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$Monday: Own Your Moneymaker

Ladies, gentlemen, humans of every gender and sexuality or none whatsoever, take care of your reproductive health. Nobody has a right to your sexual or reproductive choices but you, and knowing that all the way through your guts and juices and bones is essential to financial wellness. Reproductive autonomy is economic power.

How many children to have and when to have them can be the most financially significant decisions of a person's entire life. This is obvious.

But so is sexual autonomy, aside from reproduction. In any culture that controls human sexuality through shame, people (especially the disabled, children, and women, but all people) are at risk of being manipulated--sexually harassed, exploited, traumatized, or threatened--using the lever of public shaming over one's body and/or sexuality. These manipulations cost people jobs, productivity, creativity, confidence, social power, and physical health.

Kidnapping and rape survivor Elizabeth Smart is a great resource for education on how purity cultures encourage and propagate sexual abuse, particularly of children, and how it punishes victims while enabling perpetrators.

This is why I let my daughter watch the Super Bowl halftime show featuring Shakira and Jennifer Lopez even though, for many other reasons, my family does not habitually watch or support the Super Bowl. I have never, and will never, teach my daughter that sexiness and sexual pleasure are inherently wrong. I have never, and will never, teach my daughter that she is responsible for other people's sexual responses to her. I have never, and will never, teach my daughter that women have a responsibility to be sexy or cute or pleasing to anyone else.

I make sure that the vast majority of media available to my daughter (books, movies, shows, video games, music, etc.) features empowered girls and women doing all sorts of different things, completing goals, making friends, learning new skills, etc., and that the vast majority of these stories do not contain sexual or romantic elements or sexualized female characters. But I do want my daughter to be exposed to powerfully sexual women, too--women who enjoy and feel confident about their own sexuality.

The sad truth is that there isn't any way to protect our children from seeing inappropriately sexualized and exploitative portrayals of women and female sexuality. So I want my daughter to know that it isn't women's sexiness that is wrong, it's abuse that is wrong. I'm not okay with my daughter seeing women objectified in ways that don't look pleasurable to them. I'm fine with my daughter seeing women who are reveling joyfully in their own sexiness, beauty, sensual dancing skills, and mind-blowing lack of shame for moving their bodies like Michael Jackson, Elvis, or a rapper in public. For me, it's all about how the sexy lady feels, not how she is making some white supremacist with a hate b*ner feel.

I'd rather my daughter grow up to pole dance like J.Lo--a performance artist dancing in reference to a masterful cinematic portrayal of a stripper--(not that I actually expect pole dancing to result from my daughter's mildly interested viewing of this show) than grow up to sell her body the way football players do, trading brain cells and life expectancy for money.

After watching the Super Bowl halftime show, my daughter went to an elementary school dance and danced so hard (not in a particularly sexy way but definitely in a joyful way) that she exhausted herself with fun and exercise and slept like a rock that night. I also heard her practicing Spanish words with her friends. How lovely!

For myself, I was thrilled with watching Shakira (43) and J.Lo (50) have so much fun flipping their hair and dancing in ways both athletic and sensual. I also feel good when I move my body that way, and these women remind me that I don't have to stop just because I'm a mom and a woman over 35. I can do what I want, and whether it looks sexy or not, it doesn't diminish my worth as a human being, and I don't have to justify my exercise choices or my artistic choices to the morality police.

So if you want to shake it, shake it. If you want to be sexy, be sexy. If you want to be weird, be weird. If you want to cover yourself in layers of bog witch finery, grow a grizzled beard, and decorate your face with stick-on warts, I salute you. (Seriously. That sounds rad.) Nobody should have to please strangers with their appearance by being more cute or less cute, more sexy or less sexy, and nobody has to answer to strangers' feelings of attraction or repulsion.

I think that women and queer people are becoming more aware of our own sensual desires, powers, and rights than ever before, and I think that is a great thing. When we know what feels good and we aren't ashamed of our desires and our bodies, we are less vulnerable to abuse. We are powerful. We can choose when and where and how to use our sensual and sexual capacities to create joy, family, wealth, art, and wellness. We are strong when we own ourselves, mind and body and soul.

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