It is Illegal to be black in this country

Now, after reading that title, please don’t tell me there are no laws in the USA, federal, state or local that ban African-Americans from existing. I know that’s the case. I know Barack Obama is black, and I know he was elected president. But when one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime and police are routinely killing unarmed black men at the same rate they’re killing armed black men, I have to come to the conclusion that yes, it’s illegal to be black in this country; and it’s a crime often punishable by death.

Before he was murdered by law enforcement, Tamir Rice displayed a toy weapon that police thought was real in an open-carry state. It is illegal to be black in this country.

Before he was murdered by law enforcement, (and left to rot in the August sun) Michael Brown surrendered to police. It is illegal to be black in the country.

Sandra Bland and Freddie Gray never made it out of police custody.  It is illegal to be black in this country.

The executions of Sean BellAmadou Diallo, Eric Garner, Oscar GrantWalter Scott and thousands of others (Over 100 in the first half of 2016 alone) make it clear that it is illegal to be black in this country.

And now we add Alton Sterling’s name to that list. Killed while being pinned to the ground by officers. It is illegal to be black in this country.

It goes without saying (I hope) that this situation is disgusting, deplorable, and needs to be remedied. But it hasn’t. After all those people and all that outrage it still hasn’t. It still keeps happening. We haven’t changed anything, we haven’t fixed anything.

I’m white, and I am cloaked by the warmth of my white privilege, of knowing well into adulthood that a cop is always your friend. But I have black friends. I don’t make this statement to give myself credence or validity, I say it because I am scared for them. I know they face a very different threat, a very different terror, than I do. I know there’s a chance I  may wake up tomorrow to read their names on the news, to see their side by side photos (happy and smiling along side bloody and broken) splashed on the front page of the papers, to hear strangers chant their names at protests, to add them to a list of victims in what feels like an un-winable, neverending war.

They, like those before them, could be killed by the very people we’ve asked to protect us, by the very people who protect me, because I am not black. Because I somehow deserve this protection that they don’t have access to because of the color of my skin. Because it is illegal to be black in this country.




I got a tetanus shot today!

When walking in Chinatown yesterday I felt something in my shoe, like a tiny rock or shard of glass. I tried to push it to the side, or ignore it until I got home but after about 20 minutes I Just couldn’t stand it any more. Turns out a staple had poked through the sole of my shoe. And not a regular office staple, it was industrial sized and my toe was bleeding. I limped home and this morning made my way to an urgent care clinic a few blocks from my apartment.

Some things I learned about tetanus while frantically googling:

  • It has a 72 hour incubation period
  • You should get a booster shot every 10 years (so I’m set til 2026!)
  • If you may have been exposed and you haven’t had the shot in 10 years you should try to get it within 24 hours

The clinic I went to was surprisingly great. It was clean and everyone was super nice.  I was the only one there so my visit went incredibly quickly.

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The Justin Bieber Photos: To look or not to look?

There’s been another celebrity nude photo scandal, this time it’s Justin Bieber who has been photographed au natural by the paps in while vacationing with his lady friend (Jayde Pierce) in Bora Bora. Pretty much the exact moment the photos hit the internet every single blog and magazine told me not to look at them. (Too little too late though ‘cause lil’ perv that I am, I clicked the very first link to the photos I saw.) These well meaning sites likened the Bieber Leak to last year’s “Fappening” when nearly 500 photos of female celebs, many of them entirely or partially nude, hit the web after a massive data breach. If we got so up in arms about those photos (as we should have, because it was gross and disturbing), they argue, it is hypocritical to peek and the Biebz. This, however, is not the case. It’s apples and oranges. While what happened to Bieber was unquestionably wrong, it’s not the same as last year’s photo leak, and equating the two does a disservice to all the victims.

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This piece originally appeared at

Summer is winding down and colleges and universities are swelling with the nubile young flesh of their student populations. If you’re among the privileged who have been accepted into an institution of higher learning, congratulations. If this is your freshman year (or “first year” as my tiny liberal arts college put it) I can pretty much guarantee part of your orientation week will involve a kind of truncated sex ed/how not to get raped session. I giggled through mine mostly because it was fucking ridiculous, victim-blaming and not helpful.

College is nothing like high school (or adulthood). You’ll be given a ton of freedom and you’ll be surrounded by people your own age almost exclusively, 24 hours a day. You’ll go to class, join a club, go to parties and have sex. Probably a lot of sex. You’ll hook up and have casual sex. There will be one night stands and friends with benefits and fuck buddies and relationships. You’ll try to navigate this strange new social structure (often awkwardly). People are going to try to have sex with you and you’re going to try to have sex with other people. Sometimes you’ll be successful (and sometimes you won’t).

I’m here to tell you how to have safe sex on campus in a sex positive, non-shaming kind of way:

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This piece originally appeared at The Radical Notion (Aug 25, 2015). I am a semi-regular contributor to TRN, check it out on Facebook and Twitter for the latest. 

Congratulations ladies (and anyone who likes to have sex involving a vagina)! The FDA has approved a “female viagra” to enable you to get it on! Hooray!

Except, not quite. First let’s remove the misnomer from the drug, Flibanserin, dubbed Addyi by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, its manufacturer,  is absolutely not the same as Viagra, Cialis or any other ED drug out there. Those drugs are designed to aid men who are aroused and want to have sex but face physical limitations. Those drugs basically increase blood flow to the genitals, allowing the penis to get erect, enabling penetrative intercourse. The analogous to this for women, actually, is probably lube which has been around in some form or another for millennia. But Addyi does not increase lubrication in the vagina. It doesn’t focus on the physiological aspects at all. Instead it takes a woman who has little to no desire for sex and, essentially, gives her some.

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Body Image and Fat Shaming in Relationships

This piece originally appeared in the No Experience Newsletter Issue #282 (Aug 19, 2015) Starting this month I am the sex columnist for No Experience with a new column out every week To subscribe and get it in your inbox 3 times a week send your email address to noexperiencenewsletter [at] gmail [dot] com. If you have a sex question you want answered in an upcoming issue, email me at rachels1088 [at] gmail [dot] com.  

Dear Rachel,

I guess its not really a sex thing so much as a lack of sex thing…

I’ve been going through the steps of having weight loss surgery (gastric sleeve) and at first my boyfriend (I’m female), Fred*, was super supportive and came to all my doctors appointments and was super excited.

Originally, we were tentatively scheduled for a July surgery, but my insurance requirements changed and I have to wait until November or December.

About a week after we found out I’d be delayed, Fred said that he’s no longer attracted to me and doesn’t want to have sex anymore, but he wanted to stay together. He said he was ok with everything before, but that I should have tried harder to lose weight in the 10 months we’ve been together and it’s not fair to him and he’s lost his patience.

He said it on July 12th and we’ve only had sex once since then, and the whole time I felt so uncomfortable. He can’t finish and says it’s because I’m a turn off and it’s just become such a negative thing in my life.  I feel horrible, like I ruined everything.

He said it’s just sex, but now even when he wants to cuddle, I feel awful about myself. Or when I’m changing clothes or something and he walks in, I try to like cover up real fast, but he says he doesn’t care or like going to the beach… he doesn’t understand why I dont want to wear a bathing suit around him.

We ended up with we should probably take a step back, that maybe I should open myself up to meeting other people but he still really cares about me and wants to spend time together, just not as much, and he’s fine with not having sex.

I feel like a lot of my reaction is my shit and my depression and anxiety and I have no one else to blame for how I feel but my stupid brain.

We don’t talk or hang out as much anymore and I have zero interest in trying to date or sleep with anyone now until after I have the surgery…if it still happens…but now I’m just scared to be alone and don’t think anyone would want me anyway I mean, if he says he loves me and doesn’t want to sleep with me, why would anyone else?  


Dear Sexless,

There are a lot of things at play here. First of all, if you want the surgery then it’s great that you’re getting it, but you should only do it for your health and your happiness, not anyone else’s including your boyfriend’s. You do not owe to him or the relationship to lose weight. You don’t owe it to anybody. The good news is, if you do decide to have it, most people report returning to sexual activity rather quickly, like only a few weeks. AND women’s sex lives often improve post surgery thanks not only to improved body image but also hormonal changes. So, if you do decide to get it, sex is still an option, perhaps an even better option than it was before.

Secondly, there must be some sort of a disconnect on Fred’s part if he doesn’t understand how his words are affecting you. It’s incredibly insensitive for your partner to call you a turn off and he should be able to understand why it’s hurtful and why it would make you uncomfortable around him. If he’s unable to come now, when your body hasn’t changed, but was before, then that’s an issue with his mind and body, not yours.

Thirdly, and this is the harshest bit, the above doesn’t really matter because it sounds like you’ve basically already broken up. If he’s not sleeping with you,  doesn’t want to hang out with you and is encouraging you to see other people then it sounds like he’s not your boyfriend anymore. And frankly, good riddance. He was cruel and hurtful to you and doesn’t seem to possess the basic interpersonal skills to comprehend why it upset you.

I understand how this experience can be scarring and can make it harder for you to date. So take some time to date yourself. You need some personal self care, because your sense of self has been completely fucked up by this guy.

Larger women are shamed everyday about their bodies (in fact virtually all western women are shamed everyday about their bodies)  and are told they’re too big to be loved or desired and that they cannot, or should not, be sexual beings. This is simply not true. Many women find men who love and want to fuck them because of, or, more often, regardless of their size.

I say, so long and good riddance to this guy. He’s another cog in the American body shaming machine. If he loved and wanted to fuck you before, he shouldn’t stop loving and fucking you now.

In the meantime, learn to love yourself. Don’t let his or anybody else’s words affect how you value yourself. Date yourself, do what you love to do.

Rachel Love