IT HAPPENED, PERHAPS, ONE HOT, humid night, mist over the mountains that bordered the colonial city of Santiago de Guatemala. Melchora de los Reyes, a young, mixed-raced woman, had sex with her lover. When she met him, she was a virgin, a doncella, a status that made her eligible for marriage in the strict, Catholic society of 1600s Guatemala. But whether it was a look of love in his eyes, words sweet and thick as the mist, or promises that her lover would marry her, de los Reyes chose to have sex.
On TV, the plot looks something like this: a woman is raped or abused. She is a sympathetic character, traumatized yet brave. She reports the crime to the police, who perform a detailed forensic investigation and arrest the perpetrator. A trial ensues, and the survivor steps forward to tell her story. She wins over the jury, and the perpetrator is sentenced to years in jail.
Sometimes, life comes close to this narrative. In 2016, for example, the survivor of the Stanford rape case authored a powerful victim impact statement that captured the country’s attention and, undoubtedly, helped ensure jailtime for the perpetrator.
But most of the time, for most survivors, reality looks quite different than Law and Order, SVU. The vast majority — 69% — of sexual assaults go unreported to the police, and only 0.7% of all sexual assaults result in a conviction.
“A VERY GAY MEAT LOAF” requires several key ingredients. First, wrote Michael Goldberger, a gay activist and neuroscience researcher, combine ground beef, pork, and veal with spices. Then, add partially-cooked spinach and—if you have the money—mushrooms, taking care not to overmix. Hard-boiled eggs and sour cream top it off.
Goldberger adapted the recipe from gay New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne and lesbian icon Alice B. Toklas, and included it in the 1976 People’s Philadelphia Cookbook. The book was compiled and published by the People’s Fund, a grassroots organization founded in 1971, with recipes from member organizations that included the Black Panther Party, the United Farm Workers, the Gay Activist Alliance of Philadelphia, and more.
Now, thanks to an enterprising historian, a flea market, and Twitter, The People’s Philadelphia Cookbook has a new life online. It’s a record of an optimistic era, when activists believed that the elimination of racism, homophobia, and capitalism was just around the corner. While the revolution would not be televised, it would certainly be well-fed.
Ending an abusive relationship felt like being reborn: slowly, painfully, sharp as shattered glass. My body had been rearranged, Mr. Potato Head-style, into something new, simultaneously more sensitive and blunter, more empathic but liable to shut down unexpectedly—on the sidewalk, in the bedroom, in the grocery store.
Many of us, especially women and queer people, have survived some kind of sexual or intimate trauma. Our stories are unique, and all our experiences are valid. We might be sexually assaulted as an adult, or have a history of childhood sexual abuse. We might be traumatized from an experience of harassment, or from having our boundaries pushed in an unhealthy relationship.
Whatever our stories, sexual trauma can change how we experience our bodies, our desires, and our sense of self.
THERE IS A SCAR ACROSS Australia’s Western Desert. For millennia—no one is sure how many, though evidence of Aboriginal people’s presence in Australia stretches back 50,000 years—the Martu people used fire to hunt in the scraggly bush. In a practice called cultural burning, they set low blazes patient enough for small animals such as bettongs and wallabies to flee their burrows before the fire reached them. Years of cultural burning cleared underbrush, creating a patchy habitat preferred by the small animals Martu people most liked to hunt, while simultaneously preventing massive lightning fires from consuming the land.
For the Martu, these fires were so vital that they were a means of maintaining life itself. “They would say, ‘If we weren’t out here burning, things won’t exist,’” says Rebecca Bliege Bird, a Pennsylvania State anthropologist who has worked with the Martu for decades.
Read more at Atlas Obscura. Cover image: State Library of New South Wales/Public Domain.
If you are a child of the 90s, you might remember Helga Pataki. She was blond, had a strangely shaped head like the rest of her peers, lived in New York City, and, most importantly, relentlessly bullied television’s cartoon sweetheart, everyone’s favorite oblong-noggined Arnold.
A character on the Nickelodeon kids’ show Hey, Arnold!, Helga typified the grade school bully, cruel in order to cover up emotions she didn’t want to admit she had. As viewers of the program know, Helga was only mean to Arnold because she was in love with him, complete with a shrine in her closet and a mockup of her love interest made of chewing gum. Helga’s behavior is so iconic to the generation that grew up on her TV show, it’s even earned its own Urban Dictionary entry: Helga Pataki Syndrome.
WHEN EUROPEANS FIRST REACHED RAPA Nui, or Easter Island, on Easter Day, 1722, they were awed to find around 1,000 imposing stone moai, or monoliths, carved in the shape of human beings. The statues overlooked a barren landscape. While archaeological evidence shows that Rapa Nui was once lushly forested, by the time Europeans reached the island, it had been clear-cut, devastated by human overuse, ecological change, or a bloody civil war. The population, which had once likely numbered in the tens of thousands, had been reduced to 3,000 at most.
Many of us have woken up from a sexy dream, throbbing with excitement. Some of us are even luckier, and can climax from nipple stimulation, or dry humping, or even intense genital-free makeouts. Sex worker, artist, sexologist, and world-famous sex legend Annie Sprinkle details seven types of female orgasm on her website, including some that happen without touch. But when my friend—an everyday, sex-positive lady—told me she could have orgasms without touching herself, I had to learn more.
Read more at The Horizontal. Featured image: Malvestida Magazine, Unsplash.
THE BODIES WERE AT THE bottom of a well: 20 people, their hands, feet, and limbs removed, their skeletons cured in layers of clay and limestone. All but two of the victims, an adult man and an 18-month-old child, had been decapitated.* Their bones bore knife marks from the butchery, and burn marks from where they had been scorched to facilitate the removal of muscle and skin. “The person who was carrying this out wanted to destroy the physical entities of the victims as clearly as possible,” says Nicolaus Seefeld, a pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican archaeologist at the University of Bonn.
Read more at Atlas Obscura. Cover photo: Iorni/Unsplash.
MIHO FUJITA WAS A HIGH-POWERED executive working at a Tokyo toy company. Miho Imada worked in traditional Noh theater. Chizuko Niikawa-Helton was in the fashion industry. But at some point in their careers, all three women had a realization: Their true passion was sake.
Since sake is the most iconic alcoholic drink of Japan, these career shifts may not seem notable. But besides their talent, something else sets Imada, Fujita, and Niikawa-Helton apart in the sake world: They’re women.