Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn My rating: 2 of 5 stars This book was good, but it wasn’t. That may not be obvious since I rated it so low. Firsts tackled some tough subjects, but it didn’t really do so in a great or helpful way. I honestly wonder if it may have done more harm than good. The intention of the author, much like the intention of the main character Mercedes Ayres, was probably a good one at heart, but, as the proverb goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Good intentions cannot fix what is truly wrong with this book. I understand the attempt to soften the approach people take to cheating and slut-shaming, but it doesn’t actually achieve that. Instead, it pushes those stereotypes even further and dismisses criminal behavior as seduction and bad parenting. Luke is portrayed as the former boyfriend, while the behavior described is clearly sexually abusive. He groomed Mercedes before forcing her to perform oral sex on him and before eventually raping her. Charlie’s actions are not really any better. Filming a person having sex without their consent is illegal. Trying to physically force someone to have sex with you is illegal. Attempting to blackmail someone over their sex life is, you guessed it, illegal. But the author chooses to say that Charlie was trying to “seduce” Mercedes. No, that’s not seduction. Those are acts of sexual violence. Kim is an emotionally abusive and emotionally & physically neglectful mother, and Mercedes’ absentee father who decided to punish Mercedes for her mom’s decisions isn’t much better. Kim is portrayed as a slut and a bimbo who only cares about spending the ill-gotten gains of her ex-husband. It’s the kind of storyline that you might get from websites run by “men’s rights activists” and MGTOW. Faye is the supposed-to-be-subtle-but-really-isn’t cautionary tale. Zach is the night-in-shining armor. Angela is the good girl, the girl with the patience of a saint and who is let back into Mercy’s life too easily. Mercedes is the fallen girl/girl gone bad who takes on the sins of all those involved & is nearly ruined in the process. She is constantly obsessing over what side she should show others, which is something that a lot of people feel, but it was never really addressed in the book. Yes, there’s the whole, her mom screwed up how she thinks about sex, beauty, weight, etc., but that’s not enough to explain why she is so hyper-critical and why she is convinced that she is unlovable. And if you’re going to spend a whole book tearing down the main character’s self-esteem, then you need to spend more than a couple of pages making her act like she’s all-better all of a sudden. Sometimes it came across as preachy. No, wait, it always came across as preachy. The sex lives of most of the characters in the book are regularly criticized. Angela, Mercy’s BFF, is super-religious and pushes her faith onto everyone. (There are even Bible verses that are quoted and referenced.) Her sex-negative attitude only pushes Mercy to hide her actions. Kim’s antics seem to push the idea that adultery leads women to even more vice-filled lives. Mercy’s internal dialogue about how many guys she’s had sex with pushed the idea that girls & women who have ‘too much’ sex might be seen as used up goods. The outcome at school for Mercedes pushes the idea that women and girls have to be punished for being sexual. When Mercedes describes how she feels about sex and intimacy, even when she sometimes thinks she’s attracted to Faye, it’s almost like reading a pamphlet on sex addiction. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed by the way that her pseudo-attraction to Faye was handled. I know that with sex addiction, a person might engage in sex with people that they aren’t really attracted to, but the whole “is she going to kiss me” thing that existed through most of their interactions was just shrugged away toward the end. I didn’t know if Mercedes was only thinking about Faye that way because she really doesn’t understand relationship boundaries or if she might not be as heterosexual as she eventually felt the need to declare she was. Sex addiction or figuring out that you’re LGBTQ might be an interesting topic to cover in a novel, but it needs to be addressed in a better way. Come to think of it: all of the issues that are described within the book need to be addressed properly. In attempting to counter the sex-negativity that people, especially women and girls, encounter in their lives, the book actually pushed an even more sex-negative outlook. The book essentially normalized sexual violence, parental neglect, and shaming young women for being interested in sex. That’s why I don’t think I could ever truly love this book. It almost seemed like a book I could like until it became clear that it was just another in a long line of anti-sex books with ambiguous attitudes toward abuse and sexual assault. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. View all my reviews

Review: Firsts

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you know that I am currently rather pissed at the Huntsville CBS affiliate, WHNT, for their planned special tonight called the Dark Side of All Hallows’ Eve. In the ads for their story talk about Huntsville’s police department once having a special occult crime division. The ads also feature images of Jeffrey Franklin and comments about the crimes he committed on March 10, 1998. Jeffrey killed his parents before trying to kill three of his four siblings on that night. He also attacked the best friend of his 14-year old sister. I can tell you a lot about the night. More than a lot of people can. His sister was my friend. His sister’s friend was also my friend and on Yearbook staff with me; she talked about that night in class. My mom was the person who carried the medical records of his sister to the hospital. She stayed there until my friend was in the ICU. We went back to the hospital on a regular basis until it was time for them to leave town. From the start, Jeffrey was painted as evil by the media. Even when the evidence came to light that he had 10 times the normal dose of Ritalin in his blood twelve days after the crime.1 Even when people started mentioning that he was mentally ill. Even when the state of Alabama thought he was mentally incompetent from 1999 until 2001, and even though the state of Alabama has had him in the mental healthcare unit of the prison since his sentencing began, instead of in general population, he has been portrayed as this supernatural killer. That kind of stigmatizing attitude is damaging to the whole community and it needs to stop. Personally, I’m tired of reliving that night. It’s been almost twenty years and local news outlets are still pushing it. They keep trying to make a buck off of the suffering of my friend’s family. They keep trying to profit on the suffering of the people I grew up with, of the choir that we were in together, of me, of my mom. This has to stop at some point. I know that the story was shocking and gruesome and that it sticks with people. It’s stuck with me, too. At a certain point, enough is enough. I wish he hadn’t made the choices he did that night. I wish that a lot of things were different about that whole situation. But forcing us to go through it over and over is cruel. He had been in jail since the night it occurred. ↩

And then I fell down yelling, “Make it go away!”

Four percent of websites are considered pornographic; a much smaller percentage than most expect. Many people like the websites while many others hate them; and some who claim to oppose them enjoy them privately.1 I know that they’re a touchy subject2 for a lot of people, but I want to know what you guys think of them. Do you approve of porn? Have you ever viewed it? Do you think that it objectifies the actors? Are people who view porn complicit in any abuses that may go on in the porn industry? Has the industry done enough to prevent things like sexual assault, unwanted pregnancies, and STDs on set? Does viewing porn contribute to issues like pornography and/or sex addiction? Does viewing porn make it hard3 for people to relate emotionally to others? Does it encourage dangerous behavior in its viewers? Or is controversy related to porn exaggerated? Can porn be empowering? Josh Duggar ↩Pun intended. ↩Another pun. ↩

Daily Debate: Oct. 7, 2015

One day in June of 2009, I felt the urge to listen to Michael Jackson music.  Even though I owned many of his earlier albums on tape and, in the case of Off the Wall, the original vinyl record that one of my parents purchased in their young adult years, I didn’t have any of his songs on mp3.  Since I don’t have the ability to transfer the tapes and vinyl recordings to mp3 (never been able to get the converters because of cost), I went on iTunes and bought some of my favorite songs. A few days later, he was dead.  I had purchased the songs at relatively low prices, because iTunes has this funny way of charging more for music that they are selling more of.  (It seems like that might deter more people from buying the music than having everything at the same price, except some that might be on sale.)  It was weird how I had felt the urge to listen to his music before his death, but I just figured it was some kind of strange coincidence, which it probably was. On Friday, after I had listened to her songs “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good”, and cover of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” for the umpteenth times, and the Glee version of her song “Back to Black” and of her cover of “Valerie”, I began to wonder when Amy might release more music.  Admittedly, I knew that she had some issues in her career because of her personal life.  Still, I was hoping that there might be news somewhere about when a new album might come out.  I couldn’t find anything other than the old rumors of an album that was supposed to have come out in January of this year.  (Obviously, it didn’t.)   So, on Saturday when I saw the news that Amy was dead, it was, in a way surprising. Like I said, I knew she had had problems with her personal life.  I knew that she’d struggled with drugs.  I knew she’d been in and out of rehab.  I also knew that there are plenty of people who abuse drugs (Keith Richards, anyone?) who don’t die at a young age.  So, even with her problems, I thought that it was possible for her to live a long life.  Sure, it might have been shortened by the emphysema and other problems that she’d developed as a result of her hard lifestyle, but death wasn’t something that I really expected. So, besides the fact that her death was a little shocking to me, I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that I felt drawn to her music the day before her death.  It’s a little freaky, even though it is probably just a coincidence.  Now, I have that weird fear (that I attribute to the OCD) that if I feel drawn to another musician’s music in that way again that they’ll die soon after I have the feeling.  I know that that is absolutely nuts to think, but you have to remember that I am absolutely nuts.  (After all, I am the girl who felt personal guilt over 9/11 because earlier that morning I had this feeling that something bad was going to happen and that people were going to die.  I also looked at the clock every time a crash or building collapse happened.  So, yeah, I am crazy.) Oh well, now that I have proven that I am the weirdest girl from weirdonia, then I guess the only “normal” thing I can say is that people should really listen to Amy Winehouse’s version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”, which is apparently only available on the import version of the Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason soundtrack these days.  If you haven’t heard it, you should definitely try to listen to it.  I think it shows how wonderful she could sound and it is one of my favorite versions of that particular song.

Fate Laughs at Probabilities