(this is the only picture following…take something symbolic out of this.)

Ae Padilla

Please no sympathies just respect.

Back in 2016 I mastered the Tinder meet-up. Within the span of nine months I went on forty first dates. It ended up being just as exhausting as it sounds, squeezing into skin tight jeans putting on a face full of makeup and sitting down to engage in small talk for the third time that week. But there was also something exciting about it. Meeting a total stranger and finding one thing you can connect over reassured me (just slightly) about the dating world.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of those dates ended terribly. Some so bad I thought I had been set up for season one of a ridiculous prank dating show.

But all in all most of them just turned out to be unimpressive, ones I have completely forgotten two years later.

And one I can’t.

It was a Thursday night a week and a half after my 25th birthday when I was going about my usual routine. A quick check in on my dating apps while I watched Netflix and tried to write.

A blank Microsoft word page looked back at me with judgment. Every new show seemed unappealing. This regular night I was bored out of my mind.

The only slightly exciting thing about it was a guy who had been messaging me throughout the day. He was visiting from Europe and wanted an American to show him Austin for the night. Now as the night rolled on he and his friend had just arrive on 6th street and wanted company.

I looked at my watch while he tried his best persuasion technique to get me to come out. It was 11 pm and I didn’t have to be at work until 10 the next morning.

Step outside your comfort zone I told myself. You wanted to do more spontaneous things.

After downing a sprite and vodka I called an uber.

It’s not as though I never met a man downtown. I had my occasional first outing at a bar. But this, whatever I was embarking on, felt different. For one thing I hadn’t been talking to this man for the minimum few days, there was not the fake reassurance that the person I was meeting was not going to murder me. For another, I wasn’t going to meet him at one of my go-to restaurants, the places where I could easily walk to my car and get away from the situation in under a minute.

The accountability of 6th street seemed vague at best. Who would remember I was there with him? Who would talk about the girl they saw with the guy that was creeping them out?

I told myself not to worry. To stop living in such a pessimistic world of thoughts.

After all I was being responsible enough.

I was not going to drink and drive. I would stay for only a bit. Besides, as ridiculous as it sounds now typing it, when would I ever be able to party with a group of Brits? If for some reason this guy ended up being a complete asshole or weirdo then I was out downtown alone for a night of people watching. Nothing I hadn’t done before.

At the top of a surprisingly crowded Maggie Mae’s I met Jack. Tall, lean, with glasses that covered half his face he reminded me of an off brand Harry Potter. His accent was heavy and his voice was low, but even with the drink he paid for at the bar and pushed my way I wasn’t especially into him. Yet.

Once his lingering friend left to talk to a group of girls by the dance floor I could finally settle into the wobbly bar stools and really get to know him.

The conversation flowed easily enough. I found out within the first few minutes that he was on a month long vacation of the US. He was halfway through the country and his trip that night.

He spoke in compliments. He loved the food of the south. He loved the weather and the “craziness” of the city, the fact that on a Thursday in Austin tons of twenty something year olds were singing along to throwbacks at a dive var.

What really sealed the deal in our chat was when we both landed on Friday Night Lights as one our favorite shows. Even with a man who lived halfway across the world I could still end up talking about Texas high school football! As far as first conversations go, with a guy you don’t need to be your soulmate, I would say it was going surprisingly well,

We ordered a few more drinks and a funnier more confident Jack began to show. Same with myself. Something happened that had not happened in months despite the slew of dating. I felt attractive, wanted, and intellectually pursued. I’ll say what you’re not supposed to say: it felt good to have genuine attention from a cute foreigner.

In hindsight were there some warnings? Sure. I found him throughout the night to be a little too touchy feely for my taste. (Hand along my backside while we walked, scooting closer because he “couldn’t hear”) but I ultimately dismissed it as a combination of my own conservatism and an acknowledgment that I did not know what was socially acceptable in his culture or upbringing.

Before realizing it 2 o’clock came suddenly. The bars were shouting last call while Jack swept in and gave me a kiss he had been flirting with.

He asked me before he did it. Normally I hate that type of contrived shit but in this instance it comforted me. His lips were soft and his beard itchy.

Ultimately I decided to call it a night as the possibility of a hangover loomed over me at work the next day. When we reached our goodbyes I asked him where he was staying. He mentioned a hostel in west campus he was sharing with three other people. “ Not exactly a five star hotel,” he teased while I laughed.

The discussion that came after that was messy. As in I am not quite sure who decided to initiate we go back to my place, but it does not take a genius to realize it was probably the guy who wanted to get laid while on vacation in America.

He paid for the uber back to my apartment.

Now I know this is where I lose some people. There are those who are screaming at the way these words have formed a story that could have ultimately been prevented if I had just been smarter.

Many will say something like: “I would never go out alone but I don’t think it’s crazy that you did, it was stupid to go home with someone you just met though.”

I know people will say these types of things because they have said these types of things.

I was that person to myself, wondering how the very cautious me had managed to find myself alone with a person I had just introduced myself to that night.

I reassured myself with a few facts. I had watched my drinks all night. I had gotten a good feel from him and his friends, and I had told him flat out I was not going to have sex with him if he came back to my place. We could fool around if I wanted to but it was not going beyond that.

He said that was fine with him. He said this because I assumed he thought what would happen is what happens sometimes when girls say that…they decide to have sex.

Some girls say it because they didn’t want to come across as a slut. Some say it because they weren’t as turned on yet.

I said it that night because I didn’t want to have sex. Plain and simple. I had technically only had sex three times in my life at this point and the last time had been a rape of its own.

So by all that alone the special guy I had envisioned I would finally have great sex with was not going to be the one night buzzed tourist I stumbled into my room with.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to do other things though. As we pulled off each other’s clothes I felt vulnerable, but still excited and turned on. Then instantly I felt a power dynamic change in the room I’ve become good at identifying. It’s the changing air in a space when a man becomes aggressive without the permission of a woman.

Where only minutes before he held me down intensely and consensually, he now positioned himself behind me, touching my breast and then without my permission entering me.

It took a second or two before I realized what I was feeling was his actual self and not a hand. Almost comically I asked him what he was doing before attempting to get him out of me. He held me down for a little more than four seconds in his lust while I struggled.

Thinking of how paralyzed I felt and how turned on he did, it’s weird to think that two people can have such completely different experiences in the same bed.

The next few minutes blurred together like a film montage. If you told me today it was an hour I would have to believe you. I managed to jump onto the floor, told him to get his things and leave. I yelled about rape. He looked shocked then guilty then shocked again as if he was hearing for the first time what he himself had just done. He tried to plea with me to stay in my apartment. He mentioned not having a car to drive back. I bit back with a “if you hadn’t put your penis in me without permission you wouldn’t have to worry about that.”

When I threatened to call the cops he took me seriously and walked out.

As he tried to talk to me through the door I cried like someone had cut me open. Alcohol most likely contributed to this. Rape too.

After finally no longer seeing him through my peep hole I gathered enough strength to text him asking him why he did what he did. Aside from the electronic evidence I really did want to know why, I was already wanting answers. Why had he done this?

He replied by saying that he asked permission from me. It wasn’t assault because he had inquired about whether he could put “just the tip” in. I said yes, no, nodded yes. At least that’s what he told me.

To this day I actually laugh thinking about that statement. When would I ever agree to this?

Our messages flew back and forth as I reassured myself my door was locked and the sheets were stripped off my bed. Finally I cornered him into the SVU admittance.

“You know you raped me” I wrote.

“I genuinely honestly did not mean to,” he responded.

“You did it though,” I wrote with more anger.

“And I feel awful about it.”

After a string of other texts he finished by saying he did not need this and was done all together. What happened in my bed was a miscommunication. Maybe it was?

I closed my eyes, focusing on those four seconds he would not let go trying to find validation for an assault all while I had admittance to said assault in my hand.

We didn’t talk again.

The aftermath was predictable although still frightening. Having gone through this once before I scheduled an STD test immediately. I told a few people early that morning, sometime when I like to believe that Jack was walking the full four miles back to his hostel.

Of those bothered with the tale one said what I needed to hear. “You said you didn’t want to have sex with him nothing else matters.” While another close friend remarked after I recounted the whole story “Oh thank God I was so worried I thought it was a real rape.”

Years later and this hurts more than the rape itself. Yes I’m glad I wasn’t held at knife point either in a dark alley but if this was what I had to be grateful for we, as a society, had a long way to go.

I never made it into work that morning. I watched Gilmore Girls for days straight as I sat curled up on the couch skipping Halloween parties. I told everyone I was sick that year and that’s why they didn’t get a look at my “bad hombre” costume. I wasn’t sick.

And I lived with those messages as a weapon I never realized I would not be able to use.

Of course a legal case from the beginning was always going to be impossible. There was liquor and consent up until the exact moment there wasn’t. But I held onto the texts because they gave me power over my assault I wasn’t able to feel with my previous one, where the person would never have admitted to doing anything wrong.

I thought this violation would mean something. That it would be more than a warning. That something good or profound would come out of it. Nothing did. I don’t anticipate anything will.

Every story of assault serves as reassurance that some men will always still see themselves as the nice guy, some women will always pick at the ways they were at fault, and time after time it will all become muddled.

I didn’t start volunteering for helping sexual assault victims like I had before. I didn’t get some revenge on my assaulter. And while I hope, I know in my heart I didn’t help someone from not raping again. I didn’t help someone with their own experience. And the love of my life didn’t run over to comfort me.

I did eventually find amazing safe sex with a wonderful boyfriend but that’s just a nice detail at the end of this story not a result from it.

Sometimes rapes just are. They have no reason because they come from a cluster of bad intentions and ignorance.

The only thing I have learned is that the only good men are the ones who make you feel safe. Not the ones who make you laugh or charm you. This is the mantra I carry close to me, but that doesn’t mean everyone will agree with it.

In a couple of months I will get a new phone, and the pictures at the beginning of my photo library won’t be screenshots of a dating app conversation about forcible penetration. This situation will float further behind me until one day I will look around and it won’t be there at all.

Jack, whose last name I never learned, will continue wandering the streets of London with his Warby Parker sunglasses and a sweet smile like he has done the past couple of years. One day soon he will meet a nice girl who will be impressed by how nice he is too. Over a beer he will talk about his month long trip across the United States in the fall of 2016. He will mention beaches, cities, Broadway plays, and bars.

I will not come up.


We Love Talking About Mental Illness…Once it is Treated


(Allie Brosh’s blogs are the only thing in life I relate to…except for maybe Daria at her best and BoJack Horseman at his worst)

For this article I focused more on depression and anxiety as opposed to other mental disorders. All respect to those who speak honestly about their struggles.

Ae Padilla

I was there when mental illness became “cool.” I saw articles applauding brave celebrities for coming forward with their invisible battles. I saw when people cared about sensitively using the word depression and not in reference to the avocado toast that just ran out at their brunch spot. I was also here when people started writing those articles about how depression shouldn’t be cool or romantic. I actually wrote one myself for this blog. And for the most part I stand entirely behind it.

I’m here to discuss something that surprisingly does not or has not happened with mental illness in the media.

I’m here to discuss how mental illness never lives in the present.

In fact almost all articles on mental disorders live in the past, in that people who express their own fight with diseases such as depression and anxiety are always in a recovery stage. The survivors, or the writers on their behalf, constantly refer to their disorder as an incredible obstacle they have overcome.

Those responsible enough to acknowledge that most mental diseases can never fully be cured, just controlled, still fall victim to the story of a person and their treated mental illness as a “perfect ending” more than a piece that makes up the entire puzzle.

Depression is a good example to discuss this in more detail. And that’s not just because I suffer from the disease but because many people do (an estimated 300 million around the world according to WHO). Also with depression, unlike some other diseases, there seems to be more at stake.

Formerly getting diagnosed with depression takes a lot of work. You have to suffer just enough but somehow find the energy to make your way to a doctor’s office or a therapist to really flesh out your problems. Then if there is still more that needs to be done in order for you to live a productive life you begin with crucial steps. Meditation. Exercise. A dose of anti-depressants. And all of this is not done lightly, it’s a process that can take months, but realistically years, to accomplish.

And sadly it continues in much this same manner until you die.

Don’t get me wrong. That’s not every case of depression. Just in say chronic persistent depression that occurs from genetics or simply luck of the draw.

In some situational depression (a parent dying, an inability to find employment) all these useful steps I mentioned before can help someone move on from their despair and let them live the way they used to, where all in all they had the ability on any day to feel excited about their life.

But in cases like mine, and a lot of people I know, the depression will still linger even if all these steps are accomplished. The constant cloud will simply become a small passing one as opposed to a dark distant thunderstorm.

And that’s where the articles about the “end to depression” or the “end to mental illness” become reckless.

Articles that focus on popular individuals or even the average Joe which start at the end of their journey fail to accurately acknowledge the pain and suffering of an initial episode or relapse.

For the inspirational article wrapped with a bow, the everyday reader wants that happy ending about how the person who almost killed themselves ended up finding the love of their life or the career of their dreams. And perhaps most importantly for the person actually considering suicide, reading about someone’s success with Prozac when they are iffy about taking a drug every day that could ultimately save their life does matter and should not be brushed off as journalist fluff.

But unfortunately it’s not real to life. And I worry it alienates more than helps those in the thick of it.

Because in order for all people who suffer from depression, anxiety, or even anorexia to begin to take the step to recovery they need to be reaffirmed they are living the worst of the illness. The bravery of asking for assistance or mustering up your thoughts into action comes from knowing that some part of you can relate to the deepest hole you can be thrown in. You need to know that someone else might have it just as bad. Not in a misery loves company way but in the sense of forming a community.

Turning towards inspirational stories of happiness/recovery with glossed over passages about the sadness, especially in that whimsical tone we read which too often starts “back when I was at my most depressed, rock bottom…and I didn’t have the hope I have today” perpetuates the harmful way that mental illness alienates you when you are a full-fledged member. Reading passages like those convince you that you can never be that successful person in the future because he or she reminiscing on their miserable moments must not have been in as bad of a place or they must have more resilience than you.

Although there can be no perfect article about struggling with mental illness, if there had to be one it would be the disgusting horrendous truth about the real dangers of people living with them by people living with them.

Maybe that is exactly what we need. Real. Brutal. Full of heart.

I’m waiting for the day when a brave anorexic woman talks about how she has not eaten in two days. And how as she writes her article, in present day, a dress a size to small motivates her to not eat despite the rumble in her stomach. I wonder when national websites will post think pieces from a man who states honestly that he has spent forty five hours in bed before Wednesday because his depression can’t motivate himself to do anything else and there is a good chance he will continue the trend tomorrow. I’m curious as to the direction our conversation about mental health will have to take before I read a real life account about someone stating that they worry they won’t be around next week for their family because they can’t do it anymore.

And these fictitious articles will not live on Tumblr, the anonymous internet where people can encourage eating disorders or suicide. Instead they will live very publicly on more credible sites or in books that allow people to see them as needed documentation of the struggle of mental illness.

If done respectfully, articles from the present and articles about relapse depict a more realistic side of the up and down struggles of being happy.

Of course this does not mean I dismiss all those who came forward to tell their story when they could have just as easily not relived the memories of their emotional (and sometimes physical) battles.

I instead want to highlight from experience the startling part of finding some recovery in a mental illness is realizing you forget what makes up the mental illness itself. And this is threatening to the possible return of symptoms that can surprisingly still feel like a shock even after going through them time and time again.

For those who understand this, the warning in our head we hear at the end of any media piece that we think eradicates our disorder demands to be shared with all who are similar to us. This doesn’t make us cynical, it makes us realistic about all the possible “what ifs…”

Speaking about mental illness through people currently experiencing it can be a unifying experience for those in the roughest of times. Instead of placing emphasis on fixing an entire problem those who suffer will be able to look at more of the physical ways that anxiety or depression can present itself (insomnia, over-eating, lack of showering, paralyzing negative thoughts). In reading about these daily struggles survivors/victims can learn coping mechanisms that are hyper-focused instead of the broad lie “I’ll get better one day.”

Our world, especially our country, enjoys seeing the Cinderella story. In our own lives we speak passionately about someone overcoming every obstacle. We love an underdog making something of themselves. But we don’t like to see it before it becomes a movie. We don’t like to see the first-hand pain some people endure, even those in our own lives.

Often people close to those with severe mental health disorders ignore the blatant signs of those they love who are suffering. It can be because they don’t have enough knowledge about that particular disease, in other instances it can come from the hope that denying a situation is as bad as it is means it is really not as bad as it is. Perhaps in some way looking away until the person is better is sparing themselves the responsibility of facing it head on or giving the other person a warped sense of respect. Then of course there are those who acknowledge stress as a lack of motivation and something they will “snap out of.”

Personally highlighting disorders at their worst, encouraging people to share any of their process, can stop bystanders from remaining inactive and instead give them tools to be a part of someone’s recovery.

It can erase the respect people bestow on someone only when they finish the journey and not while they are going through it.


the manic pixie WHITE dream girl


(Men still love Zooey Deschanel right?)

Will all my women of color understand the desirability of themselves.

Ae Padilla

Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I can’t say it, let alone write it, without visions of Zooey Deschanel dancing across my head. The brunette with the bangs, the wispy voice and whimsical clothing who serves as nothing more than a muse for the male protagonist of a movie. She is the instigator of passion and adventure the man has always craved (even if he did not know it). More than anything, she embodies everything that is carefree. She listens to indie pop and screams into the abyss, trash bag covering her for no reason.

But the manic pixie dream girl is also white. Almost always white. She’s beautiful, quirky, smart, although hardly ever more financially independent than the man but with a perfect red lip on her fair skin.

I’m not surprised women of color are not the love interest for a white man. They rarely are the love interest of anyone if their race has already not been accounted for as plot, think Guess Who (for those who remember that Ashton Kutcher Zoe Saldana semi-flop). When they are the main love interest in a film the man is almost always not white either (think Hitch). And when both cis heterosexual people are of color, and do manage to engage in romance and sex, the film is usually inclusively “a black film” targeted at black audiences because white people won’t admit they don’t care as much about seeing people of color fall in love in their theaters.

The need for different racial representation has been a heated discussion recently, especially within elite Hollywood and the oh so white Oscars. Romantic-comedies or relationship dramas are usually not the movies that people turn to for said representation, mostly because films about relationships tend to not be heavily favored by critics. Within the context of media, romantic films and novels fall into the same category, a flighty story with minimal merit although exceptions do happen. Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Brokeback Mountain, Titanic. But they don’t happen often, and the idea of women of color being represented in them is pushed to the back burner.

When romance does appear on the screen, becoming the movies we “hate to love” but watch anyway, the woman does not look like me.

Women of color are never able to be the carefree woman that white women are in movies because racism runs rampant on the screen. I give no credence to the directors who would be educated enough to recognize the real reason is that women of color are never given the opportunity to be the exclusionary woman of a (let’s face it) man-child’s gaze. Often, if true to life, they are too oppressed and too busy fighting for representation to be cute for the sake of being cute. That’s a white woman’s privileged world to be the pretty bow wearing optimist who men dream over.

The carefree woman that the director envisions for this role is a “virginal” white woman. Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown, Natalie Portman in Garden State, and the ever coveted Summer in 500 Days of Summer hold sexual autonomy, but their sexuality is never vulgarized. It hides behind petite women with modest breasts. Their butt is small, their face is gorgeous. Women of color aren’t allowed to be the object of desire in this area. While I commend most romantic comedies of this sort for not over-sexualizing women, the brooding intelligent men who are drawn to this women eventually want them as a life partner. They can love having sex with these dainty women because they are allowed to love having sex with them. By society’s standards, the man does not have to justify enjoying the curvaceous bodies that are frequently, but not all the time, women of color’s bodies. The thicker lips, thighs, and butt of a woman who considers herself identifying with a black or Latina culture does not make the big screen when the man who is pursuing her is white, especially in the world that romantic comedies set up – a man who surprisingly does not fetishize the woman he wants but loves her as much sexually as emotionally. A man in a similar film would have to defend his love for a woman of that size and of color. And defend his desire for a future with her.

Women of color are fetishized more often in pop-culture. They are degraded as purely sexual for a man’s pleasure in shows, music videos, and even pornography. Therefor as a romantic lead, the man in the partnership cannot see “end-game” with the woman who is perceived as being overtly sexual. Manic pixie dream girls are hot but beautiful. They are sexual beings that have the privilege of not being sexualized because they are seen as people and not as a stereotype of a feisty Latina girl in bed. This woman has never been called “exotic” or been pressured into doing something the world perceives she participates in.

Additionally, the carefree white manic pixie dream girl, by association to the man who pursues her, is supposed to be an influx of cultural knowledge and creativeness the man has almost purposefully avoided throughout his life. Natalie Portman, Sam in Garden State, is a wonderful distraction to Zach Braff’s inner turmoil of his dead mother. She shows him which songs will change his life. She introduces him to the Shins, movies he would never have seen, and a huge hamster maze for no.fucking.reason. Or Kirsten Dunst, Claire in Elizabethtown who coincidentally helps her new-found attraction get over the death of his father by introducing him to mix-cds and scrap books he obsessively pours over which lead him to throw dirt in the air in the middle of a forest for no.fucking.reason.

Women of color are rarely represented as being creative and by being captivated by music, art, and films which are not isolating to white people. The addition of women of color as a love interest in the manic pixie dream girl role would be to convince the audience of two things. One is that a woman of color can be excluded from the box of perceived musical taste (hip-hop/rap/Tejano). This is to say that a woman with dreadlocks, a woman with dark skin could hold up headphones of a band like Spoon and encaptivate a music-snob man in the making. Or worse the opposite occurs too. If that woman of color is someone who identifies with their cultural influences in art then the screenplay writer, producer, etc. would be unable to fully represent and describe that art in a way which would not be demeaning or dismissive. The result is that white women create less work for the writer to flesh out their character which is hardly even given agency at all.

Finally, white women in the United Stare are still seen almost exclusively as the most desirable mate. To the “misguided” racist viewer who makes up a part (but not all) of the American box office, seeing a white love story is the true epitome of a romance. It is a love story that does not fall into “other category.” Interracial, cultural, diversity.

In an industry which struggles to bring in money, alienating viewers who are unable to stick themselves into the role of the man or woman in the film is potentially dangerous. Although the ethnic makeup of the United States points to the fact that black, Hispanic, and Asian population make up a large majority of our country the narrative script remains, rarely shaken up. White man falls in love with white woman. They have white babies. Their white families expect nothing less.

As a person who has subscribed to the American and Mexican-American culture since birth, I find the context of white romance on screen, particularly quirky romance, as containing a slight coating of unrealistic ideas. When almost every couple does not look like you you begin to wonder if the relationships themselves mirror your actual problems and stories. Other times, you insert yourself into the narrative because you have no other choice, because the normalcy of white-only relationships creeps up on you. But it never feels completely your own. You think to yourself subconsciously, whether you admit it or not, that those are white people living a white life. You understand, know, that people are almost always just people at their core. You are also not that naïve.

When manic pixie dream girls are in a film you decide to watch, it feels like a mockery. While I, and other women of color subscribe to the American culture we are not treated the same as all Americans. Women of color in the United States are empowered and active, but rarely are they carefree, because they have not been allowed to be. They are fighting for equal rights, equal pay, the idea of being seen as “equal” itself. Women of color’s sole identity in life is never what they strive for, nor should it be, but it’s important to remember that women of color live in a different world than white women, even if they inhabit the same physical one.

White women do not understand the struggle of the balancing-act which can frequently occur in the mind of an ethnic woman who is dating a white man. It’s some of the same questions ignorant people have already asked us while single. Why do you sound white? Why do you act white? Why do you not listen to the art/music/etc. that other people who look like you listen to? Is it weird not dating someone of your own ethnicity? And the comment:good for you for landing a white guy!

In entering an interracial relationship with a white man, women of color can feel as if they lose some bit of their racial identity to being the token partner of a white man and a lot of the time a group of white friends to accompany him. It’s a constant stream of questions to provoke debates with yourself. How do I deal with the racist friend my white boyfriend has? How do I deal with strangers who disregard us as a couple or who make subtle racist comments they are able to take back if I call them on? How am I supposed to straddle the line of being chill without being complicit to a culture which regularly insults not only my gender but race more often than white men realize? And how do I react to the inevitable “compliment” of fitting in with my boyfriend from others who were cautious about our relationship because of my skin color?

The questions minority women are asked are not that of a manic pixie dream girl. They create too many “real world” problems a film like this wont explore.

Minority women lack the ability to be as self-absorbed as a white female protagonist, who is able to get away with continuing the limited growth of the man she is in a relationship with who often himself has limited goals. Who needs someone to save him instead of taking the accountability to save himself. More women of color than white women are forced to “grow-up” earlier in life on account of being raised in areas and in situations that come from the systematic pull of racism. The experience of childhood, the wonderment that follows white women in musical montage scenes, stops short with others.

Although not all minority women should be grouped into certain experiences, the fact remains that black and Native-American women are more likely to be sexually assaulted and in domestic abuse situations. They are more likely to be living in poverty and making less money. They are faced with obstacles not all other people face.

Minority women are more than the buzzed karaoke going woman who a man stares at, and all time stands still, and he is lost. They have to be.

Sure, the manic pixie dream girl is never a real woman because a real woman has flaws that do not stem from a man. She possesses a personality that does not exist to serve her partner’s need. She lives outside of how she affects a man’s story-line which ultimately ends up being about him rather than them.

In a world where women of color are constantly tossed to the side, dismissed as taking up less space, the hope for representation exists even in this cliché. Perhaps it comes down to being wanted in a way which men fawn over us as the “ideal” women. It doesn’t make us the ideal woman because a man says we are, instead it reinforces to us that while we may not want to be the ultimately stupidly naïve somewhat weak woman in the film (and this is a good thing) we can be a woman in film period.

Perhaps we are allowed to be the “prize” too.

Will My White Friends (Who Claim to be Liberal) Please Stand Up

(You’re doing next to nothing for minorities…this includes your lack of dialogue.)


(so many unimpressive white men, so little time )

My gratitude to those who protested against hatred in Charlottesville as well as Heather Heyer, who paid the ultimate price for her beliefs.

Ae Padilla 

I live in Austin, Texas. A speck of blue in a sea of red. Austin has a reputation of being liberal, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it has a plethora of minorities because of this. Austin is very white, extraordinarily white for the amount of people in an urban area within a very populated Hispanic state. As a result of living here I have a lot of white friends. I have a good amount of friends of color but it’s not uncommon if I find myself on any given night in a room surrounded by only white people.

Most, if not all of my friends, identify as liberal or libertarian. To keep it short, I am acquainted with many individuals who are fiscally conservative but as far as I know I am not knowingly friends with anyone who does not believe in equal rights, and I wouldn’t be friends with anyone anymore if I did find this out. I can’t believe I have to say this in the year 2017 but if you believe that because you are a white person or a man you are better than me, a Hispanic woman, you are a horrible human being and the earth would probably be a more tolerant place without you in it.

But for the love of God I am so sick of the complacency of some of the white people I hang around with both in a private and public setting.

I don’t know what it’s like to be white. I assume you watch a lot of Mad Men and write a good amount in moleskin notebooks and in between those activities you live as great of a life as you can. You engage in the world around you (Twitter, Reddit, Facebook) and sooner or later you become aware of what’s happening in it that doesn’t affect you. The fact that black people get shot in the country daily by cops or that women who wear Hijabs are attacked on the subway as they go about their own lives.

I assume that like my friends you care, you find this to be one terrible ordeal after another. You do not condone the violence. You distance yourself away from people who look like you but who spread hate speech they feel is protected under the first amendment. You vote for someone who isn’t Trump. You maybe, maybe, donate to Planned Parenthood.

But in all honesty it usually ends there. White people’s actions commence and end at being offended for someone else, while still never being as offended they should be. Including people I spend time around, too many white people I know shake their heads (understandably) at the idea of active Nazi’s in our modern world, the rise of the KKK, the “alt-right,” the resistance to accept Black Lives Matter but these white people do absolutely nothing productive about it.

I don’t even mean that in the big acts of activism way, where you have to pause your Netflix and move your body off a couch. Still hardly any of the white people I know engage in organized protests or call their senators to change laws (laws which effect transgender, women, and other marginalized groups in their state.) These deeds require the bare minimum of physical action that they could do, along with clicking a donation button to the ACLU or NAACP, but still they do not do it.

It’s hard, I understand that. I have, since Trump has been president, cried almost on a weekly basis from something in the headlines which has threatened a fellow American – almost always a minority. I have had true anxiety at the possibilities of what will happen to those I know who are immigrants, who love someone of their same sex, for the people of my hometown who will have a literal wall separate them from their family. I have suffered so much frustration about the sexual predator in our oval office who devalues women tweets at a time. But I have also been frustrated with myself for not doing enough. Because I know I am not doing enough. I write blogs, donate, and call local offices sporadically. I listen to political podcasts until I am blue in the face, but it seems stationary. It seems like as much as I try I can’t do enough. I can’t fix Washington and I can’t fix hate. I can’t even buy out the tiki torches of the world.

In all seriousness not a day goes by where I don’t think to myself, what did I do today to help the resistance? To help my people? Both women and people of color. I feel constant shame in my immobile helplessness.

I am almost positive however that most of my white friends do not ever think this. How much of a blessing it must be to not have to, to see something horrific happening, recognize it, but have no inclination that you are responsible for fixing it as much as someone like me might be. It’s ironic given that the perils minorities encounter are caused mainly by white people.

There are those in my life who I assume do feel this way. Minorities and white people alike. (Because not all white people right?) But the burden falls to people who look like me, who relate to that crippling feeling that their country is moving in a direction which will ultimately betray them (even more than it already has.) It is very rare that I can connect over this shared feeling with those who do not identify in any way with a minority or are not actively searching to be educated and empathetic to minorities.

But the education is out there. In this day and age the accessibility of helpful and informative articles about race, particularly in relation to how the “alt-right” (or rather pro-racist movement) view minorities are in excess. The ways we can teach people about race and defeat this movement (and with it Trump) do exist on our walls, tweets, and trusted news outlets. If we take the time to make sure these texts are verifiable and written by people who have survived struggle themselves (or those who have researched it sensitively) we should indeed go about sharing them with those around us.

It’s a touchy situation, but we need to let go of this idea that we are bothering people with political posts and talk. The time we live in does not call for it. Maybe Facebook started out as a way to engage happily with your friends about your latest beach vacation, but why must that mean that there should be a moratorium on the real news we share aside from that? We live in an extraordinary age where we are able to share instantaneous information and yet people, white people specifically, are more ignorant than ever.

Because I’ve come to realize something telling about race in the United States that plays across my computer screen. It’s my minority friends who post the articles about Heather Heyer and Eric Garner. It’s my minority friends who keep me updated on if a ridiculous bathroom bill is dead. It is my Indian, Black, Hispanic, Transgender, Gay and Jewish friends who respond to stories, who engage in not only online dialogue but who create their own with thought out posts about how they feel about the current political climate. They are the ones who text me at the end of the day “Did you see what that clown said today?”

I do want to say that some of those minority groups I mentioned are white themselves, but as white people who have faced their own, even minute, struggles they understand a form of oppression that exists around them and this possibly allows them to see greater strife in others. Are there some white friends of mine who are amazingly open to learning more about the racism that occurs presently in this country? Absolutely. Some of my white friends seem as passionate about the resistance as I do. But they are few and far between. If I sat down and really thought about it, they might make up less than five people.

It’s not that my white friends, or white people, don’t try to play the part. They “like” my posts, they read extensively about politics, they could probably out politic talk me. But they fail to understand the deep-heartedness that comes when race becomes personal and not political. As white people who are surrounded by different races than them they are placed in the unique opportunity to learn more about race in their nation from someone who experiences it, they choose not to for reasons that vary from it being too much work to just not caring enough.

I’m not saying I am not privileged myself, that I do not share some of the same privileges of growing up as an American citizen in an upper-middle class family as many of my white peers do, but being a Mexican-American woman does lead to an awareness (and hardship) that some people in my life have never faced.

I know this because a wonderful thing happens when I talk about race with different races, those hardships and ideas I experience are validated.

I can think of nothing less productive than having a conversation about race with a group of white people, sometimes even those I am closest too. And I know that I am not the only minority who feels this way. An amazing energy and discourse occurs when a group of people who are not white discuss race openly. There are arguments, regardless of what people might believe not everyone agrees that we should all just condemn white people and that would be the end of it, but the arguments are not rooted in white validation.

When I have a discussion of race in America, like I did recently with only my Indian, Middle Eastern, and two Black friends, I do not need to worry about offending my non-existent white friend sitting among us. Every sentence does not need to be prefaced with “not all white people.” I do not have to, as minorities always do, cater to the emotional feelings of a white person who believes they are being attacked because they are in a position where for the first time they are being told devastating things people of their race do. I rarely ever get questioned: are you sure that wouldn’t happen to a white person? I am not told: I wouldn’t consider that a race issue, that happens to me too. Or aren’t you making something out of nothing? Most of all, a conversation without white people does not become proving something to white people, thereby turning the conversation back to them – again. Conversations like the one I had with minorities, predominately minorities of not one race, allow me to grow because I see the problems within my own ways I view a racial construct. And most importantly I know the conversation will continue, I won’t have to worry about a white person emotionally exhausting the room, and then wrapping it up with the status quo of “I don’t see you any differently than any of my white friends.” It’s a good sentiment, and most people mean well when they say this, but it also takes away the agency of someone (me) who knows they are talking about a battle that not everyone has to fight. A conversation with only people of color, other ethnicities, eliminates the unavoidable white person who needs to feel they are more educated about a subject simply because they have read about it.

My liberal white friends and most of your liberal white friends need to accept that their conversations about race or discrimination of any kind are usually not good ones. They need to recognize and not flee from the inevitable feeling they will experience of being “uncomfortable” when someone suddenly gets serious about wanting to talk personally and not flippantly about something they saw in the media that effected them. They need to realize we (I) have to actively work to be comfortable in our body every single day. White people need to realize that if a conversation about a politician or riot feels like a restraint on their happiness at a dinner party, gathering, etc. then they are living in a Candyland of partly their own doing.

Hating people who hate black people does not give them a pass. They need to share articles. They need to not make jokes about the resistance, or buy into the false idea that the people who lead these organizations and the political leaders we elect to represent us do not know how to govern. They need to think, and evaluate themselves, every time they utter a statement that alludes to the fact that being a minority in no way effects poll numbers.

They need to get over themselves as their own white savior, the false belief that if they united more white people then and only then could they accomplish more. White people can accomplish more only with the help of minorities leading them.

White friends and white women can stop pretending that we are both sitting on the same seat of the struggle bus. White people need to understand that my body is seen as disposable because I am dark, it has not been proven to be acceptable to a passerby because I live a more culturally white lifestyle than people of my own race.

But whites, particularly white men, can do something about all this. I hate that this is how it is, but it is this way. White men are automatically shown the most respect, by default, in our society. They live in a world I have never lived in, where anything they say is accepted, on face value, as the truth. They live rarely being questioned, especially by people who adhere to the same socioeconomic lifestyle. Its white men who can easily continue a revolution into a broader scope. It’s a white man who can say that people of color have a voice that needs to be heard, and then hand the microphone over to that man or woman ready to speak.  It’s a white man that has the power to continue a revolution into a broader scope by protesting against protests. It’s a white man that another white man in office would want to talk to. I guarantee a male white politician would take a meeting with a constituent who looks like him before he takes one with me.

So all the liberal white men who speak about how they hate the current administration or who at the bare level think that our country is running itself into the ground the men (and women) who would wear a Black Lives Matter shirt if it was given to them but would never think about buying one themselves, you are the problem. Your access to the loudest voice in our country you decide to mute is a problem.

Because the revolution doesn’t start (even if it is furthered) by the white race in this instance. It hardly ever does. It starts with the minorities. But the white people who are like-minded need to work. Because it will take us a long time. And they need to listen to me when I say this.

I don’t have to convince you into thinking I should have equal rights. But I do need to convince you to help me attain them. I don’t have to tell you to care about me or people like me. But I do need to convince you to care more.

I just don’t know whats going to have to happen at this point. What event, what riot, what moment is going to make you want to see something differently. What’s going to make you fall of your high horse. I hope it starts with this.









Can Anyone be Iconic Anymore?


(“F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway” hanging out in a sweet ass car in the film Midnight in Paris)

The real question is would Hemingway be as obnoxious as Jonathan Franzen on Twitter?

Ae Padilla

I had this conversation a while back with a fellow writer after I had seen, what I refer to as a writer’s wet dream, Midnight in Paris. For those who don’t like to view Owen Wilson add to his YouTube supercut of “wow,” Woody Allen’s 2011 film is about a screenplay writer Gil who visits Paris with his gorgeous but garbage fiancé (Rachel McAdams) and stumbles upon a secret street at the stroke of midnight that transforms him to Paris in the 1920’s. It is here where he meets his heroes. Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald, T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali, and Picasso who take him through a world of booze, partying, and beautiful prose. On the journey of inspiring and helping Gil with his own novel, the elite wrap him in the nostalgia of flapper dresses and Underwood typewriters. As a result he never wants to return to his mid-2010’s present life, back to a time he has deemed colorless where people fail to connect to each other. Even if it is Paris.

He longs for a world of awe, successful people circling around him at every moment.

It’s a world I am envious of, it looks exciting and promising. The better Beat Generation. It’s filled with writers whose eccentric personal lives are only overshadowed by their work. Similarly, that’s the trap Gil finds himself in up until the climax of the film when he realizes nostalgia will always be at play no matter the decade you live in. People in the 60’s were nostalgic of the 20’s. People in the 20’s were nostalgic of the renaissance, just the way that some now talk obsessively about how they wish they lived in the age of drive thru movies and poodle skirts. (For me of course the grunge music and slip dresses of the 90’s.)

Gil ultimately decides to live in the beautiful modern world, capable of beautifully romantic moments he had with his 1920’s girlfriend.

But maybe Midnight in Paris is right about one fact it does not explicitly address which does not carry into the present. These group of inspiring miscreants (I mean really, truly how the fuck did they all know each other?) are – iconic. I couldn’t care less if the only book you have ever read from any of them is The Great Gatsby you were forced to skim in high school. This pact has the timelessness of Audrey Hepburn or Charlie Chapman mixed with the intelligence of DaVinci or Edison.

They do possess the abilities and influential nature of people today, those in the neighborhood of Steve Jobs and Nelson Mandela. Junot Díaz or Mark Zuckerberg. But no matter the work of those we presently admire, the people we see as iconic now are unable to live up to this reputation today, and the further we advance into a society that uses technology to bridge the gaps between humans the more prevalent this will become.

Technology has united families and strangers together across countries, blessing us with a place to find our icons, famous people we wouldn’t normally be able to have any access to. More than just interviews on websites and information about upcoming album release dates or films in pre-production, we have been thrust into a unique situation of directly reaching out to our heroes ourselves, through a medium that eliminates a liaison. What this comes down to is that I, a self-published female writer living in Austin, Texas, can tweet at J.K. Rowling every. single. day. She may never respond to me, but it is still direct access with the person I admire. Even if the chances of a response are slim, the possibility is still always there.

In our modern world moved by telecommunication progress a popular point of view is how inspirational this truly is to people that might get replies from those they too admire (which can greatly affect their own career.) As someone in the arts, the simple “you can do it” from someone who actually did it works wonders. To feel as if you are in a writer’s brain by not just reading the magic but witnessing the thought process behind what it takes to create it is ground-breaking. Even seeing struggle as well as success and motivation makes people, well real. I feel more greatly comforted when Stephen King says he just can’t get the ball rolling on a project or lacks some motivation (assuming he says these things from time to time) then if I myself just assume every writer goes through the same shit I do, or worse, does not.

But by that same token, the constant interactions we have (by virtue of just reading 140 characters thoughts) gives us the ugly side of our icons that are also, firstly, human. Does it mean anything if Eve Ensler states that she doesn’t like tuna fish sandwiches? (Unestablished) Or that Kanye doesn’t like waking up with a water bottle next to him on a flight? (Established) Probably not.

But what happens when we find out Dr. Seuss cheated on his wife while she had cancer, and as a result killed herself? And then we leave the confines of a personal situation and follow that up with Teddy Roosevelt’s comment about Mexican’s being a weaker race which pose a threat to the good of humanity. When these people’s flaws are revealed, some of them lending to more forgiveness than others, what do we do with them? How does it affect how we look at these people? And does that matter to how we look at their art?

On a simpler level, it’s hard for someone to be iconic in any way if they are still alive, if humans have not had enough time to miss them and study the impact they had on the world. It’s easy to look at the past, in that trap of nostalgia, as not even being a better time but being inhabited by better people, who emulated a greater command than anyone today. But we do that because of the information given to us about the people we love today.

It is easier to forgive a person from a different sociological time because they themselves are not held to the scrutiny that we bestow on everyone who has the opportunity to mess up in a mild or major manner, whether that be via a tweet, interview, conversation, or action. It doesn’t excuse what people say, if you are sexist or racist then you will be more prone to say more racist/sexist things thus exposing yourself, and you should be held accountable for it, but contradicting this, there are moments when people are caught up in an ignorant mindset they are permanently lamented into which ultimately stilts room for growth not in just the individual but in how society perceives them…despite how much they might try to learn and redeem themselves. America only likes a certain comeback story.

The constant idea of being excessively connected to our world (if there can be such a thing) now threatens how we look at figures that we have been told are immaculate. Gandhi and Mother Theresa, both deeply flawed but revolutionary figures (I will leave you to Google yourselves) become tainted if we search for it.

But where do we draw the line? Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is so iconic I would venture to say that if you threw it in as a reference at whatever dinner party your grandma, best friend, and parent happened to be at, all three would know what it is. But Dahl spoke openly about his anti-Semitic views. Not to kill your love for him, but he did. Does this mean that now we should ban our children from reading it at school? Preface everything we say about it with “I don’t condone the personal thoughts of the writer but his work is imaginative, humorous, and refreshingly fun.”

Can you be based only on the work you do or does the baggage of who you are come with it? Or does that apply only to people we are allowed to forgive because they have helped so many people tainting them would be tainting ourselves?

As is the case with Steve Jobs who I mentioned previously and who was, by most people’s definition, an asshole. He created every electronic device you find yourself glued to now, he has had multiple films chronicling his stupendous success shockingly quick after his death but by all means everyone in his personal life would not want to be at a table with him unless they were able to ask him questions on how he feels about the new iPhone. For goodness sake the man denied he had a daughter for years.

But we let it go because he contributed to society and more importantly to us. He is iconic to most but not to me. And it’s not because I wish more than anything that we all still used Motorola RAZRs, it is because I recognize him beyond the sepia filter and it taints my vision so that the person is not iconic, only the person’s work is.

This is sometimes a hard line to balance because too many people are sensitive to the idea of liking something in spite of their reaction to those associated with it. In some way it proves to be great. We do not want “iconic” politicians or leaders being people who might lack a moral compass as they work on behalf of us and our own code of ethics, but to subject that to others makes way for complete isolation of works that move us in ways only creative outlets can do.

The work of artists, writers, and actors are not themselves, as they write away from not their own interests but their own thoughts that might inhabit a faulty compass.

I have written about iconic as being inherently good, synonymous with great and untouchable. Others might find this problematic – to even idolize anyone at all. But icons are untouchable. They should be. You should not be allowed to go thirty weeks into their internet history and find out they were upset about a new bottle of wine they tried that did not live up to their expectation. Icons most be lost to a mystery which inhabits its greater ideal. You know something without knowing too much. Like a work of art the reader or viewer will find their own interpretations based on the art itself and then work backwards to find out more about the person, thereby making the idea of deciphering works more intricate.

One last view of iconicism lies in the fluctuating world of art (particularly fiction) once it is defined as revolutionary within the creator’s life.

A perfect example is author of the Harry Potter series J.K. Rowling who continues to add onto her works with prequels, sequels, and Hogwarts textbooks. Some of it is a brilliant addition to the books, an added text that establishes more of a formed world. Other times she is pulling a George Lucas, unable to leave behind a story that she loves and not being forced to do it either. But when does it end? When does questionable tidbits of what the trio is up to after the final battle become fan service? Is J.K. Rowling allowing herself to be lost to the fame even while not being lost to the greed?

Does she (and others) ruin the influence of iconic work by killing it? Does she (and others) sense the idea of her own iconicness that goes beyond the generation she lives in, making it difficult for those who come after her to take her work seriously? Where does she begin and end? And her work? What constitutes as what we know to be her?

It might not matter. Maybe. Maybe not. We can be influential, we can be both artists and people but we can only be iconic now in moments, in the future photo-shopped versions of ourselves.

I could be wrong, but it’s good to know if I am I will never find out.




Let’s Talk About that Sex Scene (or Lack Thereof) in Wonder Woman


(Above: Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman)

All thanks to the spectacular women who made and starred in this film.

Ae Padilla

It’s an amazing moment when a film passes the Bechdel test in the first few minutes of run-time. It reminds me that I am about to a view a movie that remembers women make up half of the population and should be represented as such. But when it happens in the superhero universe, a male-centric environment, it is even more fantastic.

Wonder Woman, the biggest block-buster of 2017 showcases actress Gal Gadot as the iconic Diana, Princess of Themyscira. Gadot, brings to light the impressive qualities that make up Wonder Woman, intelligence, strength, perseverance, independence, empathy, and of course beauty.

Make no mistake about it Gadot is gorgeous, distractingly beautiful even. Despite the troubling naysayers (or rather idiots) who have devoted time to online posts about Gadot’s “less than impressive cleavage,” Gadot is nothing but breathtaking, the type of human you just want to stare at. And Patty Jenkins, the director of Wonder Woman knows this. She is very much aware of the sex appeal that Gadot and Wonder Woman embody, the male attention and the male gaze that could easily erupt when the sexual appeal of a main character becomes overly sexualized – especially within the context of womanhood. There’s a reason why Jenkins didn’t get binding tape and try to reenact a Kiera Knightly Pirates of the Caribbean moment and also why the sexuality of Wonder Woman never dips into a “costumey” costume.

In Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman the costume serves a point, and that point is not to illicit sexual feelings but to showcase the strength and fluidity that Wonder Woman needs to fight. Similarly, every decision Jenkins makes tells us that our protagonist is in charge of her sexuality, and she is in charge of how the viewers see it too.

The most stunning example of this is Diana Prince’s and Steve Trevor’s first kiss and night together.

Although there are those critics and viewers alike who have spoken with distain about the need for a romantic plot at all, I stand with Jenkins. Wonder Woman should be able to live in a world in which she is able to save the world and get the guy (even if that be for only a short time.) Like any superhero film with a male as its lead, Diana is allowed the right to have sexual feelings for a ridiculously attractive secondary character.

Where Wonder Woman strays is in the organic development of the relationship between Diana and Steve, the compatibility addressed between two people who feel like outsiders, who hold firmly to justice and are equally brave. Attraction to each other is a small piece of the puzzle which seems almost inevitable with two insanely good-looking people.

What is so important is Wonder Woman takes account of her own sexuality early in the film. She needs no “saving” from any man, even for the “pleasures of the flesh.” She does not need a sexual rescuing, a male to make her climax. In a comical boat scene Diana and Steve speak about reproduction and Diana’s knowledge of men and physical gratification from men. Diana claims “I’ve read all 12 volumes of Clio’s treatises on bodily pleasure…you would not enjoy them…they came to the conclusion that men are essential for procreation but when it comes to pleasure, unnecessary.” Plain and simple, leaving aside the unclear sexual relations of the other Amazons (all women on the island) Diana can reach an orgasm by herself, making the bedroom scene later in the film even more layered and complex.

After a tumultuous battle brought to an end by Diana, both Diana and Steve find themselves dancing underneath the falling snow. Diana looks up at it, calls it “magical” and has what can only be described as an utterly romantic moment with Steve. But with no kiss, Diana makes a decision. After the night comes to a close, Steve walks her up to her room and stops at the door ready to close it, leaving her alone. When he glances once more at Diana he hesitates. Diana stares at him seductively, almost with a “come hither” look. It is this gesture that serves as a catalyst for Steve to make his way to her where ultimately both of them embrace in a sensual kiss that cuts away gracefully but suddenly to the outside of their building, snow still falling down.

As a woman, you get the idea that from the time Diana asked Steve what a “normal” world looks like, amidst hearing the piano and watching others “sway”, she decides that she wants Steve both sexually and romantically and as a beautiful and fierce woman with someone who has possibly expressed as much interest in her as she has with him she is inclined to get what she wants.

It’s a strong and realistic testament to the power women have with sex that is repeatedly stripped away from them in films, especially superhero films in which the woman is often portrayed as the prize the man earns for saving the world. This presents itself in scene after scene where a woman is almost violently and passionately taken after a heated conversation that usually revolves around a man claiming how much he needs her in a moment but then also how he must leave her because he does not want to endanger her, thus exhibiting that power balance in which the man has the upper hand.

Diana in her kiss with Steve, and her un-coerced decision to allow him to stay with her in her room is both a mixture of vulnerability and power that most sex scenes fail to adequately portray with women. We know that Diana does not have the past experiences of sexually being with a man, so it’s a pivotal point in her personal narrative when she chooses him as the person she wants to have sex with, particularly given that the context we do know about Diana is that she is in charge of her own sexuality through presumed masturbation. Diana is a virgin, but not a stereotypical virginal character, and if the sex scene did continue for more than the few seconds we were given Diana would be knowledgeable and assertive about what to tell Steve in regards to pleasing her if he was not performing the way she wanted (although in my fictional world I am sure Steve is perfect in bed.)

However it’s important to discuss some of the reasons why the scene did not extend past that initial kiss. On one hand I believe Jenkins did everything in her power to stop the destructive male gaze. With groups of men upset about the political correctness of a woman superhero (never mind that the heroine has been around since the ‘40s) to men threatening to sue movie theaters for having women only screenings (while co-ed ones were available at the same time) the fragile ego of males has notably showcased itself. The ignorant persona of this man is a man who would love to objectify Gadot’s body, displaying that male gaze as something which does or does not satisfy what he wants to see on screen. An active sex scene also allows Wonder Woman to be demoralized by preconceived notions of promiscuity and purity in females, E.g. a woman who “puts out” is not as valuable any more and in some way weaker. Jenkins prevented clips uploaded to YouTube of the sex scene not because it arouses others and is a plot distraction but because it sexually commodifies Gadot as “the hot fuckable superhero.”

So the viewer does not get the whole sex scene; like a private moment we are not supposed to be watching we get ushered away. The director paints in broad strokes and it works, the romance of the previous scenes continue through.

In most sex scenes the scene does extend past the act itself. In the PG-13 version of the rendezvous the woman lazily has a sheet covering, just perfectly, her breasts the following morning. In the R version the woman is sprawled across the bed, chest exposed, as the man either kisses her or gets up to begin whatever pressing job he has to attend to. He however is rarely seen in any vulnerable state that the act of sex he just partook in demands.

In Wonder Woman this never happens. But believe me I waited for it. In the following scenes I waited for the knowing look that I am accustomed to watching in films, that moment where Steve looks at Diana and she smiles shyly thinking about what they did the night before. That time when they hold hands, initiated of course by the male, when they speak about how being intimate together changed or is about to change whatever they have.

It’s quite possible within the world of Wonder Woman that both Diana and Steve felt more emotionally bonded within their relationship, but since it’s something we can only assume the precedent is that the act of sex forming or not forming that bond does not matter. Instead in the final moments of the film Diana is again resilient, strong, brilliant and equal in every way if not superior to Steve as a sexually satisfied woman.

Her relationship, and her sexuality do not become a focus of the film even as the relationship reaches its most charged moment and as such Jenkins sets out to accomplish what she wanted, creating a character full of emotions, strengths, and flaws that recognizes love is a great and intricate revolutionary power in humans.

If Wonder Woman represents what an incredible woman hero should be in multiple aspects of the ordinary and extraordinary then she sets a perfect example of what powerful female sexuality is – making you not weaker but stronger, allowing you to find and explore another part of your being. It is Diana who unapologetically speaks about sex, and its bizarre way it is treated in the modern world, and it is her who saves the world, not the day, and it is her who gets the man on her own terms.


The Video I Will Show My Son

(And the talk I will have when I tell him not to rape anyone)

All respect goes out to the victim of this crime, Jane Doe. “Not all men” blah blah blah.

Ae Padilla

As of now I don’t want children. I want a marriage with lots of adventure, sex, and waking up at 3 pm on a Sunday because we both just can. But I have at some points thought about the “what if.” What if I wake up one day (early) and do want a child?

And in that fantasy, the fantasy of wanting a screaming little tiny creature, it is always a boy. Not that girls aren’t amazing in their own right, sorry. But I picture a beautiful little boy. Dressing him up in baseball uniforms (or theatre ones if he takes after me more than his fictitious dad.) I picture us, him and me, inseparable mom and son, watching whatever Star Wars film is out then, eating greasy burgers, and being crazy close.

I never had a brother, so I blame all my need for male bonding partly on that.

I picture me finally understanding why people brag so much about their children it makes me want to pull their eyes out. And of course I picture the not so fun stuff. Spending more money on groceries than I would if I had daughters, smelling farts that are supposed to be “funny”, and having “the talk.” And no, I don’t mean the sex one where I turn my chair around with my hands on my chin and try to act like a sitcom-dad. I mean the talk where I tell him not to rape anyone.

Bet you didn’t think I was going to go there did you?

I know the internet and our culture has spoken greatly, but never enough, about sexual assault. We live in a time where more people are discussing the crime that statistically men mostly impose on women. There are think pieces after think pieces about the ramifications of rape, from those who have been raped to even those who have been a bystander to a rape. There’s a dialogue about what is happening at parties, college campuses, in relationships, and with random people who exert their power to commit one of the most significant crimes one can commit. And this is good, this dialogue, I never doubt that for a second.

I even have read one very brief article which is similar to this one, but still it needs to be said.

The biggest part out being a parent is instilling values and a sense of morality and responsibility in your children. I wish it was sarcasm and good taste and a thirst for news, but at the end of the day if my kid never has a subscription to the New York Times I need to remember that what is really important is that he is a good human being, that morality can indeed be taught the way we teach manners, and that he as a man is responsible for the well-being of women when he is not only alone with them but in the company of them with other men.

He is responsible for not raping women and he is responsible for not letting men rape and talk casually about rape, which in itself can be a harder thing than not participating in the act.

That is because no parent I know ever thinks their son will grow up to be a rapist just as no parents live their lives believing that their sons will commit grand theft auto, battery, or even murder. The conversation of parents even allowing themselves to say the words to their (otherwise responsible smart funny and charming middle/upper middle class) sons “don’t murder anyone” is such an insane and frankly ridiculous idea no one would think twice about it.

Rape is not the same. Rape is not the same as the above mentioned crimes, because rape is grey where rape should not be. Rape is coercion. Rape is when your son is very drunk and he wants to “get it in”, and he decides that if he persists enough with the drunker girl that she will go back to bed with him and then he will have earned his sex the way his parents and teachers would be proud of him earning his grades. Enough dedication and a hell of a lot of wanting.

Except sex involves someone else, and as said before it lives in that area that is too often murky when it need not be. But who are the men raping women? I’ll tell you this, it’s not the same five men who hang out in dark corners waiting for women to come home so they can overpower them with a knife. Yet again, statistically, it is the sons of all the people commenting on Brock Turner’s early prison release with “I hope he rots in hell one day.” “He didn’t get enough time for this crime.” “What a shitty human.” I guarantee you that these people are fueled (justifiably) with their anger, and are expressing it in the most sincere ways. I never doubt this for a second. I do doubt however that if they themselves have a son of Brock’s age that they have ever uttered the words: Don’t rape a woman. Don’t take advantage of a woman. Don’t let a woman be raped and do nothing about it.

Because it goes against the core being of a parent that a child of theirs could do something they themselves would never do while simultaneously feeding the false idea that if a parent loves their kid enough than that kid would never do anything that would ruin themselves, their family, or another family.

But once we start believing and implementing the idea that children can learn that assault, rape, is something bad that they can do themselves than we can eliminate the idea of a rapist as “another” and not one of our own, as rapists are brothers, friends, and relatives. In turn this will allow us to treat assault and rape as something that is yes, damaging, but also something that can be discussed the way that stealing from a candy store is. It is of course in no way the same severity of a crime but it is a learning lesson that does not make the parent’s feel as if they are having a conversation that does not need to be had because “their kid would never do that.”

Which is why I will show the infamous video of the Steubenville rape case to my son, as there is not a single piece of “appropriate” video which so perfectly encapsulates what exactly rape culture is while also highlighting how men who feel uncomfortable with a reported rape still fall victim to a toxic culture. And this toxic culture is of men who dismiss their concern with laughs, disgruntled looks, and removal from something they know is wrong but feel they can do nothing about.

For those unaware, the Steubenville rape case occurred in Steubenville, Ohio on the night of August 11th, 2012. Making national headlines, the case involved a high school girl who had become unconscious after attending a party where alcohol was present. She was repeatedly sexually assaulted by fellow high school men that she knew who took to documenting the event via photographs posted on Twitter and Instagram. These shared photos and videos included the offenders digitally penetrating the victim and attempting to get her to perform oral sex on them without her consent. When she woke up the next morning she was completely unware of what had transpired the night before, and it was not until she discovered her own body being dragged around like a doll on social media that she realized the severity of the crime inflicted upon her.

The men involved were sixteen year olds Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays who were found guilty and sentenced to one/two years behind bars in juvenile detention (they have since been released.)

The video I mentioned that was posted by group Anonymous online does not include the perpetrators. And that is the most important part of this piece.

The video instead includes Michael Nodianos as the star of the twelve minute buzzed tangent his friend records on his phone at a house in the early morning hours of that same day.

In a video that is so disturbing I watched it the way one watches a disgusting horror film (one hand covering my eyes unsuccessfully, me grimacing), I still attempted to power through. I was in the first few minutes curious about Nodianos and his involvement in the crime, as there are those who have said that he was responsible for a sexual assault the year before (although there is nothing to definitively prove this.) After minute two I changed my tune. I was hoping for Nodianos to recognize just how horrifying his words sounded. I ended with hoping that someone, anyone, would tell him to stop whatever he decided was a funny comedy sketch. Because it was not funny. And it was not drunk talk. It was a promotion of rape that started before the video itself.

By all accounts Nodianos was present at the party where the assault occurred. Posting one of the photos of victim Jane Doe, he captioned his Instagram with “some people deserve to be peed on.” He, concernedly, received many re-tweets within the next few hours of that photo. After he left Doe, or the party she was incapacitated at, he sat down and vented to his filming friend about what he had witnessed.

As the twelve minute video stretches on he makes comments about how “raped” the victim is.

“”She is so raped,” he says. “Her puss is about as dry as the sun right now” and then “they raped her harder than that cop raped Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction.” He continues speaking, fully believing that she might be dead. “She’s so dead, she’s so raped” he proclaims almost with glee, never once feeling any remorse for his, at very least, callous remarks as he sits comfortably in a chair looking at the camera like he is auditioning for a reality TV show.

And he might as well be, because as much sincerity he does possess he is also performing. It’s not an “out” or excuse to what he said but it is evident. You can see it when he asks his friend if he is still filming. And that same person affirming him, recording his monologue, asks for more. He begs for it with his giggle every time Nodianos makes a new statement about how much she was raped that night, laughing hysterically after as if he is the over-enthusiastic audience member of an improve group.

Is this your son? Is this my son one day? Is Noadianos with his generic pale skin, brown hair, and sports t-shirt my son? I sure to hell hope not. I hope that more than anything I have ever hoped.

But Nadianos never went to trial. Nadianos never actually did anything illegal, or at least nothing he was charged for. He might have been there and displayed tasteful photos and vulgar language but he was never in a court of law defending his video, and to this day the court of public opinion might hate him but as far as the records show Ohio State did accept him into their school on an academic scholarship in 2013, although he did leave after a semester (but whether or not it was of his own accord is still not known).

Nadianos does however represent the relative we could all one day have, a relative who lives in a world (further implemented by his closer circle) that understand the concept of human dignity enough to not rape but not enough to not joke about it. And this is troubling because it belittles the assault in every which way, blames the victim for drinking too much, contributing to her own “dead” and wiping away any agency that the women has in life because she had no physical agency at that moment. It’s shocking and revolting and a thought further drilled into your brain that people will find any common interest and unify around it the more you watch the unfortunate video.

In fact I could not get that hypothesis and this video out my head for hours after I stopped watching it, an appalling truth for someone who watches true crime murder documentaries like their favorite sitcom before going to their bed alone.

It’s important to mention Nadianos is a waiting predator. You get the feeling that he would have done something to if he had the time and opportunity and ironically maybe not a camera filming him. You get the idea that as much as he liked documenting the assault he might also like to be one of the “stars” of it.

But somewhere close to the 4:15 mark of the infamous video someone we recognize enters the narrative. A voice from outside the film (we never see him/them.) He’s all of us, and he’s the son that everyone wants if he, for any unfortunate reason, had to be one of the characters occupying this terrible night.

The male voice off camera states, as Nadianos is still laughing, “”That’s not cool bro” and “That’s like rape. It is rape. They raped her.”

Nadianos has a moment to understand what exactly he has been joking about for the past four minutes, a moment where he could recant and turn a new leaf. Instead he turns it into a joke. “They raped her quicker than Mike Tyson!”

The “voice of reason” (unseen) tries again. “”What if that was your daughter?”

“But it isn’t,” Nodianos replies “shutting him down” for good.

And just like that you hear with half-hearted sighs the distaste in the other men’s demeanor off screen. They are the ones who realize how sickening these statements are, but who have “done enough.”

They mentioned how it was “not cool” and then tried to appeal to a more realistic side of how men in our culture view rape, the familiar but misguided idea: what if that was someone who was close to you. They mention the daughter he does not have, even his sister. But Nodianos ignores them all because he has a person behind the camera (phone) validating him in every way he wants. He continues filming and continues laughing and Nadianos is unaware that what he is doing is wrong because those reprimanding him are not standing up any more than if he had cheated in a game of beer pong. In all honesty, they might be more upset about an unfair game of beer pong. Their anger about the assault, warranted, was most likely forgotten in conversation as they ate whatever they could to soak up their alcohol.

But those teenagers off camera, the ones who objected and went on to live their lives never once in the following months hunted by media, those boys are my son. They are probably most people’s sons. They know something is wrong, they understand a crime has been committed that goes beyond something as trivial as property damage, they feel it within the depths of the person that they are. Whether they have realized the legal ramifications of what has occurred or whether or not they believe anyone will be held to that crime is insignificant. Yes it might be possible they are “saving skin” so to speak, because being witness to someone saying something so irresponsible they were fearful it might come back to bight them in the ass, but in reality they felt that incredible uncomfortable feeling that boils down to knowing they are witness to something wrong but they feel completely lost as to what to do next.

Everyone has been there in life. I have to. But I haven’t been there for a case like this because as a woman my chances of being in this situation dramatically decrease based solely on my sex. That being said, the real person who we have to worry about to make the greatest change in this case might be the one capable of the greatest change at this point. The off-screen anonymous teenager who does not want to get involved and be perceived as “sell-out” if he calls the police and tells them he believes a rape occurred.

This is our son who will do nothing wrong but not do anything right either. Is it good that he stuck up to the Nadianos (whoever that might be in the future)? Yes. But it is not enough. And it’s our fault that rape continues to be an unsolvable problem because we believe that our children are not a part of it, even the ones who “just” hear about it.

We must give them the tools to talk about rape and expose rape to those who have the power associated with their employment to legally stop it and charge those responsible. We must form a union of those who speak to their sons so that rape and assault is “uncool.” So that people like Nadianos find no joy in making videos because they will have no audience that finds disappointing fulfillment in it. More importantly, we must tell our sons that their voice is capable of reaching further if it continues to speak, speak, speak against.

The alternate video would be our sons off screen who take it further, who confront Nadianos on-screen (unable to confront the convicted rapists themselves) and who ask him straight to his face the questions that they asked before. It’s not that the questions themselves do not have merit, rather that they are dismissively thrown around without true conviction because “keeping the peace” is still a background priority (whether they realize it or not.)

Once we change the narrative in “the talk” that rapists can possibly be our son’s very good friends and that the responsibility of stopping that falls to friends then the narrative of preventing rape changes from “others” being accountable to young men being accountable. Because if young men can rape then young men can stop rape. All of this would stop the casual conversation and humor around rape that contributes to a rape culture.

And so I will never be that person who thinks to myself “my son would never rape someone” if I do not tell him that having sex with a girl while she is conscious and not saying no but not saying yes is rape. If I do not tell him that if he is in a relationship he is not owed sex. If I do not tell him that alerting someone to rape is absolutely required.

Too often parent’s worry about what a talk like this would say to their world, how it would show that their sons are full of aggression and debauchery and that this is in their genetic makeup or inevitable life plan to assault someone. But in ignoring the problem we contribute to it.

The Steubenville rape case is a story about how football players in a small town are favored, women are chastised for drinking too much and sadly called sluts because of it, but it is also a strong story of the bystanders that mocked but also those that tried and who, because of us, did not try enough.

I challenge you to make it through the entire fourteen minute video without once attempting to turn it off because you want to believe it does not exist. The wonderful thing is that we can fix it. Slowly. It will start with some talks. It’s going to be awkward for sure, but we will get through it. I will get through it. The birds and the bees talk will seem like a piece of cake.