Monthly Archives: July, 2014

Miss Eliza Leslie’s Hookup Handbook for Ladies


Ladies have both a body and a mind. At times the indiscrete, sweating, aging, and sagging former seems to hold the latter hostage. And yet, on a nice sunny day when one is feeling good, one hardly feels challenged by her embodiment and a lady might find herself seeking the affections of a gentleman. Indeed, the practice of hooking up at parties or at the prompt of a text message is now universal.

A lady must therefore know how to proceed when under the sweet liberty of the primal pleasures of the body, especially because not all gentlemen will comport themselves with the propriety a well-mannered deportment demands.

Indeed, some gentlemen will make impertinent carnal requests—nay, demands—insisting that they are subject to an infirmity of the sort that prevents them from having a rational command over their bodies. A lady need not bear this malady on his behalf. For this man, regardless of fame or fortune or position on the football team, is a blockhead and you may simply explain that you will not engage in this behavior and expect him to stop. Indeed, a lady ought to shout “STOP” as loudly as she likes to emphasize that her desire had been a product of his illusions.

However, ladies should note that only some gentlemen will atone for their offense at this point, while others will stubbornly persist in their attempt for carnal knowledge of her.

When in the company of such affronting men the usual rules of propriety and feminine manners must be dropped and a lady should not hesitate to visit on the gentleman a violent change of fortune.

For example, a lady should know that the testicles of the gentleman (and it should be noted that once the aforementioned gentleman has proceeded beyond a “stop”, we are using the word “gentleman” with a deliberate sense of irony) house a significant number of sensory nerve endings, and lack the protection of bone, muscle, and fat.  Therefore, a lady should know that a squeeze, twist, pull or slap to this area of the body, which the Creator has so conveniently located outside the body, effectively communicates the “STOP” which the gentleman may have had the arrogance or entitlement to ignore.  In fact, it seems likely that their location outside of the body is designed to serve just this purpose – the conveniently located reminder – nay, warning – to gentlemen that “STOP” means “STOP”, and that “NO” means “NO”.   Therefore, far from needing to worry about importuning this gentleman, a lady demonstrates her reverence for herself when she engages in this vehement, but necessary, rebuff.

Upon such action, the gentleman in question will likely drop to his knees; tears are likely to form in his eyes, and his skin may change in color in alarming ways.  The gentleman may even find himself unable to move for some time without regurgitating the contents of his stomach.  A lady need not concern herself with any of these responses, nor should she remain in the situation to observe or assess the situation at hand.  A lady has better things to do than to dally with gentlemen of this ilk, and should ring 9-1-1 straight away.

150px-Ellimans-Universal-Embrocation-Slough-1897-Ad  By Martha McCaughey and Jill Cermele, inspired the 1853 “The Ladies’ Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners, or Miss Leslie’s Behavior Book, An Excerpt” by Eliza Leslie (author of “Mr. and Mrs. Woodbridge”), published in Selections from Eliza Leslie, edited by Etta M. Madden, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011.


Dear Campus Rape Prevention Educators Adopting the Bystander Intervention Model:

The White House tapped the University of New Hampshire’s bystander intervention program, Prevention Innovations, as a model for sexual assault prevention at the national level. Chances are you have or are adopting that comprehensive bystander intervention program or one very similar to it. UNH’s program trains individuals not only to identify dangerous or potentially dangerous situations, but how to intervene actively and safely. A second leg of that program is a social marketing campaign, which includes posters, bus wraps, and buttons that show realistic situations and potential bystander responses.


This social marketing campaign centers on a “Know Your Power®” theme. This community-mobilization approach enlists men as allies in the struggle to stop rape by telling them how powerful they are. Similar to the old campaign that placed in men’s restroom urinals stickers that read, “You’re holding the power to stop rape in your hands,” the “Know Your Power” campaign tells men they have the power not to rape.

And to rape. That’s right; implied in the message to men – and to women– that men have the power to stop rape (presumably by other men) is the message to men – and to women – that men also have the power to rape if they want to or if no bystander intervenes.

Women apparently can train as bystanders alongside men, and thus, at least in theory, have the power to intervene as a bystander in select situations and in particular ways. Sadly, though, nothing in these campaign materials suggests that there is anything the woman targeted for assault can do, in the moment, to stop the assault.

And that’s simply not true. Women are, and can be, enormously powerful. Resisting sexual assault is a viable option. It can work. It does work. Women can do it, men can do it, kids can do it. Of equal importance, women gain a sense of empowerment when learning self-defense. We want to emphasize that the research shows that women need to know their power. Women have the power (and the legal right) to fight back.

Of course, stressing self-defense is never a reason to let men or society or the university off the hook for ending rape culture. Indeed, if more men thought more of their campus coeds knew how to break their arm, we’re pretty sure they wouldn’t feel off the hook.

And would it really be so offensive or too radical to tell women to know the power they have?  So far, though, colleges are telling men to know their power and telling women to know their nines (as in Title IX of the Educational Equity Act).

Can we guarantee that self-defense will work for every person in every situation? Of course not. Nor can bystander intervention programs make that claim, and as far as we can tell, no one asks that those programs do. We teach swimming even though some people will still drown, we recommend the flu shot even though some people will still get flu, we tell people not to smoke even though some people will still get lung cancer….you get the idea.

But it does work, and we should also be telling those stories. Sexual assault awareness and prevention materials must include stories of thwarted assaults, not just completed ones. If our stories consist exclusively of bystanders saving victims, we teach everyone that once an assault is in progress (because not all bystanders will intervene, and not every assault has a bystander), there is nothing that can be done to stop it. And that’s not necessarily or always true.

Hence, we recommend that all campuses offer self-defense training as an option and, importantly, that colleges and universities frame this as part of their mission to fulfill the federal mandate to educate all new college students in sexual assault prevention. Not all students might want to take self-defense training, and that is fine. But without self-defense as part of the sexual assault prevention and education efforts on campus, we are telling women that they are to rely on concerned bystanders, university policies, and the law for protection against acquaintance, date, and party rape. We might as well tell women, We’re here for you, we’re creating knights in shining armor to come rescue you—and if they don’t, princesses, it’s gonna happen.

Only self-defense training reminds everyone – no matter their sex or gender, no matter their sexual orientation, no matter their assault or perpetration history – that women are not damsels in distress, and men are not magical omnipotent creatures.

The message of the University of New Hampshire bystander intervention program is “Know Your Power.” That should not just apply to men and bystanders. We beg you to know (and teach) her power. The message of bystander intervention programs is don’t be a bystander. We want women to know they don’t have to wait for one, either.


Jill Cermele and Martha McCaughey

An Open Letter to NYT Op Ed Columnist Ross Douthat

Dear Ross Douthat:

Your New York Times Op Ed piece on June 28, 2014 offers three ways American colleges could get to the root of the problem of campus sexual assault, thereby having fewer sexual assaults going through the often criticized campus judiciary process that was originally meant to handle minor infractions.

We share your desire to make sexual assault harder to accomplish rather than service victims’ post-abuse lives (what you call “after-the-fact responses”).

We also share your skepticism that our society will lower the drinking age (the first of your three solutions), or that universities will weaken the college party scene (solution #2). Your third solution is to go back to a gender-neutral version of the old sex-segregated, chaperoned campus.

Of course sex segregation, curfews, and less unsupervised partying would technically give men less opportunity to rape—but only because it would give them less opportunity to hook up with women (in consensual encounters or otherwise). We therefore suggest a different way to stop rape on campus: teach women self-defense. Let’s embrace women’s ability to say yes and to say no and mean it–and enforce it if necessary. Part of self-defense training can be about alcohol consumption. Part of it can be about how to shout “no” forcefully, and how to back up that verbal self-defense with physical self-defense when necessary.

Mr. Douthat, we agree with you that society is not helpless to stop sexual assault.  But neither are women.


Martha McCaughey and Jill Cermele


An Open Letter to Feminist Sex Educator Laci Green

Dear Laci,

We love love love your sex-posi pointers on YouTube for men and women, straights and gays, and everyone in between!

Especially important is Consent 101, your video about consent—what it looks and sounds like, and the importance of being sure all sexual acts are consensual. This is very helpful for a lot of straight guys who have learned that you infer consent through a series of self-serving and arrogant interpretations of women’s “signals” or—worse yet—that you intentionally incapacitate a woman (which they call “loosening up”) so as to “get laid” with no resistance. You are spot on to suggest that coercing or pressuring someone into doing something sexually is creepy, rapey, and douchebag-y.

Your video also shows women how to set boundaries in a way that is fun, playful, sexy, and also seriously self-assured and firm. However, we wish you’d acknowledge that, in some cases, women do set such boundaries only to have them disregarded. What’s a girl to do when her date, boy toy, or hookup partner doesn’t listen to her assertions of non-consent?

This is where we’re hoping for a Laci Green follow-up video, one that would show that she still has options: she might be able to get up and walk away or, if he’s physically forcing her, she has physical self-defense options such as an eye strike, a testicle twist, or something as simple as pulling one of his fingers backwards.

Self-defense moves can never be guaranteed, but as we well know, neither can assertive verbal communication of one’s sexual boundaries. When a woman’s rapey rendezvous doesn’t respect her wishes, she needs to be able to enforce her boundaries and know that doing so is not mean but necessary in some circumstances. Such is the logical next step to having good, fun, sex-posi sex.

Without this part of the message, your video, sadly, implies that verbal communication skills will prevent rape and/or that women either cannot or should not feel entitled to enforce their boundaries physically when necessary.

Like you, we encourage women to enjoy feeling sexual. Please show women that part of being able to enjoy their sexuality is to enjoy being strong—both verbally and physically. At least until we’ve rounded up all the rapey guys and reprogrammed them.

Thank you! And, of course, we’re here to help. Have your secretary call ours (oops, just email us because we don’t actually have a secretary).


Martha McCaughey & Jill Cermele

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