need feminism because I believe in equality, not entitlements and supremacy.”

“I don’t need feminism because it reinforces the men as agents/women as victims dichotomy.”

“I do not need modern feminism because it has become confused with misandry which is as bad as misogyny, and whatever I want to do or be in life, I will become through my own hard work.”

Or, more than once: “I don’t need feminism because egalitarianism is better!”

Again and again, the dissenters say that feminism belittles and demonizes men, treating them as presumptive rapists while encouraging women to see themselves as victims. “I am not a victim” and “I can take responsibility for my actions” are recurring themes. Many also challenge the notion that American women in the 21st century are “oppressed,” defiantly asserting that “the patriarchy doesn’t exist” and “there is no rape culture.”

One common response from feminists is to say that Women Against Feminism “don’t understand what feminism is” and to invoke its dictionary definition: “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” The new anti-feminists have a rejoinder for that, too: they’re judging modern feminism by its actions, not by the book. And here, they have a point.

Consider the #YesAllWomen Twitter hashtag, dubbed by one blogger “the Arab Spring of 21st century feminism.” Created in response to Elliot Rodger’s deadly shooting spree in Isla Vista, Calif. — and to reminders that “not all men” are violent misogynists — the tag was a relentless catalog of female victimization by male terrorism and abuse. Some of its most popular tweets seemed to literally dehumanize men, comparing them to sharks or M&M candies of which 10% are poisoned.

Consider assertions that men as a group must be taught “not to rape,” or that to accord the presumption of innocence to a man accused of sexual violence against a woman or girl is to be complicit in “rape culture.” Consider that last year, when an Ohio University student made a rape complaint after getting caught on video engaging in a drunken public sex act, she was championed by campus activists and at least one prominent feminist blogger — but a grand jury declined to hand down charges after reviewing the video of the incident and evidence that both students were inebriated.

Consider that a prominent British feminist writer, Laurie Penny, decries the notion that feminists should avoid such generalizations as “men oppress women”; in her view, all men are steeped in a woman-hating culture and “even the sweetest, gentlest man” benefits from women’s oppression. Consider, too, that an extended quote from Penny’s column was reposted by a mainstream reproductive-rights group and shared by nearly 84,000 Tumblr users in six months.

Sure, some Women Against Feminism claims are caricatures based on fringe views — for instance, that feminism mandates hairy armpits, or that feminists regard all heterosexual intercourse as rape. On the other hand, the charge that feminism stereotypes men as predators while reducing women to helpless victims certainly doesn’t apply to all feminists — but it’s a reasonably fair description of a large, influential, highly visible segment of modern feminism.

Are Women Against Feminism ignorant and naive to insist they are not oppressed? Perhaps some are too giddy with youthful optimism. But they make a strong argument that a “patriarchy” that lets women vote, work, attend college, get divorced, run for political office and own businesses on the same terms as men isn’t quite living up to its label. They also raise valid questions about politicizing personal violence along gender lines; research shows that surprisingly high numbers of men may have been raped, sometimes by women.

For the most part, Women Against Feminism are quite willing to acknowledge and credit feminism’s past battles for women’s rights in the West, as well as the severe oppression women still suffer in many parts of the world. But they also say that modern Western feminism has become a divisive and sometimes hateful force, a movement that dramatically exaggerates female woes while ignoring men’s problems, stifles dissenting views, and dwells obsessively on men’s misbehavior and women’s personal wrongs. These are trends about which feminists have voiced alarm in the past — including the movement’s founding mother Betty Friedan, who tried in the 1970s to steer feminism from the path of what she called “sex/class warfare.” Friedan would have been aghast had she known that, 50 years after she began her battle, feminist energies were being spent on bashing men who commit the heinous crime of taking too much space on the subway.

Is there still a place in modern-day America for a gender-equality movement? I think so. Work-family balance remains a real and complicated challenge. And there are gender-based cultural biases and pressures that still exist — though, in 21st century Western countries, they almost certainly affect men as much as women. A true equality movement would be concerned with the needs and interests of both sexes. It would, for instance, advocate for all victims of domestic and sexual violence regardless of gender — and for fairness to those accused of these offenses. It would support both women and men as workers and as parents.

Should such a movement take back feminism — or, as the new egalitarians suggest, give up on the label altogether because of its inherent connotations of advocating for women only? I’m not sure what the answer is. But Women Against Feminism are asking the right questions. And they deserve to be heard, not harangued. As one of the group’s graphics says, “I have my own mind. Please stop fem-splaining it to me.”

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Men risk their lives in wars so women can enjoy societies where they can pursue feminist goals, such as punishing men for sexist language.

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WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH A “LOOSE” VAGINA?

I’m a 69-year-old woman, 15 years divorced. I dated a few men after my divorce, but no one for the past decade. Now that I’m looking at my future, I’m afraid of my increasing loneliness and thinking it’s time to start dating again. But the older I get, the more insecure I feel about my body. My skin is too loose, my stomach too droopy, my breasts too floppy…

My ex-husband never tired of criticizing me about my weight. He also complained my vagina was so loose he couldn’t feel it. One of the men I dated after my divorce was smaller-sized and I worried that I was disappointing him by being too slack. He said I was perfect for him, but I think he was just trying not to embarrass me. My gynecologist has since confirmed that I have virtually no vaginal muscle strength. I cannot squeeze anything at all. I self-pleasure with penetrative vibrators, but they feel like they’re swimming in there. I’ve tried Kegels, but it’s been a long time since I’ve bothered since they don’t seem to do anything anyway. I also experience vaginal dryness and I’m embarrassed about that.

I feel defective and stuck. How can I move forward—or should I just look for men who are no longer interested in sex —Too Loose

Joan Price Responds

You’re not defective, and you don’t need to give up on sex and an intimate relationship. Your problem is quite common and it’s fixable! But first, let’s look at the messages that we all get about our aging bodies.

Our society reinforces the attitude that older bodies have aged out of sexiness. But we don’t have to accept that message any more than we have to accept what older people are “supposed” to wear, say, or do. Feeling free to enjoy sex at our age is far more important than what we weigh or how tightly our vaginas can squeeze.

I understand that the anxiety about vaginal looseness is a difficult insecurity to overcome, especially when your ex-husband spent years making you feel inadequate about your vagina and your body weight. You might want to consider counseling to help push away his negative messages..

Part of your husband’s perception might have been because of issues of his, not yours. In general, vaginas have the capacity to expand and contract as needed “Typically, when a man complains about a ‘loose vagina,’ it is actually because he has trouble with sensation, not that his partner is too loose,” Ellen Barnard, M.S.S.W., co-owner of A Woman’s Touch Sexuality Resource Center says. “He may have gotten used to a tight grip because of how he masturbates, or he may have diabetes or another condition that makes his nerves less sensitive.”

However, in your case, you say that you’re now not able to squeeze the muscles of your vagina, which may indicate Low Tone Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (weakness of the pelvic floor). Another sign is if you lose a bit of urine when you sneeze or cough. Weak pelvic floor is a common condition, and there are experts, called Pelvic Floor Therapists, who will work with you on getting your pelvic floor muscles back into shape. Barnard recommends asking your primary care physician or OB/GYN for a referral. If there’s an education-based sexuality shop in your area, they may have a list of recommended PFTs in your area. You can also use the locator at the nonprofit Section for Women’s Health or that site’s listings, or Google “pelvic floor rehab program” + your city.

Many of us think we know how to do Kegels, but we may not be doing them correctly. Here’s how A Woman’s Touch describes the process, using your fingers for feedback:

Wash your hands and have lubricant within reach.

Lie down on your back in a comfortable place with your knees bent. Lying down takes the weight off your pelvic floor and leads to earlier success.

Coat your finger(s) with lubricant. Insert your finger(s) about 2 inches into your vagina.

Contract your pelvic floor muscles. It will feel like you’re pulling up and in toward your belly button. Don’t push out. You should feel a gentle tightening around the finger(s). Try to keep your leg, buttock, and abdominal muscles relaxed, and remember to breathe normally throughout the exercise.

Hold the contraction for a count of 5. (Remember to breathe!)

Relax your muscles.

Important: After each contraction, take a deep belly breath. Inhale deeply and gently blow out the air while you relax your pelvis completely. This deep relaxation is just as important as the other steps, because the deep belly breath relaxes the muscles that are not under your conscious control.

Congratulations, you have just done one Kegel.

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