Millennial Heartbreak

What did our parents do?

Being a twenty-something in a digital age where information is widespread and communication is instant, this is a question I repeatedly find myself asking.

With the global explosion of smartphones and digitized, well — everything, it’s no surprise that our social lives have followed a similar norm of impulsivity, convenience, and temptation to document for the sake of a favorable image.

Social media platforms have become branches upon which users can extend themselves into a world that expands beyond immediate proximity. Every experience, friendship, and relationship is documented so that not only those involved can experience it, but one can share their experiences with their digital circle.

I bring up this question of “What did our parents do?” most often in the context of heartbreak.

Heartbreak comes in many forms and none of it feels good. Whether it be a dramatic split or a peaceful departure, heartbreak is something that attacks every aspect of our egos and rattles what our lives looked before. Although breakups and broken hearts are nothing new, this disturbance of ego presents a problematic clash for our digital selves.

A breakup is something that used to be a painful moment in time. But now it’s something to be reminded of, edited, and readjusted for the public. By using platforms that publicly share personal interests and activities, we subject ourselves not only to the initial pain of a breakup, but to the small kicks to the heart that follow us thereafter. 

There’s the moment you realize your ex unfollowed you on Instagram. Kick.

The moment you see that they like and/or follow a new, attractive person. Huge kick.

The moment you feared the most, when they post a photo with someone — not you —to show the world that they have moved on. Not only does this kick you in the heart, it can cause a total relapse that digs up and un-stitches whatever progress you’ve made with the initial wound, one that’s said to only heal with time.

So that is the problem: time.

As millennials we participate in not just one, but two relative time zones. We subject ourselves to a type of pain that was not nearly as accessible or even imaginable to our parents. Think of it this way — you’re here, in real time. You take a break from real time to scroll through Instagram. You see something upsetting and you are no longer in real time, but in a time that has backtracked. Suddenly you are lost in a different space, one that makes you feel like you’ve regressed more than you’ve progressed. Before you know it, you’ve lost minutes, maybe, if whatever you saw was triggering enough, you lose your whole day.

And here’s another problem: the only thing that makes it better is proving to everyone else that time wasn’t actually spent obsessing over what they posted.

So you, in turn, post a story to show that you’re out, having a good time. Or post a photo to show you got a new outfit, met a new friend. And this makes us feel better only momentarily as we feel validated in our willfulness to “move on” and “have fun,” but doesn’t acknowledge the root of the very unique sadness that comes from looking at photos or content that is painful to our hearts.

We need more love, not “likes.” This different time zone that exists within social media is not a satisfying alternative to real time, and often takes time away from actually thinking or feeling and gives to posting and showing.

The overwhelming sadness and loss that accompanies a broken heart is something as old as humans themselves. Evidenced from Homer to Tolstoy to every pair of eyes sunk in a phone, heartbreak is an inexplicable feeling that continues to be both profound and unbearable. It is an inevitable aspect of what it means to love someone who is only part of your story, not all of it.

So, what did our parents do?

Not this. They felt the same things, but they experienced sadness in real time and didn’t split it with this virtual time zone. There is something powerful in embracing a certain kind of melancholy head on, with full force, rather than numb it with temporary fixes.

Your ex unfollowed you? That doesn’t mean they will forget you.

They posted a picture with their new significant other? That doesn’t mean you were nothing.

With so many different mediums to check in on those who have left our lives, it can be difficult to keep our heads clear of self-doubt and false valuing of every relationship. It goes without saying that this new layer of heartbreak is somewhat unavoidable as our social lives continue to be even more intertwined with technology. I’m the first to say that I have fully appreciated and engaged in the ways social media has allowed me to share, connect, and reflect. I recognize both the beneficial and harmful assets of living in two time zones, but what I mostly realized is the importance of putting my real time and my real self first — not my Instagram self. I have vowed to listen to my heart and what I need in every moment before being quick to show the world that I’m doing #great.

I vow to tend to my heart with care and consideration to what it needs before falling deeper into a time zone that not only doesn’t exist, but doesn’t love back.



First two photos by Maria del Carmen and the following two by Jairo Granados.



I Don’t Forgive You And I Don’t Have To

I have dated enough toxic men to know that I am sick of being forgiving.

Forgiveness within a relationship is not a necessity, despite what we have been led to believe. It’s hard to know what emotional abuse looks like, but you know what it feels like. There is a pattern of sweeping emotional abuse under the rug because there aren’t the same bruises you can show as when someone throws you around. But abuse isn’t quantifiable and sometimes healing takes a lifetime.

After my second round in a budding romance that quickly turned sour, I was paralyzed by what that meant about myself. I wondered why it was so difficult to love me. I eventually realized I wasn’t undeserving of love; my partner was undeserving of me. Your partner isn’t allowed to project pain onto you because they are hurting. There are some who do and some of us put up with anything in the name of unconditional love — and I am absolutely guilty as charged. Now I have a strictly enforced policy of kicking toxic people out of my life for good.

*  *  * 


You are not allowed to body-shame me as some sick grasp for control in our relationship.

My partner would constantly compare every inch of my body to other women. My eyes, my ass, my lips, and the excessive softness of my belly were all subject to falling just short of his fantasy of what I should look like for him. Years later, I am still recovering from the injuries to my body image, something that might never heal to what it once was, but that is okay. What isn’t okay is a pattern of violent slut-shaming and body-shaming that is a product of someone else’s own sexual insecurities. The way in which my body was fragmented and scrutinized discouraged me from feeling like I had any possession of my own body. Not only is it harmful in the micro-romantic settings of your partnerships, but it also a perpetuated competition against other women, insisting that you exist within an hierarchy of arbitrary desirability. But I do not want to live within those confines and if your partners are adamant in assuming control over your body, I promise you that their version of love is one you can thrive without.


You are not allowed to define me by my sexual experiences or impose your unfortunate sense of purity onto me.

Looking back, it seems like the most obvious display of subtle misogyny from my partner was how threatened he felt by my sexual experiences and his lack thereof. The interactions that made me feel liberated disgusted him. I’ve been called “nasty” and “gross” and a plethora of other unsavory and juvenile insults. His disgust transparently exhibited the truth of his fears, fear that I knew more about my own body than he ever would about his. But it is not my problem or my duty to absolve men of their tendency to exemplify just how fragile their masculinity is.


You are not allowed to use me as an emotional punching bag, let alone lay your hands on my body as an exercise of your falsely imagined dominance.

As complicated as relationships are, everyone has their threshold. All I think about after my partners have hit me, kicked me in my stomach, and tortured me mercilessly is how much better I am than them. They will never know what it’s like to love themselves. After years of healing, my most ingenious approach has been to realize that they do not deserve my forgiveness. I do not have to make amends with anyone but myself and it is completely valid for me to come to terms with the fact that there are experiences I’m not required to get over, and there are individuals who do not deserve anything but a big, wet, and juicy “fuck you” forever.

*  *  * 


You are allowed to be enraged that your partners have hurt you, you are allowed to hold your partners accountable. You are allowed redefine what it means to heal.


Photos by Alisha Hofkens.

Old Kesha Was A Feminist, Too

Kesha, nee Ke$ha, was only formally welcomed into The Discourse™ around the time she went public with accusations of sexual assault and abuse against her long-time producer, Dr. Luke. This was circa 2014, long before we collectively seized upon the #MeToo movement, and a lengthy lawsuit ensued as Kesha fought to be released from her contract with Kemosabe Records. She was hailed by many for her courage in coming forward. Often, such praise would begin, “I don’t care for her music, but…”

By the time Kesha released her first album post-lawsuit and rebranding, people were ready to listen. They wanted to support Kesha, and 2017’s Rainbow made it easier to do so than any of her previous efforts. It was largely slower, more reflective, less produced. It didn’t espouse the virtues of stalking or boyfriend-stealing or pissing in the Dom Perignon. It even boasted a Dolly Parton feature on a tune co-written decades ago by Kesha’s own mother. It was a “defiant comeback” (Vanity Fair), a “cathartic roar” (Variety), anthems of “a woman unchained” (The Guardian). It was a serious album.

There is nothing wrong with a serious album. But if we couldn’t love Kesha at her sellin-our-clothes, sleepin-in-cars, dressin-it-down, hittin-on-dudes hard worst, do we really deserve her at her healthy-glow, feminist-icon best?

It was Ke$ha-with-the-dollar-sign who released Animal in 2010, and that was the Ke$ha I would blast in fourth grade when my mother was out of the house. (But only the 30-second previews — the whole family shared an iTunes library, so I couldn’t download the songs.) I loved Ke$ha and her sometimes-companions 3OH!3. I didn’t really know much music, but they seemed so worldly and unconcerned, and sounded so different from the CDs my father played in the car. Animal is sublime in that it achieves exactly what it sets out to. Every song clocks in at under four minutes. The lyrics don’t try to be smart. The sound doesn’t try to be black. It is an uncomplicated, unproblematic exploration of a young woman doing fun shit.

Post-Luke lawsuit, Kesha has conceded that we cannot spend our lives on the dancefloor. Her Twitter of late is littered with Ruth Bader Ginsburg quotes, nods to the March For Our Lives movement, and — what else — reminders to register to vote. She is also keen on saving the orcas. Her current music’s messaging leans more toward empowerment, self-love, and authenticity, and less toward the oral hygiene properties of Jack Daniels. Clubbing and hooking up, incidentally, can be empowering and authentic too — and pro-woman, though Ke$ha (and certainly those around her) may not have intended it in 2010. But they make for less palatable imagery when you publicly transition from pop singer to sexual assault victim.

As far as we know, Kesha exists now as her best self. She rebranded not insidiously, not politically, not at the urging of a PR team, but in order to live genuinely in the world. But I wonder if she knows that she didn’t have to. “Tik Tok” is just as feminist as suing your rapist.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t enjoy and support Kesha as she evolves artistically and as a woman. It is not to stake some petulant claim that the sluts had her first. Gently, it is just a reminder. Sometimes our broader discussions about victim-blaming can grow so criss-crossed and convoluted that we find ourselves invoking the logic of the other side: Well… the senior citizen or the 7-year-old or the infant wasn’t dressed provocatively. Well… Christine Blasey Ford only had one beer.

But even as we may try to divert the narrative away from them, women who like to drink and sleep around and dress skimpily can and do get raped, too. There is no perfect victim, goes the rhetoric. But not everyone can be a poster child for the cause.

Kesha is 10 years older than I am, but we have, in my mind, these kindred timelines. We had our wild days around the same time, when we were so voiceless and so loud. I did my eating disorder rehab stint a little before she did, so I felt a big-sisterly twinge when we all learned of her admission to Timberline Knolls (TK). Around that time, I was taking a lot of phone calls from TK — my rehabbing had stuck, but that’s rare-ish and a lot of the women I met at the Renfrew Center were back in treatment. Dalia was one such case.

She was very sweet. When we were inpatient together, one day her parents brought her pet snake when they visited. I thought it was funny that this was allowed, considering how vigilantly visitors were patted down for drugs and food and sharp edges. This snake wasn’t considered contraband; maybe he was an emotional support snake. She let everyone pet him. By 2014, Dalia was still doing the rehab circuit, but this time, she was at TK — with Kesha. They made each other birthday cards. I thrilled to hear about this a few months down the road when I visited Dalia in a psych ward. I could hardly believe my friend had been in rehab with Kesha and they had made each other cards.

Now, Kesha and I are adults, and we both seem to be doing well. We have corralled our eating and our drinking and our sex lives back within the realm of acceptability. I recently had my wisdom teeth removed, and when I woke up, “We R Who We R” was playing on the radio.

“Oh my fucking god,” I said. “It’s Kesha.”

Prior to the procedure, when the laughing gas wasn’t working, the oral surgeon had asked me what kind of music I liked, and I stoically replied, “A little of everything.”

Now, he smiled indulgently. “Oh,” he said, “do you like Kesha?”

“Yeah,” I said, pretty high, “Yeah. I really do.”



Original photos by Jairo Granados and Jess Farran, respectively. 



Tips For Overcoming Body Dysmorphia In The Bedroom



Body dysmorphia is an incredibly difficult thing to deal with and can be especially detrimental for intimacy. For those who aren’t sure what body dysmorphia is, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental illness which causes people to constantly obsess over real or perceived flaws. Flaws can be found anywhere on the body, but the most common locations include hair, skin, nose, chest, and stomach. Body Dysmorphic Disorder — or body dysmorphia, affects all genders. 


Signs of body dysmorphia can include…

  • Being extremely preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance that to others can’t be seen or appears minor
  • Excessive grooming
  • Frequently seeking cosmetic procedures
  • Constant comparing one’s appearance to others
  • Wearing baggy clothing for the purpose of “camouflaging” perceived flaws
  • Avoiding going into public out of the fear of being mocked for these perceived physical flaws

Causes of the disorder are still being researched, but the most common beliefs as to what’s behind this disorder include differences in the brain, genetic makeup (especially from relatives who have obsessive-compulsive disorder), and environmental factors such as childhood abuse or neglect.

Becoming comfortable with your body, especially with body dysmorphia, is a very intimate process. This can make the prospect of sex especially intimidating. Sex creates an environment in which your body is seen in a new light. For those with dysmorphia, this may seem like an experience you’re not cut out for. However, sex can still be enjoyable and confidence-building for those with body dysmorphia. Everyone deserves an incredible sexual experience, and no one is any less deserving simply because of mental illness or personal issues.

For those with body dysmorphia, there are things you can try to take the reins on your sexual experience. Here are a few tips to get you started:


1. Be honest with your partner about what you’re experiencing.

There will be nothing your partner can say to cure your body dysmorphia, but there are small things you can do together to help you cope with it. For example, I experience body dysmorphia around my stomach. However, my boyfriend will sometimes play with it, lay on it, and make cutesy remarks about it that. Even if the effects were only short-term, it made me feel more at ease about my insecurities. Talking about my insecurity with my boyfriend offered him a guide on how to support me better. It was one of the best decisions I feel I’ve made.


2. Talk to someone.

Speak with someone who isn’t  your partner, who can help you get to the root of your body dysmorphia and help you actively recover/cope with it. If possible, seek the assistance of a licensed therapist (especially if they specialize in the area of body dysmorphia disorders). Be completely honest about how you’re feeling about your body (even if it sometimes feels embarrassing) to get your money’s worth out of the therapy, and work with your therapist to set goals for achieving a better body image. If not a therapist, vent to a well-trusted friend who will help hold you accountable.


3. Get to know your body yourself.

You can stand in front of a mirror, nude, to get used to seeing yourself in that light. Try masturbating, with or without porn, to become more confident in what you like and to become accustomed to seeing your body as a sexual entity.


4. Follow people on social media that advocate for realistic body types. 

One of my personal favorites that helps me is @saggysara on Instagram, who shows how with the right posing and lighting, anyone on social media can look like a “typical model,” but also how she normally looks, unposed with a natural body that is beautiful.

5. Open yourself up to sex with your partner through smaller steps.

Start off gradually! You don’t have to go all in at once if you’re not fully comfortable. Begin with things such as: letting your partner finger you, perform oral, or engaging in mutual masturbation. As you get more comfortable, try to start shedding more clothes. Eventually, once you become more confident in sexual acts, that’ll matter more than how you feel that your body looks.

6. Do all that you can in your free time to nurture body acceptance.

Reframe your thoughts about your body and remind yourself that your body is allowed to be unique and beautiful at the same time. It’ll take a LOT of time to believe it, but it’ll definitely be worth all of the time it takes.



For more information on Body Dysmorphic Disorder, you can visit


Photos by Daisy Rosato. To view more of their work, you can click here



How To Stay Safe While Dating Online

This article originally appeared in Pull Out, a print magazine exploring the relationship between sex and technology.  


Online dating and meeting via the Internet or apps is commonplace these days. However, meeting someone and talking to them online is very different than meeting someone in person. You’re only getting to know a single dimension of the person, and you just see what they want you to see. How you interact with someone in person is extremely important and a fundamental part of a relationship. Here are some basic tips for keeping your online communication safe!

Dating online:


  • When communicating online, always keep your personal information private, at least while you are vetting the person! This information includes where you live, the name of your school, phone number, last name, etc. If you’ve been speaking to someone and you feel that you’re ready to take the next step, you can give out your number and eventually set up a public meeting.


  • Be honest. If you are sixteen — don’t tell them you’re nineteen. If you identify as man, don’t say that you’re a woman. Don’t deceive someone; it’s not safe.


  • Realize that many people online aren’t honest about important things such as their gender or age. Watch out for inconsistencies in their personal information: this can be a red flag that you might be getting catfished.


  • Make sure they’re being truthful if they tell you that they’re single or in an open relationship. Following them on social media is an excellent way to figure this out.


  • Don’t get in too deep on the internet. People can be very different online than they appear in real life. How you interact with someone in person is extremely important and a fundamental part of a relationship. It’s best not to share personal information until you’ve met IRL and have determined that they are who they say they are and the right person.


  • If this person threatens your safety or reveals intimate details about yourself you have not shared with them, block them — but be sure to take screenshots of your conversations beforehand.


If you decide to meet…


  • Always meet in a public place.


  • Make sure you tell someone close to you what you are doing and where you’ll be — just in case.


  • Have your friend shoot you a text halfway through your meeting to see how it’s going. If the person you are meeting is weird about your cautionary steps, that’s usually a bad sign that their motives aren’t safe.


  • Trust your gut. If you feel like the person you’re meeting is creepy or has a strange vibe — get out of there! Even if you’re in a public place, if you feel something is off, you should get away from them.


  • Be on the lookout for inappropriate questions. If someone is asking you about your sex life or how you masturbate during the first meeting… that’s not usually a good sign.


  • If you end up hooking up, remember always to use protection! Even if they say that they don’t have any STIs.


  • If decide to go home with them, check in with your friends and let them know the address of where you’re headed.


  • Friends: if you can’t get reach them for a prolonged period (12 hours, for example) and they’re with a stranger, you should notify a family member or the police.


  • Turning on a tracker or activating Find My Friends on your iPhone when you go on a Tinder date is also a good idea.

Great friendships and relationships can originate online, but always remember to put your safety first!


Photos by
Jairo Granados.


When Your Parents Don’t Love Each Other

The following may be triggering to those affected by domestic violence.


When my mother was my age, she was engaged to my father.

At 18 years old, she was set to marry a man twenty years her senior. Arranged marriages in the Indian community are a commodity, brought upon by circumstance — or necessity. Before getting married, my father sent sweet introductory letters to my mother, which changed after they flew to Los Angeles together from Fiji. This was the closest my parents would ever get to loving each other. All of a sudden, my mother was stripped of the right to talk to her family and go outside. He was afraid she would cheat on him or find someone else. She was oftentimes locked in a tiny, suffocating apartment, homesick with no one to turn to.

My mother was subject to his berating tantrums and his intense physicality, which often culminated in visits from police officers. By the time I was five, I had cultivated an indifference towards the hurtful occurrences in my home. Violence had become so normalized in my household, that I couldn’t even imagine home without it. The first time I saw my mother struck by him, I meekly stood there. To this day, I still do the same.

I love my father with all my heart, which hurts to say, but I have an internalized fear of him that I will never be able to shake off. The look he gets in his eyes when he raises his voice and edges closer to raising his hand at me or my mother makes me flinch every time. It’s the reason why I jolt whenever someone tries to high-five me or why I am so stiff when they lean in for a hug.

The sorrow in my mother’s eyes, the accumulation of bruises, and her hushed sobs into her pillow eventually translated into deep periods of depression and bouts of anxiety. My father undeniably became my mother’s trigger and later became mine. We found ourselves finding solace in our prescription drugs; Xanax and Ativan became crutches. Whether it was deliberately spending hours at a time at a park to avoid him, or making sure the house was spotless, there was no denying the treatment that was to come.

I’ve tried to attribute my father’s behaviors to the undermining of women perpetuated by various Bollywood films and Hindu customs. Despite having a myriad of goddesses, who portray femininity as divine, women are seen as the dregs of Indian society. Is the learned, general lack of respect for women the cause of his violence? Or is it his upbringing he never mentions? Pinpointing the root of this is hard to determine, but I realized that the patterns that entail abuse are essentially the same. The systematic dehumanization that comes with it starts slowly, beginning with controlling the person’s every move as a “protective” pretense, keeping tabs on the person, not allowing them to see certain people or do certain things, which cripples them so they’re essentially bound and limited. My mother wishes she could have left my father, but divorces in the Indian community were frowned upon then, and doing so would’ve tarnish her family’s reputation by labeling my mother as a failed housewife. She also had my little sister and me. She didn’t have the heart to leave us with him, knowing that he’d make it so she would never see us again if she did leave.

My mother can’t hold a job because of her mental illnesses, and my father uses it as a means of blackmail. He uses it to show her she has no financial security without him. What’s important to realize is that abusers diminish the meaning of individuality and independence in the process….

Surpassing abusers means recognizing the signs early on and distancing yourself.


All photos by Jess Farran



To Cut or Not To Cut?

“Hey Callie, I’m here to talk to you about my penis.”

Out of context, this message sounds like the usual dick-centric DM — it’s like a sales pitch: the virtual version of a solicitor at my door, or maybe it’s a cringing-ly straightforward version of the classic “what r u doing 2nite?” text. Thankfully, this time, no one was trying to sell me on their penis.

This message actually originated from a conversation with a female friend of mine. We’d been discussing penis appearance and circumcision when we realized that we knew very, very little about it. How common was it? Were there any proven benefits? Where does all the foreskin go? What even is a penis? In search of answers, I reached out to the Facebook community asking for penis anecdotes and opinions, specifically surrounding circumcision. The post was basically an inverted version of that Jonah Hill scene in Accepted, where he’s yelling, “Ask me about my wiener!” I was yelling into the cyber-void for people to let me ask them about their wieners.

As it turns out, people really want to talk about dicks because, believe it or not, no one ever actually asks.

Maybe you’re rolling your eyes at the suggestion that penises should be talked about more. We do seem to talk about them all the time, whether it’s jokes, comments about the size of the president’s peen, or some other masculinity-threatening insult. But the truth is, the United States has a penis problem — or rather, a penis discourse problem.

Most of us think about the penis a whole lot, whether it’s because we want dick or because we have a dick. But we don’t really think about the foreskin. That is, until we have children ourselves. “Congratulations on your new baby! Now do you want to cut off its dick skin or not?”

There is, in fact, a war being waged over the foreskin — the war on circumcision, as some see it. Circumcision has been the unquestioned norm in the United States for a long time. Only in the past couple of decades have people started resisting the practice. Anti-circ and pro-circ folks are, shall we say, going head-to-head over circumcision: its benefits, frequency, ethicality and so on. People have a lot of opinions, and the debate is surprisingly complex. Thinking about circumcision solely as a decision of whether to snip is just the tip of the… iceberg.

Those against circumcision deem it an act of violence. Circumcision of infants, they argue, is non-consensual and cruel, as many infants are not given anesthetic for the operation. The leading group against circumcision, Intact America, considers circumcision akin to female genital mutilation. Groups like Intact America, which describe themselves in their mission statement as “passionate, professional, principled, and uncompromising,” are of the opinion that circumcision is an unnecessary and invasive surgery. They go as far as to support an all-out ban on circumcision in the United States.

Looking over Intact America’s website, I realized I didn’t actually know exactly what happened during a circumcision. In order to fully understand, I spent an hour watching different instructional videos on how to circumcise both adult and infantile penises. My personal favorite circumcision video was the one featuring “Blue Danube” by Richard Strauss (every good circumcision is accompanied by a full orchestra).

Now that I’m basically an expert, I can clear up some medical and anatomical confusion. A circumcision happens like this: first, you cut open the foreskin on the upper side of the penis with scissors, then slit the underside, peel it like a banana, and cut it off. Often, metal instruments are used to hold the foreskin open in order to ease the cutting process. The procedure sounds incredibly painful, although I can’t imagine a surgery that would sound pleasant when described in graphic detail.

The World Health Organization estimates that about 30% of the world’s penis-owning population is circumcised. Most of this population is comprised of Muslim penis owners living in Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East — circumcision, or “khitan” in Arabic, is mentioned in the holy texts of the Hadith and the Sunnah. Circumcision is also mandated by most Jewish communities, a tradition which apparently stems from a passage in Genesis 17. I skipped over my childhood Bible studies, so I had to look it up. God tells Abraham, “This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee: every male among you shall be circumcised.” God then goes on to explain that if Abraham doesn’t keep his people circumcised, their souls will be compromised and their cut off from God. From what I gathered, this is where religiously-motivated circumcision began. But, in the New Testament, Paul basically argues that because Jesus was circumcised, no one else has to be. Jesus’ foreskin died for our sins, so circumcision fell out of Christian tradition.

In other primarily Christian countries like France and England, non-religious circumcision has basically disappeared. But circumcision rates in the United States are still high (around 80% of men aged 14 to 59 are circumcised, according to CIRP) despite the fact that the majority of the United States is Christian. So how did we come to live in a foreskin-less nation?

There’s no one clear answer. It seems, however, that if God wasn’t the one telling you to circumcise your child, it was your box of cornflakes. Cereal namesake John Harvey Kellogg popularized the belief that circumcision was an effective method of stopping masturbation and keeping a person clean and chaste. That anti-masturbation pro-hygiene argument became especially popular after the first World War, when the military was forced to discharge more than ten thousand men due to STIs. The proposed solution? Circumcision.

Starting in the Second World War, soldiers were required to be circumcised before being deployed (this is all, of course, based on very little scientific evidence suggesting it would help prevent STIs). This meant a lot of grown-ass men were circumcised (without anesthetic) and were told that it was for their health. So later on, when given the decision to circumcise their own children, many couples decided it was better to do it early when the memory wouldn’t be so painful (medical opinion at the time held that babies didn’t feel pain). During the postwar baby boom when hospital-births were the new standard, circumcision became the doctor-recommended option for parents. A slew of medical reports by Dr. Benjamin Spock, whose book Baby and Child Care remains one of the best-selling books of all time, claimed that circumcision was cleaner and safer for the child. (Spock, as it happens, rescinded these statements near the end of his life). By the 1960s, CIRP reports that nearly 90% of babies were circumcised. Couples in the 60s saw their friends throwing their children off the proverbial dick-snipping bridge, and they decided to follow suit.

In this time, the argument for circumcision seemed to be that circumcision was cleaner, safer, and prettier than the alternative. The hygiene argument for circumcision has never really made sense to me. I understand it’s another part of your body you have to clean but to recommend cutting it off so you don’t have to clean it? That’s kind of like saying you should cut off your hands since, if you don’t have hands, you don’t need to wash them after you go to the bathroom.

The arguments of safety and STI transmission are contentious ones; look it up and you’ll find a hundred studies that say circumcision prevents STIs and another hundred that say it doesn’t. Neither has been proven. And the argument that circumcision makes penises more attractive is just a positive feedback loop of negative thought to justify a popular practice against its challenges. Apparently, if all scientific justification for something fails, the public resorts to “it just looks better that way.”

The online discussion of circumcision makes it seem very black and white, so I wanted to know if people actually think about their penises the way the internet makes it seem they do. After my Facebook inquiry, it was awesome to see the number of people willing to talk to me openly about their penises. People I hadn’t spoken to in years reached out — from old camp counselors to boys from my middle school, my friends from Colorado College messaged me, even my uncle sent me his opinions.

Corresponding with the high rate of circumcision in the United States, most of the responses came from circumcised people. All of the responses I got were from penis-owners who identified as male. In general, most were pretty nonchalant about circumcision — definitely not as heated as some of the debates I had witnessed on the internet.

Some of them hadn’t thought about circumcision at all before, while others had several paragraphs worth of thoughts on the matter. Opinions on the debate ended up boiling down to a few main contentions also made by circumcision scholars: religion, consent, cleanliness, pleasure, and appearance. (I granted all interviewees anonymity in the interest of getting frank, honest answers. Completely randomly generated names are used in lieu of given names).

The question of consent is at the heart of the circumcision debate.

A lot of the responses I received were from Jewish men who had no issue with their parents making the decision to circumcise them. On the other hand, non-Jewish Richard (uncircumcised), found it an “imposition of religion.” He said it was a “consent violation if the person is too young to make an informed decision for themselves…and frankly abusive.” One of the few women who reached out for an interview said it was “pretty barbaric… it should be a choice that a penis owner makes when they’re old enough to do so, rather than a choice that’s made for them when they’re babies.”

Others, however, argued that as kids we had to do a whole bunch of shit we didn’t want to anyway. One guy called the consent argument “complete bullshit. I didn’t consent to if I could or could not go to preschool, eat veggies, grow up in the USA, etc. The list is endless.” He reasoned that “it’s not like children can consent to orthodontic surgery [which is often cosmetic].” Those making the violation-of-consent argument were typically uncircumcised people, while circumcised folk tended to have a more relaxed attitude about it. Both sides make good points: I didn’t consent to my parents giving me horrible haircuts as a child, true, but my hair grew out, whereas growing foreskin back is much harder. But also, if a parent is following what their religion has dictated for years, what’s common with other new parents, or what they’re told is best for their child, then I’m not quite sure it’s abusive, either. Additionally, banning circumcision (like Intact America suggests) means preventing Jewish and Muslim practices, and could lead to amateur circumcisions performed out of adherence to religion, which carries serious medical risks.

Pleasure is the one thing I found circumcised guys get bummed out about, as there is a good deal of rumors that having that ultra-sensitive foreskin makes for better sex. The public seems to have accepted this as fact, although there isn’t much actual scientific evidence because sexual pleasure is hard to quantify. As circumcised Paul put it, “I want a penis that is as sensitive as can be, because… sex is nice.” A lot of guys I talked to who had been circumcised for non-religious reasons found it pretty illogical — they said they definitely wouldn’t have been circumcised if they had been given the choice.

On the other hand, there’s the cleanliness argument. One girl I interviewed felt better knowing that guys she was hooking up with were circumcised because she found it cleaner. Several fraternity brothers expressed that they thought uncircumcised penises were gross but quickly backtracked to make it clear that they had never thought about any penises, ever. The cleanliness argument has spurred some pretty demoralizing conceptions of uncircumcised penises as “gross” or “dirty.” A friend of mine told me she had considered uncircumcised penises ugly and dirty before she saw one and realized they were just regular old penises with more skin. That experience wasn’t unique to her, either. Colorado College junior Richard II told me a story about his friend whose girlfriend wouldn’t go down on him specifically because he was uncircumcised, and several guys I attempted to interview for this article actually told me they thought uncircumcised penises were “disgusting.” It turns out that a lot of people get squeamish about the uncircumcised penis.

There’s a lot of danger in the “ew” argument. Penises have become a sort of bodily indicator of power in addition to sexuality. Maybe the rhetoric surrounding penises is negative because they’re sometimes associated with male domination and toxic masculinity. With the recent increase in body positivity surrounding vaginas and their beauty, I’ve found that no one really ever calls penises beautiful or strong or any positive adjective. And I’m not hopping on some men’s rights bullshit train, but I do wonder how penis owners feel about having the general narrative remain, “all penises are gross, and some are even grosser, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

I tried asking people I interviewed about penile body positivity. Some, like John and Peter, felt that this lack of conversation about the penis and the body was detrimental. According to uncircumcised John, the inclusion of penises in discussions of body positivity could “delegitimize the stigma and shame of differently shaped and sized penises” and “get men talking about their feelings around their bodies in general.” This body talk is important, too, because almost every guy I interviewed pointed out how they almost never see other people’s dicks. Most guys noted that they only see other penises in porn, and that as a result, porn is what shaped their idea of how the “correct” penis looks and acts. On the other hand, Richard II pointed out that because of the penis’ association with sexuality and male power, any body positivity movement around the penis would end up feeling like a movement for male power.

We see how body shaming and lack of representation of bodies affect people all the time but seem to ignore the penis in a very counter-intuitive way. We don’t talk about penis appearance because we don’t think that cisgender men belong to a faction of people that needs more attention or support. This leads to internalized insecurities that can very quickly turn into aggression. If someone is ashamed of their penis, they might associate sex with embarrassment, and a supposed indicator of “power” might come to indicate their inadequacy. It’s easier to see, then, how guys can end up combating feelings of powerlessness with violence. The circumcision debate thus only exacerbates this issue — an incredibly vulnerable part of someone’s body is considered unattractive because of circumstances (and circumcisions) completely outside of their control.

Aggressively masculinizing the penis through our rhetoric has implications other than cis male shame, though. It further ostracizes trans women and perpetuates the dangerous idea that trans women are still male. We paint the penis as this solely sexual, male body part and it seems as if the only place we’re talking about the penis removed from its sexuality is in the circumcision of infants, where it suddenly seems like the penis belongs to the argument and not the owner. The only arena where the penis is desexualized is one where it’s denigrated. To me, we seem to be focusing on the penis in all the wrong ways, and our rhetoric is creating a culture that kills people. Toxic masculinity thrives in a phallocentric society. Insulting the penis in any way (even by proxy, as in rejection of sexual advancement) becomes a dangerous action for all women but especially for trans women, whose penises are used as proof of their “fake” womanhood. This myth of the penis as inherently and aggressively male contributes to the transphobia of men who have killed at least six trans women in 2018 as of February 23, 2018, in the United States alone.

So where do we go from here? One possible solution would be to start viewing and thinking of penises in a non-sexual way. Our country is weird as hell about nudity no matter how you cut it, but penises are often shut out of the whole “nudity isn’t inherently sexual” narrative. Of course, there are reasons for this — say indecent exposure, which is something that crosses the line over body positivity into harassment. Though we maybe shouldn’t advocate a universal “free the penis” movement, we should definitely rethink the strange place we’ve put the penis in our thoughts about the body.

In terms of being pro- or anti-circumcision, I am very much on the dick fence, but that’s not what matters. What matters is that when we take as rigid a stance on the circumcision debate as people tend to, we shame one kind of penis or another. Calling uncircumcised penises dirty and unsafe isn’t exactly uplifting, and calling circumcised penises mutilated (as groups like Intact America do) doesn’t do wonders for self-esteem either. Surely, there’s a way to have this discussion that doesn’t denigrate all penises and perpetuate a culture of body shame around a vulnerable body part.

Peter seemed to nail this topic on the head (the metaphorical one, not the penis one, because ouch): “Masculinity standards are not talked about enough. Penises are a large part of being masculine and being comfortable in your own skin. Guys grow up watching porn and there are discrepancies of expectation and reality. I think that being able to love what you have, and understanding that what you see in the fiction world of porn can create a feeling of inadequacy. I think that this feeling leads to anger that is targeted at women and other guys. So creating a culture of penis positivity is important.”

We are so obsessed with the penis as an emblem of male sexuality that we don’t even know where would we be if we could break down these notions about the penis. The entire conversation clearly indicates how strangely our culture thinks about bodies and sex and how they relate. It’s completely nonsensical to think the uncircumcised penis looks weird. If we think that, it’s because we were taught to.

It’s time to quit dicking around.

Photos (in order of appearance) by Hollis Johnson, Lotte van Raalte, Sara Lorusso, and Giulia Bersani. 



Expecting Too Much

When we are young, one of the first things that we grapple with is learning what to expect on a basic level. What to expect of our caregivers, and what to expect in relation to the environment that surrounds us. In order to confront the sometimes subtle but ever-present intensity that just being a living and breathing entity presents, expectations can act as a safety mechanism to prevent us from constantly feeling like a deer in the high-beams of life. These initial, formative expectations teach us what is dangerous, what is safe, and what we should be uncertain about.

These expectations might take on a more simple manifestation — the essentials, just the things we need to be able to wake up every day, and get back in bed at the end of that day unharmed. But once those fundamental expectations are solidified and we grow as individuals, we start to develop more complex relationships to the people around us. The largely instinctual expectations that have guided us up to this point gradually become less prevalent, forcing us to operate in a more nuanced manner.

Although this relational nuance is something that we must accept, actually coming to terms with it can be hard.

I turned 23 years old last month, and it is a bit of a personal tradition of mine to reflect on certain aspects of my life around the time of my birthday. The truth of my current position is that I have found myself largely friendless. The majority of the friendships that came about in my college years have eroded with time, and with the lack of location-based convenience, each one had a shorter life expectancy than I would have hoped. Though I do mourn what has felt like the death of these friendships, I accept it as a reality of growing older and try daily to move forward accordingly.

However, what has proven more challenging to deal with are the friendships that have collapsed as a result of some sort of fall out. As humans, we can at times be reactionary. In the heat of the moment, and for days, weeks, and sometimes even years after, we will place blame on another person for the way that something played out — despite the possibility that we also be at fault.

One of my favorite front-women right now, Sophie Alison of Soccer Mommy, once said “Oh I choose, choose to blame it all on you / cause I don’t like the truth.” Something that I’ve recently determined is that many of my friendships have failed because of an unequal balance of expectation. Generally, I end up expecting more than I maybe should of the person, and when conflict arises, I implode in a way that has likely been frustrating and even confusing for past friends. This has, in most cases, led to those people slowly distancing themselves from me.

Many of these conflicts, generally occurring between myself and college friends, would manifest in the form of me reaching out to someone in an attempt to coordinate a hang-out. More often than not, me reaching out would be met with something that usually came across, in my view, as an excuse as to why we couldn’t spend time together, but to them, a valid explanation. “I’m too busy/broke” etc. The harsh truth that I’ve frequently faced is that sometimes when people say they’re too busy, broke, or whatever other myriad of reasons they offer up, what they really mean is they’re too busy for you, they’re too broke for you. They have the money and time to do what they want, but they’ve chosen to spend it in the way that is most fulfilling for them. The reality is that we aren’t always going to be a person’s first choice.

Since then, I’ve realized my perception of the depth these relationships was inaccurate. Some of these fall outs were happening with people that I, in the grand scheme of life, did not know for very long. Yet I wondered why I was getting passed up by friends of mine so that they could spend time with those who they had deeper relationships with? My misconception of the intimacy of these relationships likely has to do with my tendency to become emotionally invested in people very (too) quickly.

Another aspect of this expectation based issue I’ve encountered is that I can be an incredibly spontaneous person, the type who will hit you up out of nowhere and suggest that we hang out that night or within a few days. While this works for some, for a lot of people, they require you to ask them x amount of time in advance otherwise it’s not going to happen, typically leaving me feeling frustrated and unimportant.

I’ve come to understand that these people were operating in this manner because it works for them and makes their lives easier, not because they were intentionally trying to make me feel ostracized. Are there people that I genuinely believe treated me in a questionable way and possibly even manipulated my investment in them for their own benefit instead of just being honest with me? Absolutely, but that isn’t always the truth and it’s unfair of me to act like it is. Everyone can’t “do” spontaneity, and not everyone should have to just because I prefer it. I was placing certain expectations on others without having consideration for what might be best for their schedules.

There are some people who simply prefer to have as few expectations placed on them as possible, especially by people with whom their relationship only has a finite history, and instead of me trying to force these people into relating how I relate, I should have just moved on — or, modified my expectations to be more accommodating, which sometimes is easier said than done, especially for me.

So for the time being, the conclusion I’ve reached is that I must declare a death of expectation. The less I expect of others, the easier it is for me to move through life in a way where I don’t feel continually damaged by a lack of reciprocation, because the toll it has taken on me has proven to be overwhelming. Decreasing your expectation of others, while it can be painful and disheartening, provides a freedom to take things as life brings them to you, allowing you to be more grateful for the good that comes your way. Plus, this way it’s less discouraging when something doesn’t pan out.

For those out there like me, who naively jump in too deep too fast and end up getting hurt, I want you to know that I feel you, I see you, and I hear you. That said, it is up to you to figure out what is healthy and functional for your relationships. For me, I’m opting to lower my expectations.


Photos (in order of appearance) by Joseph McDermott,  @wiissa0, and Victor Sjöström.



Tunnel Vision


Save an Uber, Ride a Cow*person is a column exploring queer millennial sex culture. The stories presented here are based on true events. Identities have been changed to protect the privacy and reputation of those involved. 


“hmmmm i’m only asking cus i’m drunk lmao but would you wanna fuck soon? but also no rush YKWIM”

Rina stared at her phone, frozen in place. She had only gone on two dates with Fae that week, and they’d been amazing — it was almost painfully corny, honestly. And yet, a wave of panic started to drown her thoughts. H-how am I supposed to reply back to this? The shock was a mix of things; first surprise, then flattery, some curiosity, but mostly anxiety. Actually, all of it was anxiety.

It’s not that she didn’t want to fuck Fae. Of course she wanted to, but Rina had only had sex with one person before — her ex. Maybe she was living up to her lesbian stereotype, but Rina felt feelings hard and fast and unfortunately, sex was no exception. She just couldn’t separate her emotions from the action, and this wasn’t something she wanted to change either way. Rina knew that when the time came, she’d be giving more than body to Fae.

But in this moment, she was standing in a pit of hundreds of people, waiting for a concert to start… still unsure how to respond to this text. Even in a crowded venue, talk in the air and under ultraviolet lights, she almost forgot where she was.

Finally, Rina collected herself to reply back. “LOL maybe next time i see you, we’ll see ;)”

Sent. Sigh of relief.

 *  *  *

That ‘next time’ was already within the next 24-hours.

On her way to Fae’s dorm, Rina couldn’t help but question why she felt so strongly about tying her emotions to sex. Uncertainty began setting in again. It’s not like anyone would object to her getting laid. If anything, so much of the queer community encourages hooking up, whether it was the liberation from heterosexual norms or just out of bored horniness. But being an idealist romantic was always the way she was; its roots ran deep. But still, a part of her wished she could detach herself to make hooking up easier — easier to see Fae, too.

She suddenly felt isolated, not only from the heteronormative world but also from a blaring factor that defined what queer culture in your 20s looked like. Rina had never doubted her sexuality, but she is beginning to question her validity in a community that was able to experience so much freedom, thrill, and consensus in a sexual expression that she couldn’t imagine doing herself.

Why can’t I just fucking relax? I can’t believe I’m thinking about sex THIS hard, my god, Rina stepped out the elevator and proceeded to Fae’s suite. The next few hours were blurred. Weed was smoked, clothes were off, lips were locked, and the rest escalated faster than Rina’s memory could grab onto. As she was coming down from her high, she found her arms wrapped around Fae, lying by their side. Her mind was still reeling from what just happened — how did I get here?

Whatever happened, she found a great sense of ease in herself again. Perhaps Rina had more self exploring to do on what love, sex, and romance really meant to her, but maybe now was the time to begin that exploration. She felt dumb for thinking that a queer identity can only be outlined by one definition, one lifestyle. Truthfully, isn’t that the whole point of it all to rebel and challenge what a majority has assumed for us and to create our own meanings instead? Fucking Fae for the first time was meant to be casual, but Rina found immense liberation. Not just from the sheer pleasure but from ridding such uncompromising thoughts. It was all new and exciting territory, and for once, Rina wasn’t afraid of wherever she was going with this new person.

Rina exhaled, still gliding her fingertips down Fae’s arm. Now, to tell them that I’ll probably catch serious feelings for them, if I haven’t already…



Photos (in order of appearance) by Leila Weinraub, still from Bruce LaBruce’s The Misandrists, and Donna Gottschalk. 



A Silent Problem

As young as 12 years old, I knew something was wrong: the fogginess, the inability to concentrate, the feeling that life had no purpose, the increase of binge eating. Through lack of knowledge on the topic and an inability to understand what I was feeling, I didn’t say anything about it. I covered up my inability to feel with boys, relationships, sports, my friends, and partying. Temporary distractions. I was finally diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety when I turned 19 and came back home from college.

I had taken off my mask and told my doctor the truth. In college, something snapped in me. I moved away from my routine distractions and was slapped on the wrist by the emotions I had been avoiding. I could no longer go to my close friend for a hug — she was in Missouri — the closest I could get to her was a text telling her how shitty I felt.

College is a difficult time; the ages of 18-25 give us such miraculous growth, but also a feeling of instability.

I felt stuck between different medications and fogginess; a lack of appetite and not wanting to get out of bed because I felt that life had no purpose. In the midst of it all, I was coming alarmingly close to scary thoughts about my life that I’d never had before, ones anyone would be devastated to hear. For so long I felt like it was my fault for feeling this way. I live such a great life, right? What in the world could I be depressed about?

Throughout my freshman year of college, I did a research project and realized I wasn’t the only one dealing with this. College depression is at an all time high: 1 in 4 students have a diagnosable mental illness, 40% of them never seek help. The third leading cause of death in college youth is suicide. Although I’d been dealing with this since I was a young girl, I had to come to terms with the fact that if I wanted to live, this was not going to be manageable in college without help.

I felt as though I’d betrayed my parents. I felt that if I told anyone, they would think I faked everything I had with them. I felt like a fraud. I felt like there was tape over my mouth, and I was screaming and no one could hear it — even me. I didn’t want any of the people in my life to know I was feeling this way. When I got back from the doctor’s office, I collapsed into my father’s arms. I told him I was a failure. He told me he was proud.

I didn’t understand why he said that then, but I understand now. When I came back from that winter break, I felt different. I felt lighter. On trial with new medication and being honest with my parents about how I felt, I understood that maybe, just maybe I could survive this. Depression comes in waves, and the waves can either be gentle or they can drag you along the shoreline for miles. As cliché as it sounds, admitting that you aren’t OK is the first step to getting better.

When I feel depression coming on at college, the first thing I do is take a shower. I wash my hair. I listen to a playlist. I walk around my college town and I get my favorite cheese fries down the block from my apartment. My anxiety may be going wild and my heart may feel heavy, but I breathe. I tell my friends to watch out for me. If I’m not eating enough, my best friend (who doubles as a neighbor) will notice and make me pasta. Find your support — and if you can’t find it, find it within yourself. Cut off those who don’t believe in your story or make you feel worse than you already feel. You are only as great as the people you surround yourself with. So if you can’t tell them how you feel, ditch them. When you can’t get out of bed, play your favorite songs and feel how much they make you want to get up. Cry. Don’t suppress it. Learn ways to take off your mask and not be ashamed of it. Do your hair. Text an old friend you haven’t talked to in a minute. It can feel like moving a boulder off your back or escaping a shadow, but a shadow only lasts so long before the sun moves and shines right through it. The waves come and go, but you’re still here. Stomp in the sand. Try your hardest to play in the water. 

The most important lesson I’ve learned in college is that feelings are temporary. But me and what I have to offer are not. I’ve learned that this town isn’t my home, where my parents live isn’t my home, my friends are not my home, my new apartment isn’t my home.

I am my home. And I will survive. So will you.


Photos (in order of appearance) by Villedepluie,  John Nonlens, Hong Sang-soo, and Jean Amb.