As a child, I ate Vietnamese food with my family every day. It was a shock to me to learn that not everyone had chopsticks in their drawers at home. Vietnamese food was part and parcel of my daily existence – the clinking of chopsticks on china, the liberal application of nước mắm (fish sauce) to everything (seriously, everything), the methodical rhythm of helping my mother make pastries and rice paper rolls, hands moving like a tiny factory.
Giving the character a feminist makeover doesn’t negate the troubling nature of her relationship with the Beast – in fact, many women who do suffer in abusive or manipulative relationships are headstrong feminists. This failure to recognise that independence and susceptibility to violence and abuse are not mutually exclusive is dangerous, because it purports that only the ‘weak’ can find themselves in such situations.
It was the kind of intense, instant connection that I’d only seen in awful rom-coms, where I was transfixed with every word that came out of his mouth and thought he was made of magic. He was well-read and thoughtful, considerate and eloquent. The conversations we had during our brief fling tore open the confines of my mind like so few had before.
He was four years younger than me – still young enough to be considered “early twenties”, as I trudged towards the end of mine. I felt I’d found someone with whom I connected in the most perfect way, but so many of my friends fixated on his age: how could I possibly find any of that in someone so young?
My name is Giselle, and I’m an online dating addict.
I wanted to be so many things when I grew up: a doctor, a police officer, a marine biologist, Nick Carter’s wife, an author.
But I never once dared to dream about being an actor, because when I looked on the screen, there was hardly anyone who looked anything like me – and when there was, they played bookish nerds, losers, the unlucky in love.
This time last year, I had my heart broken. Crushed. Obliterated. It was an acute pain like none I’d ever experienced before – it honestly felt I was like dying.
For months afterwards, I begged for answers. My ex and I would spend hours on the phone, talking in circles, and we would both leave the conversation feeling the same way: defeated, frustrated. Until the next conversation, and then it would start all over again.
During a drunken conversation with a friend recently, she asked how many people I had slept with. I opened my mouth, about to divulge, when she chimed in again: “I mean full sex only. Other stuff doesn’t count.”
“Wait a second,” I said. “What about same-sex couples? Does that not count?”
“Well, of course THAT counts,” she scoffed. “But for heterosexuals, it’s just P in V. Everything else is sexual activity, not sex.”
Single-sex schooling perpetuates tired notions of gender essentialism – girls are like this, boys are like that. In 2016, we know that anatomy has nothing to do with gender, and continuing to define individuals and their experiences by a predetermined social construct hinders social progress.
What’s more, the entire concept of segregated schooling operates on the model of a cis-centric gender binary, automatically excluding, by definition, any students who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming.
Growing up in the age of the internet, I’ve never dated without mobile or digital technology, and online interactions have informed and shaped my sexual understanding as much as the physical has. So it makes complete sense to me that sex education in schools should now incorporate safe digital practices – and that doesn’t mean abstinence.
We need to view sexual safety through a dual lens where it is the responsibility of both parties, and dispose of the mentality that values physical over mental health, when they should be considered in tandem – and sexual pleasure is no small part of both equations.