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Reproductive Rights

Ask Trixie: I'm worried i'm pregnant! How can I stop stressing over this?

Hey Trixie - I had sex on the 3rd of dec for the first time and my last period was on the 11th of nov. It's currently the 6th of dec and i'm worried i'm pregnant although i did use a condom (which didn't break) and took the morning after pill. What are my chances and how can i stop stressing over this? –June

Hi June -

Thank you for writing and I'm sorry you are so stressed! You don't mention what kind of sex you had, so I'm going to assume it was intercourse with a person with a penis. If not, let me know!

If that's the case, I can tell you I've been there. If you're not a strict 28-day person, it might be late for many reasons, and stress has a way of making them even more wonky. Since your partner's condom was intact AND you took a morning after pill, it's unlikely that you're pregnant.

BUT! The best way to stop stressing is to take a pregnancy test, which you can buy at any drugstore. You get two tests in one box so you can double-check the results, whatever they are. Just follow the instructions exactly. If you are pregnant (again, unlikely) you may have more questions so I invite you to write again.

Good luck!

Got a question about virginity, sex, relationships, feminism or filmmaking?  Ask Trixie here.

V-Card Diaries Follow-up: Sarah "I chose not just sex, but an entirely new life path in which I was going to put my own goals and values first"

Writing from: Knoxville TN

Age: Early 20s

How I define virginity: A virgin is someone who has never had sex. But it also has something to do with how you feel about your own sexuality.

I posted on here before, and it was really cathartic, so I'm sharing a follow up.

I had sex for the first time about a month ago with the guy I was dating who I'd sort of picked out. I was pretty nervous beforehand, and not expecting much. It was a million times better than what I thought it was going to be. We've had sex many, many times since, and tried all kinds of things. The trust and communication are amazing.

But in my mind, the moment when I felt like I wasn't a virgin anymore was when I got the birth control implant put in my arm. To me, it concretely represented the fact that I was choosing not just sex, but an entirely new life path in which I was going to put my own goals and values first and prioritize expanding my knowledge and experience. After that point, it felt like everything was in my hands, way beyond the realm of sexuality. So virginity means choice, and choice means so much more.

You can read Sarah's original post on The V-Card Diaries here.  If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. Find The V-Card Diaries here on most Wednesdays.

14-year-old girl gets suspended for giving the greatest answers ever in sex ed class

So, this happened two years ago, but it's so fabulous (and sadly still so relevant) we wanted to share it. Here are the answers a 14-year-old girl gave on a condoms 'quiz.' Apparently, there was a list of responses provided that students had to match with objections. Clearly, that wasn't working for her and she wrote her own responses. The fact that she was suspended for it says everything you need to know about the sorry state of sex ed in the USA. OK, maybe the F-Bombs aren't cool for middle school, but she should have gotten an A for being so f-ing smart.

Amy Schumer is seriously ON FIRE this season!

"Ask your boss to ask his priest if birth control is right for you." See more of Inside Amy Schumer here.

About Lady Mary's sex book and 'The Thing' she asked Anna to hide

Mild spoilers ahead...

[Downton Abbey, above, and a 1924 conversation that could have taken place yesterday in Texas Anna: I'd like to buy one of these birth control thingies Shop Lady: Have you considered abstinence instead?

As a major sex geek and a rabid fan of Downton Abbey (check out our weekly podcast here), I've been loving the storyline around Lady Mary Crawley's Liverpool tryst and the birth control she asked Anna to buy and hide. I've also been fascinated with the Twitter conversations debating what that book was (Marie Stopes' Wise Parenthood, likely) and what Anna was asked to buy (a diaphragm or cervical cap, although someone thought it was a used condom - ewww!)

The New York Academy of Medicine has a great article about British scientist (and cat lover) Marie Stopes, whose work helping women control their reproduction and have a more enjoyable sex life, got her both lauded and banned (much like the US's Margaret Sanger).

They write (our boldface):

Stopes (1880-1958), a paleobotanist and campaigner for women’s rights, was the author of numerous books on social welfare, many concerning birth control (see Peter Eaton’s valuable checklist for a complete list). Married Love was a kind of self-help book designed to help couples understand each other’s physical and emotional needs. When it was published in March 1918, post-war women embraced the book. The initial 2,000 copy run sold out in the first fortnight. Eaton counts 28 editions, and translations into more than a dozen languages. By 1921, sales had topped 100,000 copies. An early ban of the book in America on obscenity charges was overturned in 1931, by the same judge who overturned the ban on James Joyce’s Ulysses.

In addition to lawsuits, the publication ofMarried Love prompted fan letters containing many questions. Women wanted more specific instructions on birth control methods. Stopes obliged eight months later, with the publication of Wise Parenthood in November 1918.

By the early 1920s, Stopes made advocacy of birth control for the working classes her biggest cause. In 1921, Stopes opened the first British family-planning clinic in north London. A staff comprised of both male and female nurses and doctors offered free birth control advice. By 1925, the clinic moved to central London, and instituted a mail-order birth control service (note to Anna Bates: for future reference, that mail-order service could save an awkward moment or two).

Although the mail order service would have potentially spared Anna some embarrassment, it would have deprived us of the great scene in the shop, and Anna running off without the instructions but with her consciousness seriously raised.

As we've joked on the podcast, considering that Lady Mary can't even put on a necklace by herself, how would she sort out the cervical cap insertion? Would inserting and removing birth control be just another part of a Lady's Maid's job description? And considering that Lady Mary lives in a 200,ooo sq foot house (give or take) why ask Anna to hide it in her two-room cottage? But that's a question for another blog.

Check out our new trailer on Upworthy, then watch the film On Demand

Despite the fact that we love making fun of Upworthy, we also appreciate it when they post important things–like our new trailer! If you haven't seen it yet, check it out, and then go stream our film On Demand (available for a very limited time)

V-Card Diaries: Ida. Ho. "Don't have sex in the front seat of a car."

Our latest V-Card Diaries comes from Ida.Ho. in Texas, who took some risks the first time she had intercourse, from having some unprotected and rough tumbles in a car, to not taking Plan B afterwards. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. We'd love to run it in this blog. A little about myself:

I'm 18. I'm a pan-sexual female (shh don't tell my mother) and I'm a proud Texan, born and raised.

How I define virginity:

I was taught that vaginal penetration was the line where you lost your virginity. I've since re-thought it. I think losing your virginity includes oral sex. But let me tell about the first "conventional" time I had sex.

Here's my story:

You would have thought it was a porno how many positions he tried. J was never really a boyfriend guy friend from the summer before. I met him when I was 15 and he was 19. When I was 16 I snuck out the house to go see him because he texted me that it was an emergency. We hadn't spoken in over 6 months but he had a history of depression and suicide attempts so I was legitimately concerned. I half ran down the street in flip flops, my pajamas, and messy hair to his house. He was sitting in his car outside.When I climbed in he skipped the hello and the explanation of what was going on, he hugged me. He told me he just needed to see me. I sighed, glad he was okay.

I layed down and put my head on his lap, intent on cat napping while he warmed up to talking about what was going on. Since my eyes were closed I didn’t see the kiss coming. But one minute I was half asleep on his lap, and the next we were full on making out. I got up and straddled him, taking my top and bra off. The summer before he taught me a lot about my body. He showed me how to give a good blow job, all the great things you can do with breasts. He went down on me once. I didn’t cum and it was really awkward for both of us. So I’m comfortable with him. Suddenly he says “I wanna do it.”

Despite me asking him several times the summer before he never wanted to take my virginity. I got off him and took the rest of my clothes off. I was ready. It took me five minutes to convince him. We didn’t have a condom. I started out riding him but couldn’t really do it. Then on my back. Then doggy style. Then three other positions. By the time he was done I had a concussion, my head had been knocked around so many times. DON’T HAVE SEX IN THE FRONT SEAT OF A CAR. He handed me a handful tissues and informed me I was bleeding. I tried to clean up a little before putting my clothes back on.

Then he said “Will you do something for me?” I said “Anything. He drove me to the local drug s tore. He sent me in to buy a plan B pill. I walked in and asked how much it cost. The guy behind the counter told me $40. I went back to the car and asked him for the money. He wiped blood off my face and said “What kind of hard core car sex did we have?” I bought the pill. He dropped me off at home, quickly explained what it did and sent me on my way.

I never took the pill. I wasn’t interested in starting my period right away. I was going on vacation the next day. My brother was up when I walked in. I know I looked a wreck. He didn’t say anything. J and I haven’t spoken since.

Want to know what’s really creepy about Purity Balls? (Hint: It’s not the photos)

PurityMagnusson Do an internet search for the words 'creepy photos,' and you’ll likely be directed to Purity, Swedish photographer David Magnusson's haunting photo essay of fathers and daughters all dressed up for their Purity Balls. A Purity Ball, if you don't already know, is sort of a father/daughter prom, with the difference being that the girls pledge their virginity to their fathers for safekeeping, so it can be handed over to their husbands on their wedding day. They happen all over the country, although with a bit less frequency than the constant coverage might indicate.

Still, every time news of these events pop up, in photos, or on a recent episode of Nightline on ABC, the non-Purity-Ball-going readership responds with a collective shudder, most often invoking the word 'incestuous' in headlines and comments. Looking at Magnusson's photos, (or my own film) I can see how people may come to that conclusion, but ask one of the dads in the photo and he'll just tell you that you have a really dirty mind and the Balls are beautiful events. Wherever you stand on this issue, getting all weirded out by the images is just a distraction from the truly creepy aspects of events like this (and the culture behind them):

Purity Balls are an invention of the evangelical Christian movement which believes that men should have control over women's bodies and sexual choices. Girls as young as 7 or 8 ritually invoke their father, their future husband and their God during these ceremonies–three male authorities tasked with policing her sex life.

Purity Balls are a throwback to when women were property and unmarried daughters without their virginity were damaged goods no one wanted to buy. The idea of a woman's 'most precious gift' comes from the understanding that she is the gift, valuable as long as she's still wrapped in her original packaging.

Purity Balls focus on female sexuality exclusively. There is no male equivalent of purity balls because young men are sent different messages and held to different standards. Integrity Balls, which are relatively rare, are events for mothers and sons, but the prevailing message for young men is that they shouldn't have sex before marriage because they will ruin a girl's value for her future husband.

Purity Balls assume everyone is heterosexual and interested in marriage. The fact that queer people exist, with their own definition of what constitutes sex or virginity, and their own ideas of who they might want to have sex with or marry, is never discussed or even acknowledged.

Purity Balls are intimately tied to Abstinence-Until-Marriage programs which provide no real sex education, but instead teach that sex before marriage will cause physiological and psychological harm, that contraception doesn't work, and that girls are responsible for controlling boys' sexual urges lest they be branded sluts. To stay a 'virgin,' a young women will often engage in far riskier activities like oral or anal sex, fulfilling the letter–if not the spirit–of their pledge. And since their abstinence classes don’t teach safer sex practices, they’re extremely vulnerable to STDs. These programs been proven ineffective by our own government, despite the fact that they are still being funded by our taxpayer dollars, at over $1.5 billion to date.

Purity Ball culture is enmeshed with political forces that oppose reproductive rights, supporting groups that are fighting to deny women birth control (or at the very least not have insurance cover it) as well as any access to safe and legal abortions. In fact, many Purity Balls are hosted by Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which use deceptive advertising and intake methods to prevent women's access to contraception and abortion. Google recently removed CPC ads that lie about providing abortions because of that deceptive advertising.

Purity Balls have a freak-show quality that distracts us from seeing the very same issues in our own back yards. Policing and controlling women’s bodies is not limited to a bunch of evangelicals, but turn up all over the cultural landscape, from limiting reproductive rights, to telling rape victims they asked for it, to slut-shaming women (but not men) for having too many partners.

Purity Ball reporting often ignores the dilemmas these young women are face. This culture’s core values embody damaging messages about women and sexuality (see above), but there's nothing inherently weird about having a warm relationship with your dad, or looking forward to a dress-up party with your sisters. As photographer Magnusson says:“it is clear that the girls—in many cases, young women—are independent, strong, and insightful,” but when you're in the middle of this environment, it's may be very hard to step out of it and call bullshit, even if you find it confusing or unfair. As one woman recently said to me:

“Some of those girls are too young to even realize what they are doing. I made a vow like this when I was only 12 and it didn't quite go as planned. I was guilt-tripped and got really close to being hit when I broke that vow. Virginity doesn't define your worth and I absolutely hate how many girls buy into the lie that once you've lost it, you're basically used goods. I bought into it and went through some terrible times of anxiety and depression.”

At a recent university screening of my film, another young woman who grew up in this culture shared her story. She’s finally starting to get over feeling dirty and worthless because of sex, and the fact that she was ever made to feel this way is the creepiest thing of all.

Best eBay auction ever: Pre-owned Purity Ring for sale, proceeds go to Planned Parenthood

PurityRingEbay Someone brilliant* is selling their old purity ring on eBay, with all proceeds going to Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles. It's part of eBay's Giving Works program, where you can designate your sale proceeds to a specific charity. Seems like a cool idea, and the actual item up for grabs is perfect.

The auctioner's copy says

This purity ring has a double-band and is etched with True Love Will Wait. It's gently used and looks like new. This isn't weird. Really. It's just that ... how should I say this? ... the ring is no longer needed. What do I have in common with Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, and Nick Jonas? They don't wear their purity rings anymore, and neither do I. This ring will bring you good luck!

*Full disclosure: This auction is by one of my favorite feminism/sexuality rabble-rousers, and she acquired the ring not at her church's youth group, but for 'research purposes' only. I think it's genius and a great way for all of us to raise some cash for PPLA. Excuse me while I place a bid right now!

A great opportunity for young writers interested in sexual health & reproductive rights!

RH Reality Check is one of our favorite sites for news and commentary about reproductive rights, sexual health, and politics around women's bodies. We were particularly thrilled to do a Round Table with Sarah Seltzer and Melissa Tapper Goldman earlier this year, and a Realcast with Amanda Marcotte. If you fit the criteria for this opportunity (and we know some great V-Card Diaries writers who do!) please check this out:

RH Reality Check is seeking a few great writers age 15-20 to join us for the spring semester of our Young Writers Program. Writers receive hands-on editing and mentoring, and they are paid for their published pieces. Diverse candidates enthusiastically welcomed with jazz hands. Please note the application deadline is Friday, January 17. Only full applications received to by Friday, January 17 will be considered.

Go to their website for more information, and good luck!

Just The Tip: Virginity in the News featuring Sarah Jacobson's films, Tami Taylor and #SB5, a telenovela about a virgin, video from our Kinsey show, and more...

Filmmaker Sarah Jacobson was a groundbreaking filmmaker who celebrated the 1990s Riot Grrrl DIY esthetic with films such as the fantastic feature 'Mary Jane's Not A Virgin Anymore.' I was lucky enough to see this and others in a rare screening last night, and I was blown away by the film's treatment of female and male virginity, masturbation and feminism. Sex, from a teenage girl's point of view!! Seriously, this stuff would be too hot and topical for America today, but it played at Sundance back in 1997. Tragically, Jacobson died in 2004 at 33 and what a loss. If you have a chance to see her films, do it.

Read more about Sarah Jacobson, her film 'I Was A Teenage Serial Killer' and notes from her archives in this post we wrote last year. Get more info, and support the grant in her name for DIY filmmakers of today. And yes, although the similarity in our film titles is totally coincidental, we love it.



Photo of protesters outside Texas Capitol in Austin by The Texas Tribune

wwttd-tshirt-400x470Not specifically about virginity, but anything affecting the regulation of female sexuality and bodily autonomy makes it onto our radar:

The kick-ass women of Texas inspired a lot of odes to Friday Night Lights' Tami Taylor, and begged for Connie Britton to star in the Senator Wendy Davis story, hopefully coming to Lifetime. Connie went halfway there teaming up with Planned Parenthood to launch a brilliant limited edition of "WWTTD (What Would Tami Taylor Do)" t-shirts for sale here.

By the way, when that FNL storyline was playing out, NARAL issued a Tami Taylor inspired line of their own.

To update: Texas still has not resolved SB5, a onerous anti-abortion bill that will effectively reduce clinics providing abortions to 5 in the entire state, and make any abortion illegal after 20 weeks. Last week , we were riveted by the live feed from the Texas State Senate as Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered for over 11 13 hours. Then Sen. Leticia Van de Putte uttered the immortal “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?” which prompted beautiful hell to break loose in the galleries until past the midnight deadline for the vote.

Gov. Rick Perry is still trying to get the bill passed, and many thousands of opponents of the bill have showed up outside the legislature to protest. We stand with Texas Women and the men who support their reproductive rights, so we'll once again watch the live feed at this link, and get background at RH Reality Check.


The Kinsey Institute made a cool video about their Juried Art Show, with interviews and footage from opening night including me (!) talking about How to Lose Your Virginity, The V-Card Diaries and our lovely V-Cards. Check it out, although some of the images won't be suitable for work. Unless you work here, of course.


The CW is developing a show called "Jane the Virgin," based on a Venezuelan telenovela "Juana la Virgen." Vulture describes the original as: "about a 17-year-old girl, Juana, an aspiring photographer, who becomes pregnant when she's accidentally artificially inseminated owing to hospital error." WHAT?! This kind of icky, and sort of like statutory rape, isn't it? Maybe this could be more palatable with a way-over-the-top Ugly Betty treatment.


Abiola Abrams, who is awesome in our film, is doing 'intimacy interventions at Essence. Today she advises a 35-year-old woman who wonders if after many years of sex with men, she can consider herself a virgin again as she contemplates getting intimate with a woman. How does she 'jump her bones without making a fool' of herself? Read Abiola's answer here.


Garfunkel and Oates celebrates the 'anal-sex-to-stay-a-virgin' tradition in their new music video "The Loophole." We'd highly recommend a viewing of Broad Comedy's "Saving My Hymen for Jesus" which celebrated similar sentiments back in 2008.


Thanks to our virginspotters @marymaxfield & @marinmedialab, and @thefrisky. Got a story for our blog? Tweet us or send an email!

Virginia's pre-abortion ultrasound bill isn't for virgins, so what, they wonder, is the problem?

Update: Virginia has backed off transvaginal ultrasounds, but still want external belly ultrasounds for all women seeking abortions. So that's a big thank you for not having anything involuntarily stuck in our vaginas. We so appreciate your understanding and won't ask for anything else. Like safe, accessible and affordable abortions, which were in fact legal last time I checked.

For anyone who thinks we don't have a problem with attitudes towards virginity and women's sexuality in this country, let me set you straight. I'm out of the country so I'm just catching up on all the discussion last week regarding an amazingly invasive anti-abortion bill that passed in Virginia. My former Chicago Tribune colleague Eric Zorn wrote about it in the paper:

This month Republican majorities in both chambers in Virginia's Legislature passed one of the strictest mandatory pre-abortion ultrasound bills* in the nation — a measure that's certain to require women seeking early-stage abortions to submit to being vaginally penetrated by a condom-covered electronic probe before the abortion is allowed to proceed.

He's referring to a trans-vaginal ultrasound, a procedure where the ultrasound wand is inserted into the vagina to get more detailed images than can be obtained from outside on the belly. Many people have been outraged about this requirement and have written about this, but I'm quoting Eric's column because of a comment he got on this post that he then highlighted on his blog. This is the comment he received:

When you write about a woman seeking an abortion having "to submit to being vaginally penetrated by a condom covered electric probe" I understand you are trying to shock your readers using this metaphor, however hasn't the woman's vagina already been penetrated? We are not discussing a virgin.

Basically, once a woman's had intercourse, what's the big deal if she's penetrated again, under whatever circumstances? Unbelievably, this attitude has come up several times in the discussion of this bill. I checked the calendar and it's indeed 2012, and the fact that this virgin/whore model of female sexuality persists is astonishing and horrifying.

It hearkens back to US rape laws that punished the penetration of a virgin far more harshly than if it happened to woman who was not considered a virgin. Restitution went to the wronged party–the father or future husband of the woman–to compensate for the damage to 'property.' While these laws are thankfully no longer on the books, the attitude remains. Rape victims today can expect their sexual history to be used against them to diminish or destroy their case.

So Virginia has now passed a bill requiring totally medically-unnecessary involuntary state-mandated penetration for any woman seeking an abortion in Virginia. In other words, government-sanctioned rape to gain access to a legal medical procedure. But don't worry. It's not like they're virgins.

*The only bright light in all of this Sen. Janet Howell, who introduced an amendment that would have required men seeking erectile dysfunction medication to submit to rectal exams.

Comment of the week: "Palin and Bachmann are true feminists"

Our YouTube comment threads are often a great meeting place of the ignorant and illiterate, but every once in a while we get something so off-base, we have to share it. This one is in response to our clip "Are you a feminist?"

Steinem's idea of feminism meant a woman had to be pro-abortion, anti-family and anti-man -- anti-anything moral! I always believed that feminism was about what a woman wanted to do. That meant a woman had the right to make a choice. Palin and Bachmann are true feminists. They are pro-life, pro-family and they made it in a man’s world without invoking the victim status! Steinem is more about politics than about feminist! As far as eco-feminism? Learn about United Nations Agenda 21.

I invite you to respond to the comment because Trixie Films' You Tube channel needs all the feminist voices it can get. I am bone-tired of pointing out that a woman's right 'to make a choice' exists in total opposition to being 'pro-life' and much of the other socially conservative agendas that Palin and Bachmann both love to push. I also love the fact that our commenter insists that Gloria Steinem is about politics, as opposed to Bachmann and Palin, who are, you know, politicians.

If you want to learn actual real things about Steinem, you can check out a new documentary about her that is airing on HBO. Even if you don't have cable, the site has lots of info. Also worth your time is a nice essay about Gloria Steinem by Shelby Knox*, who considers Steinem a friend and mentor, and highlights lots of things about her that the film missed. The trailer is below:

*Shelby is also in our film-in-progress, which makes us very happy.

REPOST Sunance Journals, Part 2: "12th and Delaware," seeking common ground while honoring the Prime Directive

REPOST: I saw this film at Sundance in January and did a post about it at that time. I'm reposting it today because the show is premiering on HBO tonight. The blog's been quiet for the past week while I've been at the Sundance Film Festival meeting with funders and broadcasters and getting amazing inspiration from the films here. This is the second of three reports from the festival.

While I was a Sundance, I had the chance to see one of the first screenings of the documentary 12th and Delaware by filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (who made the Oscar-nominated Jesus Camp).

The film is about the Ft. Pierce, Florida intersection that gives the film its title - and what goes on in the two small buildings on either side of the street. On one side is an abortion clinic, and on the other side is a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) which exists for one reason: talking women out of having an abortion at that clinic. In the middle are the mostly lower-income women who are pregnant, don't want to be, and are looking for help. Like Jesus Camp, the film is totally verité (they film it like they see it with no talking heads or commentary) and they have access to communities many of us won't encounter for ourselves.

The film creates an astonishing intimacy with all its characters, and Heidi and Rachel got remarkable access behind closed doors on both sides of the street, most powerfully with the women seeking abortions. You need great skill, sensitivity and perseverance to tell this kind of story.

The filmmakers said the people on both sides who saw the finished film thought it was fair. In fact, a lot has been written about how balanced this film is, how it presents the facts and lets you sort through the politics and realities of the abortion debate. That's a beautiful concept, but in the real world what is there to sort? As the filmmakers themselves have said, there's absolutely no common ground here.

If you believe abortion is murder, you will applaud everything done in this film to stop it: tricking women into coming into your CPC thinking they're at the abortion clinic, lying to them about how far along their pregnancies are to get them to postpone their abortions until it's too late, showing women grisly videos of procedures which have nothing to do with a standard first-trimester abortion, presenting dis-proven science and statistics, and providing a steady stream of harassment to anyone entering the abortion clinic. All under the supervision and guidance of the local Catholic priest, and done in the name of God.

If you're pro-choice and you believe a woman should have access to both safe, legal abortion – and judgement-free and accurate information about it, watching this film will be excruciating. You'll also be filled with dread hoping nothing happens to the doctor who is brought in to perform abortions with a sheet over his head to protect his identity (this film was made shortly after the murder of Dr. George Tiller).

Although the filmmakers remained fairly dispassionate at the Sundance post-screening Q&A, in an interview with Kenneth Turan of the LA Timesthey talked about the difficulty they had in making this film:

" took Grady and Ewing a year and a half to gain access to a facility. Then it took a year of filming to get the job done, a year that the filmmakers, who call 12th and Delaware "that miserable corner," say was the most difficult and challenging of their careers.

Initially, the film was to be only about the CPC, and Grady and Ewing make being there sound like combat. "It was excruciating," says Ewing, "like Lars von Trier had assigned us to make a Dogme film on this corner for a year."

Adds Grady, "It was banality and flashes of total emotional drama, flashes that would send you to the moon."

The experience was especially difficult because of the fragile emotional state of the women – often teenagers – who came into the CPC.

"Honestly, that was the hardest thing for us as two women," Grady says. "We really had to be objective and watch extremely vulnerable women not get comforted, not get relief. That wasn't our role, but it hurt."

In the same interview, Rachel Grady said the anti-abortion forces:

"are winning the hearts-and-minds campaign. Abortion is still legal, but there's a huge taboo about it. Who cares if it's legal if no doctor will train to do it?"

This film raised another issue for me that hasn't been really discussed: What is the responsibility of the filmmaker to its subjects when those subjects may be in harm's way? Is there a 'Prime Directive' for documentary filmmakers?

[Spoiler alert!] In the course of the film, the abortion doctor is followed and identified. Do the filmmakers have a responsibility to let him know this has happened? In the Q&A at Sundance, they said they didn't get involved because they didn't feel he was in danger.

When a thirteen-year-old is manipulated out of having an abortion, should the filmmakers tell her the truth? Said Rachel in the LA Times interview:

"I would just be dying, these girls were in so much pain, I felt like a traitor because I couldn't do anything about it."

This is the most frustrating thing about this film. The filmmakers commitment to pure verité means they never got involved in any way. I wanted to scream at the screen to this young girl and many others: The people at the CPC are lying to you!!

[Spoiler alert!] For me, one of the toughest scenes showed this now-very-pregnant and resource-less thirteen-year-old saying she hopes she gets some help with the baby she's decided to keep. I couldn't help wondering, as perhaps she did, if the staff of the CPC would have as much interest in her living baby as they did in her fetus. Later in the film, a single mother of six is offered all sorts of financial help if she calls off her abortion and has her 7th child. The filmmakers said in the Sundance Q&A that aside from getting the money for the deposit she paid for her abortion, none of the promised help was ever given by the CPC.

Being pro-choice means supporting a woman's right to choose to have or not have an abortion based on her own beliefs and opinions. Making abortion illegal, something the folks at the CPC pray for, won't make for less abortions. Only less safe abortions. Rachel Grady says the abortion debate:

"has nothing to do with babies. Its about control, it's about the power of women and women's roles, what the purpose of the female gender is, the absolute core of the identity of a woman. It's so profound and so deep."

And at the end of the day, there is no common ground and no end to this war where poor young women keep getting caught up in the cross-fire. FirstShowing did an interview with the filmmakers at Sundance:

If you can't see it, click here. Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! did a great interview with the filmmakers here.

Sundance Journals, Part 1 (way more upbeat!) is here and Part 3 is here.

Why casual sex won't actually make you crazy, but Laura Sessions Stepp might

Sex.Really. does at least one thing right: They have Lena Chen blogging for them. You may remember Lena from some notorious goings-on at Harvard University that pitted her (and her blog Sex & The Ivy) against True Love Revolution, the on-campus abstinence group.

Her Sex. Really. post, entitled "Oxytocin: The Pseudoscience of the Hook-Up Hormone," is strong blast against ongoing contentions that casual sex reliably leads to heartache, loneliness and even mental illness due to all that crazy oxytocin coursing through our girly après-sex bodies. Citing recent evidence to the very contrary, she writes:

"As a now-monogamous former sex blogger, I'm living proof that hooking up doesn't make you crazy or unable to commit. But if mainstream media reports of the past few years are to be believed, I'm the exception, not the rule. Recently, however, researchers at the University of Minnesota conducted one of the first large-scale studies on the effects of hooking up and found the following:

"Although there has been speculation in public discourse that sexual encounters outside a committed romantic relationship may be emotionally damaging for young people, this study found no differences in the psychological well-being of young adults who had a casual sexual partner verses a more committed partner."

We recently caught up with Lena at the Harvard Abstinence Conference and we're excited to share a bit of our interview with her on this blog next week. But for now, here's how she describes one of the chief proponents of the oxytocin-is-dangerous theory in her post:

Media coverage of the supposed "hook-up culture" often echoes misconceptions first promoted by abstinence advocate Dr. Eric Keroack, the Bush-appointed former deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Population Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services. During his tenure, Keroack made the case for abstinence-only sex education by claiming that premarital sex damages one's ability to form attachments down the line.

The layman's version: oxytocin, the so-called "bonding hormone" which is produced during intercourse, will be less effective at bonding us to our future mates if we overindulge in the chemical cocktail by bed-hopping through our youth.

Aside from Lena's updates on these discredited oxytocin theories, I find it totally delicious that she directly challenges Laura Sessions Stepp's work on oxytocin and the perils of casual sex (Unhooked) – who we recently learned is closely involved with Sex.Really, the host of the post. I would say it's totally cool they ran with it, except the editors seemed to feel the need to include a note from Laura Sessions Stepp saying "I have never heard of Keroack nor read anything he wrote"

Really, Laura? Because Bush's appointment of Dr. Keroak was major, major headline news. Keroak, an anti-contraception and anti-choice crusader, and abstinence-till-marriage advocate, was actually appointed the head of the office charged with providing women with contraceptives and pregnancy prevention counseling. How did a self-described feminist like Laura Sessions Stepp miss that?

Cory Silverberg, writing at, came up with a wonderful definition of casual sex, which inovlves no craziness whatsoever:

"When sex is casual, I think the word is used to mean that the sex is detached from those traditional sexual and gender scripts. This is, I would suggest, precisely what is so threatening about casual sex. Casual sex isn't sex by the rules."

Read his entire thought-provoking post here

Parisian Love, Plan B

This is the original and, I think, wonderful Google ad that ran during the Super Bowl. Selling your product by showing how your product works – without resorting to typical Super Bowl misogynist storylines. Why didn't Dodge think of that? If you can't see it click here.

This is the parody by Upright Citizen's Brigade called "Parisian Oops." Very smart. It would have been an interesting companion to Focus on the Family's anti-choice ad. The embed is VERY WIDE, so if you can't see all of it click here.

The Sundance Journals Part 3: Of Propositions and Potato Skins

[This also ran in The Independent]

Days at Sundance 4.5 Times in hot tub: 3 Movies seen: 9 features, 4 shorts Flat rate one cab wanted for driving less than a mile: $20 Flat rate another cab ended up charging me: $8

Part 1: What I did in one day that made the whole trip worth it (and it wasn’t just eating the potato skins)

I got up at 7 am to line-up for two hours, pitched excellently to three funders (see below), had lunch with an awesome producer from NYC, schmoozed and drank at the Sundance Channel party, met up with my distributor who took me to the Chicken & Egg party (where I met some of the coolest women and men at Sundance), taped a fantastic interview with a 30-something abstinent Mormon woman who was actually willing to talk on camera for my documentary "How To Lose Your Virginity," and had a restorative hot tub at 2 am with my housemates. And I had potato skins for the first time in years, which I felt I totally earned after all my exertions so back off, healthy judgmental people.

Part 2: Why funders are like crushes

The documentary funder pitches, always an important part of the festival, were the biggest reason for being here. This is an annual event/zoo where 10 of us gather around a big round table with funder or broadcaster and have five minutes to impress them with the fabulousness of our project in the hopes that they’ll pull out their wallets right then and there and give us $300K. About as likely as some guy offering you a giant diamond ring after one session of speed-dating, which offers some insight into the dynamics of the thing.

These sessions are like dating and the funders strongly resemble the archetypical aspirational boys of my youth.

There's Funder Type 1, who reminds me of the kind of guy often played by James Spader in John Hughes films. He’s got the fancy car and the white blazer and we’re all supposed to be impressed with his giant endowment. Every question I ask is answered with, “It’s on the website,” and finally they just tell me not to contact them for a couple of months because they’re, like, really busy. A reliable source said they wouldn’t be interested in my film anyway, so I’ll just go back to my room and make my pink prom dress and…oh wait, that’s another story.

Funder Type 2 is the smart, cute, and friendly guy who I'm sure would totally dig me if only he knew I existed (sort of like John Cusak but not as pathetic) When I do meet him, he’s just as cool as I thought, but he’s got tons of friends and is pretty picky about making new ones. So I smile and gush and think I made a total fool out of myself but then (yay!) he introduces me to his friends and invites me over to listen to Phil Collins -- I mean, asks me to send them a previous work sample.

Funder Type 3 is like someone I once went out with who I was sure wasn't really that interested. But when I run into him he wonders why I never called because he thought I was so cool and funny but the timing wasn’t right, you know? (Are you still with me in this metaphor cuz I'm looking for that 80s film character...) Translation: although last year’s grant application was turned down, they only encourage some people to apply again -- like me. So I will. FYI This tiny bit of information managed to suspend my self-loathing for at least a week.

Part 3: Sundance films still manage to give me the tinglies, unlike some crushes

The festival seemed noticeably emptier this year, maybe because a lot of people came for the weekend and quit the fest on Monday and Tuesday. By Wednesday, I could get into almost any film through the waitlist lines without a problem. Some of my noteworthy films include (all but one are docs):

Exit Through the Gift Shop: This documentary, directed by the anonymous British street artst Banksy, is going to be a monster hit. A history and celebration of street artists and a scathing commentary on the business of modern art, it tells the fascinating story of Mr. Brainwash who is one crazy-ass Frenchman. This entire film may or may not be a hoax.

His & Hers: This beautiful, moving, and unassuming Irish documentary is a series of 70 short interviews with girls and women about the men in their lives. Arranged chronologically from a smiling baby to chatty toddlers and teens to moms to grandmothers, the characters in this film blew everyone away. I have no idea where or if this will be released in the US, but if it is go see it. It’s a jewel.

Grown Up Movie Star: My favorite narrative pick, this coming-of-age film takes place in Newfoundland and has performances and a script that never goes near the obvious. It’s fresh and delightful and surprising and disturbing and I can’t wait to see director Adriana Maggs’ next film. This one just opened in Toronto so go see it. Right now.

12th And Delaware: This doc is about the Ft. Pierce, Florida intersection that gives the film its title -- and what goes on in the two small buildings on either side of the street. On one side is an abortion clinic, and on the other side is a crisis pregnancy center which exists for one reason: talking women out of having an abortion at that clinic. In the middle are the mostly lower-income women who are pregnant, don't want to be, and are looking for help. It’s an astonishing and sad verité film from the makers of Jesus Camp that shows how very little common ground there is when it comes to abortion. I wrote a longer post about this on my blog and it will be on HBO.

8: The Mormon Proposition Probably the most intense and emotional screening I went to, this documentary shows how the Mormon church, in violation of church/state separation and tax-exemption laws, funneled millions of dollars into the campaign to strike down same-sex marriage in California. It also details the daily persecution that gay Mormon youth face in Utah, resulting in one of the highest youth suicides rates in the country. One of the film's same-sex couples and the parents who love and support them attended the screening. If someone from the Church was there, they didn’t make themselves known – no doubt because they didn’t want to be torn apart by the angry mob. No distribution yet, but I’m sure it will get picked up soon.

Part 1: Settling In

Part 2: 12th and Delaware

If you're in Boston, check out "Subjectified: Nine Young Women Talk About Sex"

Thanks to Aggie, the newest member of the Trixie Films family, for finding this trailer for the documentary "Subjectified: Nine Young Women Talk About Sex" by Melissa Tapper Goldman.

Melissa interviewed nine different women across America about their sexual feelings and experiences. We love anything that challenges the standard virgin/whore, slut/prude depictions of female sexuality and offers a more complex picture. From her website:

"Why do girls have sex? Pressure? Libido? Emotional dependence? I realized that I drew many assumptions from examples in media rather than from real life, since few of us ever hear such intimate details from anyone but our closest friends...

In an age of reality television, we hear a continuous stream of intimate personal narratives. But what “reality” television offers in exhibitionism, it lacks in dimensionality. Somehow in a sea of overexposure, images of real female sexuality, explored on their own terms, are still startlingly rare."

It's showing in the Boston area on Feb 4th. We're assuming it's a short, but the website doesn't say. For more info, click here.

New Video: Brooklyn Pro-Choice Network and Friends have an old-fashioned Counter Protest

If you can't see the video, the link is here.

[Repost in honor or the 37th anniversary of Roe v Wade] I recently did a short video for Brooklyn Pro-Choice Network about their Counter-Protest in front of a clinic Sunset Park. I occasionally volunteer for BPCN as an escort here and my main job is to prevent clients seeking abortions from being harassed by people wielding plastic rosaries and dead baby posters.

Joining BPCN that day were "radical marching band" the Rude Mechanical Orchestra and the always elegant Church Ladies for Choice. It was quite a scene, so please check it out. And if you're interested in volunteering as an escort, you can contact them here.

The anniversary of Roe v Wade, which in 1973 made abortion legal in this country, is on January 22nd. There is a large pro-choice event happening today in Washington.