Tag Archive: media

I have written previously about my “long” and tumultuous relationship with orgasms.  I’m revisiting the subject now because it looks like I’ll be

This is what orgasm always looks like, right?

teaching a mini-workshop on them—in particular, looking at what orgasms feel like to different people, and how we’ve been tricked by friends, peers, the media, and the majority of our culture into believing that we don’t know our bodies.

There are a surprising number of purportedly sex-positive articles written about women struggling with orgasm.  Unfortunately, a lot of them come to pretty unenlightening conclusions.

For instance:

I knew, in pretty non-negotiable terms, what orgasm was supposed to look and sound like; When Harry Met Sally taught me the basics of that vernacular long before anything more pornographic entered the equation. The telltale orgasm signs, that crescendo of gasping and thrashing, informed nothing about my own physical experiences, however. Like Sally, I could fake it in bed or over a turkey sandwich. I had the culmination memorized, but none of the process.

From the moment I started masturbating, I tried to figure out what orgasm was.  How it was supposed to feel, look, sound.  I was trying to match my experience of masturbation with the overzealous renderings of romantic comedies (and these articles!), where women writhed in pleasure, felt their toes curl, and moaned in a moment of ecstasy.   And I knew that was NOT happening for me.

Everything I’d heard about orgasm to that point in my life was that I would “know it when it happened.”  And when, even after this “sound advice,” I was still questioning, I decided I must not be orgasming.  I was frustrated and angry with my body for years.  I questioned myself, my technique, my internal structure, and my hormones; I talked to a sex therapist on the phone; I stole my mother’s vibrator to see if it made a difference (yes, mom, I admit it—she always knew).  But nothing helped because my problem was neither physical nor mental, per say.

Dangerous Lily sums it up perfectly here:

I faked orgasms because I didn’t know how to have one.

In fact, I don’t think I would have recognized an orgasm if it bit me in the face. And when I compare sensations and those little after-shock contractions now vs then….um yeah I actually did have orgasms. The contractions, and especially the twitchy minutes-long aftershock contractions, are never present for me if I didn’t orgasm…I don’t think though that I faked it modeling after what I saw on porn. I think I was mimicking him. His pleasure built and built and built and it was obvious and then….crescendo! angels! choirs! He was exhausted and delirious and right there was the proof positive of his orgasm, filling up the reservoir tip of our condom.

I was having orgasms.  But it wasn’t an orgasm like a man’s.  And it wasn’t like the ones I saw in movies or porn, the ones I’d come to expect as standard.  They were instead strange, slightly off orgasms that my body didn’t recognize or embrace.  They were a body learning what it liked and what it meant to move and feel in that way.  I still cum like this now when I’m extremely tired or if I’m on antibiotics that sap my sex drive.  But they were orgasms all the same.  I was just having a different type of orgasm– one I didn’t understand or feel coherently, because I had been brainwashed into thinking there is only one way to cum, and I would “know it when it happened.” But because I had never had orgasms explained in language that I could associate with my own experience, I didn’t understand them.  I assumed they just weren’t there.

I know now how many different ways our bodies can feel and interpret things.  I know that some women cum all the time, and for others, it’s a rare but earth-shattering occurrence.  I know that some women just feel giddy warmth, while others feel contractions all up their bodies.  Some feel electricity emanating from their core.  It’s this variety of experience and sensation that I love and find so exciting.  I want so much more conversation on what orgasms feel like to different women, so that people can realize that they’re not disfunctional/broken/anorgasmic, they just feel and process those sensations differently.

Side note: for those of you who don’t know, I’ve started working with the organization The Garden (thegardendc.com) and we’re going to start hosting sex toy and educational workshop parties at homes around DC.  If you are interested in hosting one, please comment here, or email me at Bianca@thegardendc.com to talk about setting it up!

"I want to put a cucumber up my boyfriend's asshole so he knows what it feels like, and why I don't want it there"Like my last articles about facials, anal sex is one of those acts that people have a hard time believing the receptive partner actually enjoys.  It’s also loaded down with tons of cultural baggage about cleanliness and morality that make it seem “just wrong.”

I talk a lot about cultural messages and societal shaming, which is tricky sometimes because they are influences which are often hard capture in distinct moments.  Usually stigma and shaming have more of a vague feeling to them than a distinct, explicit statement that you can quote and reference.  However, I have one very distinct memory from middle school that I can use to illustrate how our society talks about anal sex.

I remember I was sitting through a media analysis lecture in 8th grade.  It was part of a get-ready-for-high-school event where parents and community members came and talked to us about all the pressures we were suddenly going to experience in high school, as if they hadn’t already happened to us…   Anyway, the woman in charge of the lecture was showing a slide show to get us to understand how the media distorts images of women to make our idea of beauty totally unrealistic.  At one point, she shows a picture of Britney Spears soaping up a classic car with her butt towards the camera.  The woman leading the lecture told us very clearly that Britney was referencing a very perverted kind of sex.

At first, I think I was confused.  What exactly qualified as perverted sex, and what made this random mother from suburbia the arbiter of that distinction?  Why were we even talking about this, when the previous slide had been about how a picture of Angelina Jolie had the body parts of 3 different women thrown together to create the illusion of perfection?  When I realized she was talking about anal sex, I was pretty pissed off—one because that was not what this woman was supposed to be talking about, and two, because of the totally biased and unnecessary rendering of anal sex as bad.

((I swear to god, I should have known I’d be a sex blogger then and there))cyanide and happiness comic- anal sex joke

I was light-years away from trying anal sex that day in my 8th grade classroom.  Like facials, I thought anal sex was kind of gross, and I didn’t really want to deal with it, so I tried to ignore those messages of sexual inequality, and you know, focus on stuff that was relevant to an 8th grader.

But now, especially, I feel that baggage as a woman in a relationship that is interested in exploring anal.  For so long, anal sex has been a joke for me; I would tell friends how it made me dizzy the first time I tried it, and it was terrible even though I “did everything right.”  Of course, I was 17, and doing everything right mostly meant using lots of lube and going slow.  That’s pretty much all the advice I’d ever gotten about the subject.   Even so, the only reason I tried anal in the first place was because my boyfriend at the time had been very excited about the idea, and I wanted to be open-minded and adventurous.  I only felt comfortable with anal in the context of another’s desire, not my own.

And now that I have to take ownership of my own interest in anal sex, it’s awkward.  Because I took all that cultural baggage and stigma about

bacon lube

…And make sure to use bacon lube

anal into my own relationship.  I brought the bad jokes, the discomfort masked by laughter, and the coded silences that kept me from even admitting my interest in anal to myself for quite a while.

So that’s something that I’m trying to work on, personally.  Just getting comfortable talking about anal sex is a big first step.  The next, of course, is educating myself on how to do it properly.  Like I said before, when I was 17, the only thing anyone ever told me about anal was “go slow and use lots of lube.”  Yet there’s so much more to it, and for those of you who are interested in educating yourselves, or even just for the morbidly curious…

For your edification, I present a Craigslist classic: “The Ass Fuck Conspiracy.”

It’s not even possible to pull out a good quote from this piece; you’ll just have to read it in its entirety, but sometimes good advice can come from an unlikely a source as Craigslist.

There’s a lot of work still to be done in getting anal sex out from its super-stigmatized corner, but here’s hoping that a little personal work on all our parts will help it along the way.

Stay cool, queer kids.

Glee-fully Sex-Educated

WARNING– this post has spoilers in it! If you haven’t watched the new Glee episode, “Sexy,” scram. Go watch it first, then come back and read this post.

But for those of you with no intent of watching Glee, here’s a quick run-down of the episode’s features so that we’re all on the same page:

It becomes painfully evident (via one of Brittany’s fantastic one-liners) that the kids in Glee club have had almost no sex education and are pitifully unprepared to navigate a sexual adult world. So, Mr. Shue invites Holly, a substitute teacher who had a stint as glee director when Mr. Shue was sick earlier in the season, to come and teach a lesson for the club, while inserting some sex education into the mix.

The New Directions Glee Club is indicative of so many high school students across the US, who, because of poor sex education policies made by the Bush Administration and general squeamishness by educators and administrators themselves, have had almost no access to formal sex ed. Even for those who have had classes- who know the basics of how to put on a condom and “how babies are made”- that education has been woefully inadequate at addressing the real concerns about teen sexuality. Glee points that out in humorous ways, like Brittany thinking she’s pregnant because a stork has built a nest outside her window, or Finn, who thought he got Quinn pregnant by cumming in a hot tub where they were sitting, but the basic point is still there. Teens have NO IDEA what sex means physically, much less emotionally or socially, and it takes a daring person (teacher, parent, whoever) to break out of their shell and share it with them.
And while I wouldn’t call Holly’s approach (singing a song about sex, and then telling the kids that “When you sleep with someone, you’re sleeping with everyone they’ve slept with”) is terribly comprehensive, it does show that there are ways to bridge the generational divide and get at least the basic message across to kids. Plus, it’s another place to throw in a great song.

But what really impressed me about this episode of Glee was the way sex education was brought home for Kurt and his Dad. After Kurt’s friend Blaine mentions to Kurt’s dad that Kurt isn’t seeking information on his own about sex education and will likely make bad choices in future because of this, Kurt’s dad steps up to the plate to give his son “the talk.” And Glee’s producers, rather than taking the easy way out and cutting the scene as they sit down at the dinner table for serious discussion, see the scene through to its conclusion. Kurt’s dad not only has reading material for his son, but also a heartfelt explanation about how sex means something emotionally, and that it’s important to take care of your body and your mind when it comes to sex.

Now “the talk” Kurt received was far from perfect by my standards- it reinforced gender stereotypes about the difference in how men vs. women think about sex, it solidified the social opinion that sex should only be with someone you love, and it didn’t really mention anything about the different ways that people express intimacy (Kurt’s dad mostly spoke with the assumption that all parents have- when your kid is having sex, they are “having sex” and not any other form of physical closeness, which is why, I believe, people are still so dumbfounded about lesbian sex). But I still think this episode was groundbreaking, and that overall, the explanation that Kurt’s dad gave was a very good example and a fantastic starting point for everyone watching.

Thing is, even if Glee didn’t cover all the bases about sexual education, it did open the subject up for dialogue (which we all know I’m so fond of). Like Rhianna’s S and M video, Glee might not have changed minds or practices, but it elevated the issue at hand to a new level of public consciousness. Sex ed IS STILL SOMETHING WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT, and that was really what Glee aimed to get across, for which it succeeded eloquently.

And I have the perfect example of WHY it’s still so important to talk about. This article in New York Magazine details the progression that youth growing up in the social networking age are taking towards adult sexuality.

“If eighth-graders today are spared the indignity of having to first learn about sex by watching a middle-aged health teacher roll a condom over a banana, having the web for a teacher comes with drawbacks, too. Consider that a single Google search of the term “sex ed” turns up, among other—more useful—information, a picture of a naked woman, the areolae of her nipples barely obscured by what appear to be Skittles, which run in a single-file line down to her nether region.”

It is widely cited that the age of first exposure to sexually explicit material is 11 years old, and right then, as students are entering middle school, reaching the cusp of puberty, and dealing with all the ups and downs of life as a teenager, that they now have to negotiate a whole new world with unfamiliar rules and boundaries. The article focuses mainly on teens’ use of new social media (like posting racy pictures on facebook and using Chat Roulette) to explore the uncharted territory of sexuality.

It affects both young men and women in different ways- but the findings echo many of the old-guard anti-porn arguments: that the internet is making men violent, more likely to rape, and more likely to reject a woman who doesn’t have the porn-star body that they’ve grown up viewing.

“This is the paradoxical fear of many heterosexual 14-year-old girls: that the Internet is making boys more aggressive sexually—more accepting of graphic images or violence toward women, brasher, more demanding—but it is also making them less so, or at least less interested in the standard-issue, flesh-and-bone girls they encounter in real life who may not exactly have Penthouse proportions and porn-star inclinations. (“If you see something online, and the girls in your neighborhood are totally different, then it’s, um … different,” one 14-year-old boy tells me.) This puts young women in the sometimes uncomfortable position of trying to bridge the gap. “

This is the first online phenomenon that I personally haven’t grown up with, and it is a little frightening. It was one thing for me to come of age in the era of the internet- I was exposed to many of these same things- porn sites popped up on my browser accidentally (and then not-so-accidentally), and I went searching in some interesting places for information. But facebook was only for college kids, and Chat-roulette not even a fantasy yet. I didn’t have the ability to consider my sexuality through these mediums, whether or not I had the desire to do so.

But the fact of the matter is that these social mediums are out there, and kids are growing up and taking advantage of them. WHICH IS WHY it is so desperately important to keep the conversation going between parents and kids, older siblings, and younger siblings, those who have been over the hurdles and come out with more knowledge and a strong sense of sexual self helping those who have just begun to discover themselves. The passing along of information, of moderating and offering commentary on the crazy things the internet hosts is crucial to making sure teens understand how they fit into an increasingly complex set of sexual situations.

And Glee is one step along a winding path that brings these divergent perspectives together to create a better understanding of our society’s sexual welfare.

Love to Self-Love

Oh look! Bianca’s back and she’s talking about one of her favorite topics, masturbation.

In an effort to assess what other topics I should cover with my with my blogging, I posed this question: if you could name one sex-related thing you wish the internet had better information on, what would it be? What people mentioned (and then seconded and thirded via facebook) was that there isn’t nearly enough information out there about female self-image and masturbation- which is truly terrible because it’s such an important issue to women everywhere and a healthy part of everyone’s life.

I’ve talked obliquely about both subjects before in posts like Big Blond and Beautiful (where we saw that even Playboy models get their thighs slimmed, their busts enlarged, and their tummy tucked by editors to create an impossibly perfect female) and Argentina and an Orgasm Machine (where I talked about the need for a machine whose end goal is to learn how females orgasm in order to “teach” non-orgasmic women is a symptom of a culture where women are incredibly removed from their own bodies).

Moreover though, I’d like to talk about how those two ideas- body image and masturbation- intersect. We’ve been told a million times over in health class, by parents, by friends, and in PSAs so numerous they make our heads spin, that the media’s idea of a normal female’s body is completely distorted and unreasonable, that we should not judge ourselves based on that model. That discussion is old hat. But what our teachers and parents and friends haven’t told us is that our model of what the perfect girl “does” is equally skewed.

Put bluntly, the perfect girl is the one who gets to have sex. She’s the one who is attractive enough to be unabashedly sexual- posing in Abercrombie and Fitch ads without a shirt, splashing in the waves in her string bikini, and fucking as much as she feels like. And the other girls? The ones who have some curves, who don’t wear makeup or straighten their hair, who don’t go tanning every weekend to get that sun-bronzed look- they get nothing. And besides the obvious fact that regarding sex itself, THIS IS TOTAL BULLSHIT, this vicious anti-sexualization of the “non-perfect girl” spills over into other areas of sexuality that all women have a right to- including (you guessed it)…masturbation.

Accordingly, non-perfect girls (meaning ALL girls, because no one matches the media standard out there, and you’d be hard pressed to find a woman who will assert that she hasn’t had body issues at some point) are made to feel guilty about masturbating. Masturbation isn’t something that normal girls do.

This of course exists in sharp dichotomy to the way masturbation is portrayed for guys. In the movies, a woman masturbating earns the movie an automatic R-rating, which there are hundreds of PG-13 movies which focus (perhaps even excessively) on male masturbation. In movies like American Pie, male masturbation is made the object of humor, associated with geeks and nerds who “can’t get laid” on their own and resort to masturbation as a last resort.
Clearly, both sexes have had their issues with this most natural of human impulses. But I think the biggest crime associated with masturbation is the guilt complex that comes with these negative associations. Now I’m not one to defend anything that comes out of Gossip Girl Taylor Momsen’s mouth, but the media fervor that arose out of her comment that her vibrator “was her best friend” is the ugliest example yet of how society has vilified a (dare I say normal?) girl’s sexuality.
“But shock it did. PopCrunch lamented that her comment was”Wrongtown USA!” because “this child is 16,” and Hollywood Life pronounced her “out of control.” … Momsen may not be the role model I’d prefer my tween daughters to emulate, but the collective horror over her reference to self-pleasure speaks volumes about how taboo the subject still is. And frankly, if I’d had a vibrator at 16, high school would have sucked a lot less.”

AGREED. It’s truly absurd that such a simple comment- and probably one of the more polite that has ever come out of Momsen’s mouth- should cause such outrage from the media. But it is indicative of just how scared we are of talking about our teenage daughters’ sexuality. We can’t even accept a healthy practice like masturbation without raising an uproar in the blogosphere about sexual morality and the “innocence” of youth. (Funny how that standard only applies to women though, isn’t it?)
So the question remains, what IS important to know about female body issue and sexuality that we can un-shroud from the maelstrom of hate surrounding it?

1. Basic anatomy. Scarleteen is still the best source out there for down-to-earth information about teen sexuality- so check out With Pleasure: A View of Whole Sexual Anatomy for Every Body to find out how all of us are built, and how our minds and hormones are as much a part of our sexual response as anything between our legs
2. Self-image. Women masturbate. Crazy stuff. One of the most useful exercises you can do to promote the idea of positive sexual self-image is to think about the women you know and admire and think about the fact that they masturbate. Think that’s creepy? That’s part of the problem. If we can’t conceptualize the simple idea that other women masturbate, we can’t begin to be comfortable about doing it ourselves. But if women we know and respect- our mother, sisters, friends, teachers- masturbate, then why in the world shouldn’t we.
3. Deal with yourself and your hang-ups. You know what? Just stop reading what I’m writing and go look at Scarleteen. Go. Go do it now. Start here.

A healthy, holistic view of your own sexuality (and not just the gay-straight, kink-vanilla dichotomies we’ve rehashed) is crucial to fulfilling sexual relationships- both with others and with yourself!- down the line. Don’t let the media’s bastardization make something wonderfully practical and stress-releasing like masturbation into a devil. As I’ve said before, own your body. Embrace your sexual self, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.

Also, if you’re interested- this is just a funny little article about masturbation and how the bible has been misinterpreted to vilify the practice even more.  So sad.

Stay cool, queer kids.

Christmas and Gender Stereotypes

Merry Christmas fellow queer kids!

As much as I hate using my friends as fodder for this blog, one of my good friends’ comments touched on a subject I think is really important, but perhaps I’ve glossed over in the past: the conflation of gender roles and sexuality.  My friend mentioned how she didn’t like Johnny Depp’s performance in Pirates of the Caribbean because he acted too “gay” to be a pirate.  Ironically, I thought this role was the absolute highlight of his career, specifically because he made the atypical, perhaps slightly effeminate and uncourageous male attractive.  Though the role of Jack Sparrow was never meant to be played that way, Depp’s ability to transform the stereotype of a male pirate into its complete opposite while maintaining his personal sex appeal was nothing short of amazing.  However, my friend’s contrary viewpoint brings up an important concept.

Sexuality and gender presentation are not perfectly correlated, and that is primarily because gender roles are so highly constructed by society.  We talk about this a lot in my Rainbow Speakers Bureau presentations at school- society’s idea of what constitutes a “manly man” or a “womanly woman” is constantly evolving and is very much relative to the culture surrounding it.  This is incredibly evident in many areas, from sports to modeling to high school Proms, but I want to focus on two areas in specific- movies and dance.

Though Johnny Depp is a prime example to the contrary (as he is straight as a pin in Pirates), most of the images we are fed in the media conflate homosexuality with femininity in men.  The examples are less prevalent in the opposite direction for women (as the success of shows like The L Word illustrate), but there are still very clearly defined ideas of what women vs. men should do, act, and say in relation to one another and their sexuality.  To illustrate this, I’ll use The Bechdel test, created by lesbian writer Allison Bechdel, as a criteria for what movies she would go watch relative to women’s gender roles.


The hag from Princess Bride thinks the Bechdel Test is tricky business

  1. There must be more than one main female character
  2. Those female characters must talk to each other
  3. …About something other than a man

It’s incredibly surprising how many movies this eliminates from the Hollywood schema.  But how does this relate to sexuality and gender roles?  Well, let’s put the pieces together- if a woman in a Hollywood movie is primarily concerned with talking about and attracting another man, this prescribes both a gendered role for women (to get men using their feminine wiles) and also a sexuality- straight.  There’s no room in this paradigm for a lesbian.  THEREFORE, because women do A, B, and C (and present themselves in the manner that is consistent with others who do A, B, and C), they are presumed straight.  And by extension, those who do not do A, B, and C, (and who present themselves differently), must be gay.

Similarly with men- a straight man has specific objectives in a given movie (although they tend to be wider-ranging than women’s) — they are tough, strong, confident, independent and have a very clearly defined way of behaving.  Men who act contrary to that (swashbucking, ragingly-sarcastic pirates among them) are considered effeminate and gay.

My point with all this is not simply to say, “well, gosh, that’s annoying, but you should already know this and let’s get on with Christmas already.”  Instead, I want to point out the way this conflation of sexuality and gender roles is poisoning one of our great art forms: dance.

Perhaps some of you are familiar with the show “So You Think You Can Dance?”  The show pairs off mostly professionally-trained and rigorously-auditioned dancers to learn routines and perform weekly for a panel of dance critic/teacher/producer/judges.  It’s a very intense process, and the routines incorporate all styles of dance, from contemporary to jazz to ballet to….ballroom.  And here’s where the poison hits.

So You Think You Can Dance has always emphasized the importance of strong, manly physique for its male dancers and made crucial the ideal of an intense, confident, very masculine dance presentation.  This is often very important for contrast with the female dancers, however, it can also be very limiting.  In this season, due to a new competition format, many of the female competitors were eliminated early, leaving a preponderance of male dancers.  When the inevitable ballroom number came up, the choreographers and producers had two options: to embrace traditional gender roles or break them down.

You can figure out from the video which they chose.  For me, this is the poison of conflating gender and sexuality- it becomes so impossible to allow the male to be sensual, to be feminine, to be “other,” that art loses its flexibility.  Which is why I LOVE LOVE this article about Gay Ballroom Dancing in the Gay Games.  It brilliantly illustrates how two men can adapt the idea of gender roles to suit their own needs.  In same-sex ballroom dancing, the lead for the dance often changes between and within numbers- there is fluidity in the roles of the dancers, and thus, the interaction is more organic, more unique, and more vibrant.  And in the case of “Gay Ballroom Dancing,” the emphasis is on gender, not sexuality.  You do not have to be LGBT to dance with same-sex partner, only willing to relinquish your standards of what constitutes male and female roles.  But because society still holds so much stock in the masculine-male, feminine-female dichotomy, it’s unlikely to see much more of this outside of LGBT spaces.

It shouldn’t, however, discourage you from going out and trying some dancing on for size!  The art will only evolve if people push it forward.  So go exert your influence!  I won’t turn you down if you ask me for a dance.  🙂

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