Tag Archive: sex


50 Shades of WTF

50 Shades of Grey book jacketI know I’m only a million years too late on this, and every blogger worth his/her/hir salt has already said their piece on 50 Shades of Grey, so I’ll try to make my thoughts brief.

Without much ado…

Things which are troublesome about 50 Shades of Grey:

  • The implication that dominant people are dominant both in and out of the bedroom:

Christian Grey is the consummate 24/7 Dom.  There is no ON/OFF button– he is controlling, manipulative, dark, and masterful every moment of the day.  In his business, his family life, his love life, Christian is in the driver’s seat.  Now there’s nothing wrong with this mode of dominance, persay, but being that 50 Shades is one of the first books to bring BDSM into the limelight for the general public, I take the view that its cultural responsibility is to show as much discretion towards its subject matter as possible.  There is no other D/s couple in 50 Shades (at least not the first book– I really couldn’t stomach the whole series), so Christian’s portrayal of dominance holds a lot of weight.  By putting him at the farthest end of the spectrum, as a dominant who sublimates his own hardships, remains isolated, and controls situations inside and out of the bedroom, 50 Shades simplifies the complex varieties of dominance that exist in the BDSM community.  There are highly insecure, shy, and vulnerable people who take on dominance in the bedroom.  There are also very strong, confident doms that relinquish their controlling persona outside of the bedroom.  We don’t see any of this in 50 Shades- only a very clearly delineated dichotomy of Strong, Successful and Dominant vs. Naive, Clumsy, and Submissive.

  • Christian’s possessive, jealous regard for other men in Ana’s life

Regardless of who the love interest is, the way Christian reacts to men he sees as a threat to his monopoly on Ana’s affection (and he sees ALL

Also, You Killed My Father…

men as a threat) is totally out of line.  By idolizing him, 50 Shades reinforces the idea that men should be possessive towards women, viewing them almost as property.  It also erases the potential for homosexuality’s existence, for either Ana or Christian, as this jealous possessiveness is fiercely heterosexual. For instance, Ana’s male best friend Jose is instantly marked as a threat by Christian, and is the subject of constant tension during the book. But Kate, Ana’s roommate and female best, who exhibits a much greater degree of closeness to Ana, is never even mentioned as a concern, specifically because she’s a woman (and therefore not a sexual threat.)

  • Ana’s obsession with “storybook-like” men

Ana has a yen for (in my opinion, rather maudlin, uninteresting) 19th century English literature.  She idolizes men who have bizarre mood swings, who speak in cryptic quotes, and who frankly, cause a lot of drama.  It reminds me of Thought Catalog’s “You Should Date an Illiterate Girl”

She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold. You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am. You will not accept the life that I told of at the beginning of this piece. You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being storied.

Like in Thought Catalog, Ana cannot possibly be content with a mere mortal boyfriend– she needs the dramatic, sweeping climax of a storybook plot twist and the anguish of true love shunned by society that comes back at the last moment to save the day.  While it makes for a great book, it’s pretty unhealthy in terms of a real relationship, which is, unfortunately, what draws her more and more to dark, brooding, difficult, enrapturing Christian Grey.  ((also, an interesting metacommentary on realistic fiction…but we’ll save that for a literary blog, yes?))

  • Further stigmatizing edge play like knife play, fire play, scat/urine play

Conspiracy Keanu says, "What if "50 Shades of Grey" is a good story and we just don't get it???"I’m sorry, but why the fuck is it necessary to hate on edge play in a book about BDSM?  Whatever, it’s not your kink, fine.  But 50 Shades grabbed at such low hanging fruit with Christian’s “hard limits.” When the pair are going through Christian’s hard limits (including fire play, scat/piss play, etc), Ana self-narrates “Why would a sane person do those things?”  This comment in particular struck me as unnecessarily hurtful.  Especially when scat and piss play are already so stigmatized inside and outside the BDSM community, it seems just cruel and unnecessary to make them the subject of acrimony within the book, since they have absolutely no plot purpose.

  • Perpetuates the idea that women bleed when they lose their virginity

This is pretty simple.  It’s just not a thing 99% of the time.  Especially when women in the Middle East are scared to death that their husbands will question their virginity because this myth hasn’t be eradicated, why do we need to perpetuate it?

Not familiar?  I’ll break it down.  *ahem* When a person with a vagina has sex for the first time, the understanding is that the penis “breaks” the seal of the hymen and a small amount of blood issues forth.  Not so.  First of all, the hymen is not a seal across the opening of the vagina, but a bit of tissue that covers a portion of the vaginal opening. This tissue is often pushed to the side by tampons, masturbation, or even general physical activity like swimming long before the person owning the vagina has sex.  Therefore, most women do not bleed their first time because this tissue has already been pushed aside and the blood discharged.  Again, there are women who lose their lives, their livelihoods, their marriages, and their social standing because people still believe this myth.  Perpetuating the “all women bleed their first time” myth is one of my biggest pet peeves.

  • The domineering, controlling aspect of casual conversation; the sense that Grey already owns and directs the people he interacts with and the conversations he participates in

The interesting thing about this observation is that I only find this behavior troubling specifically because Grey is a white, heterosexual, Privilege Denying Dude said, "Have you tried not being in a vulnerable population?"cis-gendered man.  Coming from a place of incredible societal privilege, this nonchalant control and dominance over everyone he interacts with is a sinister reminder of the oppression that minorities of all varieties face.  Christian has the ability to be confident, cocky, and domineering without a second thought because of the social cache he earns as a socially legitimate member of society.  Were he a transgendered man, a black woman, a disabled queer man, a poor Hispanic lesbian—any combination of unprivileged identities, then perhaps his attitude could be re-contextualized and seen as a kind of strength coming out where it is warranted and should be celebrated.

But Grey is… The unspoken.  The default. White. Able-bodied. Male.  Straight.  Cis-gendered. And that he is THE MOST POWERFUL CHARACTER in the book, the most cocky, the most admired character, is frustrating as fuck to anyone who has ever felt less than because of their identity.

That’s all for now, queer kids.  Share your thoughts on the book in comments!

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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!

barbie tiny waistA couple of months ago I did an interview with a German television station as a part of my pole dancing studio to support Lulu Browne, a plus size pole dancer who rose to fame after her appearance on America’s Got Talent.  The interviewer asked me if I thought I would have the strength and courage to put myself out there if I were in Lulu’s shoes (weight-wise).  Though I told the interviewer that I could only hope so, looking back, I realized that I knew my real answer was very different.

Like so many other men and women in this crazy, media-hyped, perfect-body driven world, I suffered (and still do suffer) from serious self-doubt about my body. In a family of dancers, bodybuilders, and gym teachers, I was the brainy, but chubby couch potato.  I was not graceful or lithe or flexible or beautiful.  I had zits and wore stretch pants and no bra whenever I could get away with it.  Things have changed a lot since then—I’ve lost weight and gained muscle mass, my face has cleared up somewhat, and I’ve ditched the stretch pants for fitted shirts (although I still ditch the bra probably too often…).  And even though I’m closer than I ever was to our culture’s idea of the “perfect body”, I still have moments of self-loathing and frustration, when my thighs jiggle too much, or my stomach bunches up when I sit.

That’s why I have complicated feelings about this article from Bitch Media (wow is it hard to make that sentence sound serious…) about I am Ugly mirrorself-image and weight.

Author Tasha Fierce writes: I’m sure we all know a fat girl who feels like crap about her size until she receives some positive sexual attention from someone. Unfortunately, healthy self-esteem is not built on the slippery slope that is random affection from potential partners. If you only feel good about yourself when you’re with a partner to validate your attractiveness, once that partner has moved on (and they most certainly will when they figure out your feelings about yourself are inextricably tied to them), you’re back in the same, leaky, no-self-esteem boat.

She makes a strong point: Feeling good about yourself starts with feeling good about yourself, it doesn’t start when someone else starts feeling good about you. Your self-image should never be built on the approval of another person, no matter how important that person is in your life.

However, the reality may not be so simple.   I have done the work, internally, to get myself to a much more stable place with embracing my body.  I purposefully do one activity naked every day to feel more comfortable in my skin (plus, clothes suck!).  I look at myself in the mirror and find things I like.  But some days it’s still a struggle.  And moreover, I don’t think I could have ever gotten over that initial hump of disapproval without the help of my first boyfriend, who decided I was sexy enough to desire. His approval gave me the power to love myself, even after he was gone.

body_is campaignMy journey has shown me how unfair it is to expect people to self-motivate that journey toward acceptance from the very beginning. It is really hard living in a world where everyone and everything in media, society, culture, even family, is telling you to look a certain way, and you DON’T. The tiniest bit of sexual interest from someone else can “flip that switch” inside that gives you the power to start approving of yourself.

It also reinforces the things you already know about yourself when you lose sight of them.  My girlfriend kisses my back and says she loves the graceful arch it carries.  She nods approvingly and notes that my legs have strength and definition to them.  And she loves my butt (!!), which has always been my greatest insecurity.

Case in point, yes, acceptance of your body should come from within, but there’s a place for others—to push us, to light a fire, to remind us— to bring us closer to that inner sense of balance and bodily love.

 

A Trans Sex Guide

I’ve been sitting back on Forever the Queerest Kids these past few months as my life has undergone some transitions—graduation from college, the start of a new job (that I tolerate), an internship with an organization that makes me excited for the next 10 years of my life, and the move to a new apartment (to come next month).  But I haven’t forgotten about you guys!  I’ve also been slowly collecting material to talk about, important things that I hadn’t gathered my thoughts on yet.

So here we go.

Looking through my bookmarked FTQK pages, I found that I suddenly had a lot of material on trans issues, and trans sex particularly, which is awesome, because I spent so much of last year trying to integrate more trans-friendly programming into my college campus.  I’m always on the lookout for intelligent responses to the incredibly difficult issues trans people face daily.  Here are a few.

My girlfriend recently alerted me to a really cool PDF Brazen: Trans Safer Sex Guide written by Morgan M. Page and published by The 519 last year.  The PDF is pretty groundbreaking just by the fact that it specifically deals with Trans issues AND sex specifically, but I thought the particular subtopics covered were even more interesting.  There’s a lot of stuff in Brazen that you just wouldn’t find in a safer sex guide aimed at cis-women.

For instance, Brazen devotes sections of each topic to dealing with people who engage in sex work.  Because the PDF is aimed at people in Canada, where sex work is technically legal (although there are a lot of restrictions around the trade), Brazen deals speaks to sex workers on amicable terms. There are concrete, specific tips for keeping yourself safe in the trade (don’t wear scarves or necklaces, as they can be used to choke you if a date goes wrong) and a no-nonsense approach to keeping yourself safe.  While it’s frustrating and sad that trans women are pulled into sex work out of necessity in inordinate proportions, I’m happy to see Brazen deal with that reality directly.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen sex work dealt with in a publication of this nature as anything other than among a laundry list of threats and potential missteps to a healthy sexuality.

Brazen also directly confronts the reality that many trans people are also recreational drug users.  Again, a sad and frustrating reality, and one that is NEVER dealt with in safe-sex guides for women.  Drugs and sex are very purposefully kept away from each other, in an effort to elevate the status of sex (by demoting drugs and distancing their combination in real life) at the expense of information.  Brazen makes very important points about mistakes people can make with drugs that are particular to trans situations.  EX: needles used for hormone injections are a different gauge than needs used for drug injections.

And on top of all that, Brazen does an incredible job of dealing with the nitty gritty of safety, like which activities put you at risk for which diseases, and how you can adapt condoms and other forms of protection to a trans or transitioning body.

Aside from safe sex, A Queer Chick, one of the columnists over at TheHairpin, had a great column back in march about navigating sex with a partner who has transitioned when you have never had sex/been attracted to that gender before.  She has great suggestions, like hanging out with dykes and watching queer porn, but the crux of her advice is strong for anyone, LGB, T or partnered with someone T, straight, queer, etc.

Don’t think about “how to have sex with a woman.” Think about how to have sex with your partner, your special beautiful sweet unique partner you’re crazy about. You don’t have to be a good lesbian, or any kind of lesbian at all. You just have to be with her.

And isn’t that how we need to think about trans issues in general?  That people are not their identity, but a unique individual who has come to their place in their own specific way?

But alas, it isn’t always that simple, especially for people who identify as lesbian or gay and fall for a partner who transitions to a gender that allows them to present as a straight couple.  Aja Worthy-Davis,who guestposted this article on Racialicious, writes eloquently on the subject.  She shows how complicated the intersections between race, gender, sexuality, and transition can be in a world where we wear our labels not only through our own actions and presentations, but through those of our partner.

I’m a queer Black femme prone to dating middle-aged divorced hippie White guys due in equal parts to my upbringing, my personality, and my personal baggage. He’s a Black man who has dated more than his share of middle-aged divorced hippie White lesbians. And (I guess this is the kicker) when we met in our staunchly Catholic high school over a decade ago, he was a girl.

…[When he transitioned] My personal life sped up to where I thought it would slowly lead, and my mind was so wrapped-up in the practical questions (Where will we live? When will we go to graduate school? Who will do the cooking?), that it totally bypassed the more personal introspective question about how it would change my personal and relationship identity to be perceived as straight and be with a Black man.

While it’s easy, in theory, to acknowledge that the transition has not changed anything of substance in their identities, the way that a trans man and cis woman are seen is very different than the way two cis women are seen.  And I think it’s legitimate for there to be an element of mourning for the cis woman—the way she expresses her sexual identity has been changed.  She will, to most strangers, be forever read as a straight woman, and there’s not a whole lot to be done about it.

So at the end of the day, it’s a little stickier than just, “Well, this is the person I fell in love with, not the gender I fell in love with.”  Transition will affect many aspects of your life, and embracing that takes a lot of thought and work personally.  From the outside, it’s very easy to sing Love Makes the World Go Round, but inside a relationship, it’s more difficult.  But I would argue, inside that relationship is a complexity and strength that is a lot richer.

boy in blue and girl in pink standing back to backI firmly believe that we do not give kids enough credit for their ability to navigate, question and deconstruct concepts that adults find incredibly confusing.  No, I’m not saying that it’s time to start teaching your four year old theoretical physics (although my dad loved to do that—unfortunately, I never really appreciated it…), but it does mean that we should question some of the basic assumptions about how we teach and interact with young children.

Case in point: gender.

I’ve been sitting on this article for several months, and every time I re-read it, I get giggly and smiley all over again.

“Hi I’m Alec are you the babysitter mommy said that we can go to the park if you want to and feed the ducks do you like legos?”

“Yep, hi, my name is Andy.” I said, kneeling down, “Let me talk to one of your parents first, ok?”

While I was saying this Alec was looking me up and down.

“Yeah ok, hey, Andy, do you use boy words or girl words, or the other words but I can’t really ‘amember them?”

I looked curiously at his mom, Amelia, who was busy tiding up the table.

“Oh,” she said, “he can’t remember the word pronouns.”

“Ah,” it clicked, “I use boy words. What about you?”

“I use boy words, too. Do you like legos?”

“Of course I do!”symbols for male and female

Alec, the star of this adorable article was raised not to equate gender presentation with gender identity.  Granted he probably doesn’t have the vocabulary to express these ideas, but at the heart of it, his behavior towards others reflects a nuanced and tolerant, thoughtful way of looking at gender.

At one point he asked his mom and she said, “Honey, do you remember what Aunt Sarah said to do if you can’t tell if somebody’s a boy or a girl?” he didn’t respond. “You ask.”

You. Ask.

You don’t guess or dance around the subject or hope somebody else clues you in or wait for another person to use a pronoun so you can use the same one. You ASK.

 

There’s an element of common courtesy to living your life this way—no frills, no guesswork, no assumptions or hurt feelings.  You just ask.  I can only imagine that Alec will grow up feeling much less constrained by the idea of gender himself, and feel free to experiment and explore his own identity, his likes and dislikes, and to define himself as a person, not as a boy or a girl.

pregnant woman holding blocks that say "boy"Unfortunately, most kids aren’t brought up this way.  Gender policing and gender messaging starts from birth and becomes so engrained into our psyches that it’s sometimes hard to disentangle our own feelings about gender from the messages we’ve been fed since we were born.  In this sense, it’s both easier and way harder for young kids to have meaningful conversations about gender.

On one hand, they are not authorities on the matter.  To a large extent, children rely on the structure and conditioning of their parents, teachers, family members, and other authority figures in their lives.  If those people are saying “Boys do this; girls wear that,” then it is incredibly hard for them to separate their own feelings from the opinions and conditioning of the important people in their lives.

On the other hand, children have had decades less of gender policing than their adult counterparts.  They may have experienced discrimination, but rarely do they fear for their lives or their livelihoods based on the way they perceive and present gender.  They are still malleable with their opinions, and open to the idea of contradiction.

So while it can be difficult to combat the harmful way gender is explained in our society, I think the work of Melissa Bollow Temple, of Jackson County, Wisconsin shows how important, and sometimes how simple breaking down those messages can be.

I taped up two large pieces of paper and wrote “Boys” on one and “Girls” on the other. …When we had two extensive lists, I read both lists out loud to the class and then studied them carefully.

“Hmm,” I said. “Here it says that Legos are for boys. Can girls play with Legos?”unisex bathroom sign

“Yes!” most of them replied without hesitation.

“I wonder if any of the girls in our class like to play with Hot Wheels?”

“I do! I do!” blurted out some of the girls. We continued with the rest of the items on our “Boys” list, making a check mark next to each one as it was declared acceptable for girls.

Then we went on to the “Girls” list. We started with baby dolls. Because we had just read and discussed William’s Doll, the children were OK with boys playing with dolls. “It’s great practice for boys who want to be daddies when they grow up,” I mentioned.

But when we got to nail polish and makeup the children were unsure. “There are some very famous rock ’n’ roll bands,” I said, “and the men in those bands wear a lot of makeup.” Some of the children gasped.

Then Isabela raised her hand: “Sometimes my uncle wears black nail polish.” The students took a moment to think about this.

“My cousin wears nail polish, too!” said another student. Soon many students were eager to share examples of how people pushed the limits on gender. Our school engineer, Ms. Joan, drove a motorcycle. Jeremy liked to dance. I could see the gears turning in their brains as the gender lines started to blur.

Conversations like these might be the most crucial to ensure that the children we raise grow up to be caring, compassionate, and empathetic men and women (and those who identify otherwise).  Working to blur the lines of gender early gives students critical thinking skills to challenge the messaging of media, consumerism, peers, and authority figures.  This generation can grow up to understand gender so much better than most of us do now.   And that will benefit more than just gender non-conforming and trans* people.  Because acceptance and critical thinking lends itself to a deeper understanding of people with all types of differences: disability, ethnicity, race, sexuality, and yes, of course, gender.

Stay cool, queer kids, and keep pushing for acceptance and dialogue in all areas of your life.

Get talking, get yourself tested logoUnlike most 9th graders, I actually paid attention in health class.  I can tell you that trichomonaisis is one of the only STDs that can live outside of the human body for more than an hour.  I can tell you all the terrible things that will happen to you if you don’t get treatment for syphilis early enough.  I also THOUGHT I knew everything I needed to know about herpes

  1. You get it through skin to skin contact when you have an outbreak
  2. Like most STDs, condoms and other latex barriers will help prevent it, although they are not 100%
  3. There’s no cure for it, only treatment for the sores when you get outbreaks.

But I didn’t even realize how much I didn’t know until I read an article by Mollena (of The Perverted Negress– y’all better check her out)  about coming out about having herpes.

“I discovered that many people who have Herpes are asymptomatic. In other words, they never have outbreaks. I also learned that between 65 and 80 percent of adults are seropositive for HSV-1, the virus that causes oral herpes, or cold sores.

I learned that the statistics as they apply to HSV-2, the strain that usually causes genital Herpes, are a bit more troubling.

The CDC Says

The latest HSV-2 data – announced at CDC’s National STD Conference in Atlanta on March 9, 2010, and published today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) – indicates that overall national HSV-2 prevalence remains high (16.2%) and that the disease continues to disproportionately burden African-Americans (39.2% prevalence), particularly black women (48.0% prevalence), who face a number of factors putting them at greater risk, including higher community prevalence and biological factors that put women of all races at greater risk for HSV-2 than men.”

My mind was a little blown.  Over half the population has one or both forms of herpes?  Is that for real?

The great thing is, even if you contract herpes, you’re likely as not to be asymptomatic.  Many people don’t react to the viral infection with outbreaks, so lots of Americans have herpes but have no idea.  The terrible thing is, even if you contract herpes, you’re likely as not to be asymptomatic.  That means lots of Americans have herpes but have no idea.

It bears repeating because that means, if you have sex with a partner who swears s/he/ze isn’t infected, they might not know any better.  And that puts you at risk for exposure.

There’s also a lot of misinformation and lack of education  around herpes.  When I got my STD tests done at Planned Parenthood, I asked to get tested for herpes, but the nurse practitioner said that they couldn’t test without an open sore to swab.  I figured, since I hadn’t had an outbreak, I couldn’t have herpes.  I still haven’t been tested for it, because I really only realized a few weeks ago that I should be tested.

most people infected with genital herpes do not know they have itThe terrible thing is, even though such a large portion of the population has herpes, there’s still immense amounts of stigma around the disease.  This Scarleteen article by Leah Berkenwald does a great job breaking it down.

Ever notice the only time we hear herpes mentioned in movies or on TV is when it’s the butt of a joke? Genital herpes is an easy target for humor because it’s not fatal and the people who suffer from this STI are not usually considered victims. Unlike HIV/AIDS, genital herpes is a relatively mild condition that does not usually warrant the seriousness or sensitivity that society grants fatal illness. Instead, genital herpes is understood to be a punishment, or something you “bring upon yourself.” People with genital herpes aren’t thought of as victims; they’re thought of as sluts, monsters, lepers, or just stupid.   

And she’s right.  I started paying attention, and it’s abominable how many herpes jokes there are on TV and in movies.  No other disease gets the kind of attention herpes does.  And yet almost everyone has it!

So what do I know now that I didn’t know in 9th grade?

1. The majority of Americans are carriers for one of the two herpes simplex viruses

2. Most of them will never know it.

3. You can pass herpes on to a partner whether or not you have an outbreak (it gets passed through saliva, mucous, or skin-to-skin contact when you have an outbreak)

4. You will almost never have a doctor recommend a herpes test.  You have to ask for it yourself.

The good news is, as Mollena’s article ALSO pointed out, finding out you have herpes is not a death sentence for your sex life.  It pays to be careful, use condoms, dental dams, and gloves, but being open and honest about your infection can lead other people to feel more at ease and talk about their STD status too. 
“So I have herpes,” I said.

He smiled, and that only got me hotter. “Its cool. I’ve had partners before with Herpes.”

He then disclosed to me that he’s been recently treated for Gonorrhea, which involved an initial injection of antibiotics, then a course of antibiotic pills. We discussed our safer-sex protocols, broke out the condoms and lube, and then he shagged me halfway off the bed and sideways into next week.

Yep, sex is better when you’re an expert. But most importantly? There’s nothing like fucking when you trust someone and feel good about being able to be honest.

Hell yes.  Stay cool, queer kids.

Future Sex

Ok, yes, this article was from 2011, but still so cool!  Here’s 10 scientific developments from the past year that are changing the way we do sex.  Posted in full from this article in Daily Loaf.

Future Sex: top 10 developments in 2011 that will change sex

Posted by Sex and Love editor on Mon, Dec 26, 2011 at 6:21 AM

Jane Fonda in Barbarella

To predict the future, sometimes you must look to the past. If history is any indicator, how humans satisfy their sexual desires and conceive offspring will become increasingly dependent on technology. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Technology provides hope for those suffering from infertility and sexual dysfunction, and it reduces the risk of unwanted pregnancies and diseases.

World’s first successful uterus transplant:
Derya Sert became the first woman to receive a womb from a deceased donor. Previous attempts using living donors have failed because surgeons weren’t able to harvest as much of the tissue surrounding the organ. Doctors became convinced of the feasibility of this procedure after a study came out this year demonstrating how a transplanted uterus in sheep can produce healthy offspring while the mother is on immunosuppressive therapy.

Vasectomy without scissors:
Sujoy Guha spent the last 30 years developing a reversible form of vasectomy, RISUG, that requires only a syringe loaded with a nontoxic polymer. Unfortunately the procedure has never been approved by the medical community because no drug company is willing to invest millions in a compound that will inevitably cost less than the syringe that delivers it. After years of testing and pushing RISUG, the procedure is on the verge of approval in India—a nation that is expected to surpass China as the world’s most populous nation. Also, this year an American team was scheduled to start basic toxicology testing on RISUG, and the Gates Foundation granted $100,000 to test RISUG in fallopian tubes.

Japan gets closer to creating a lifelike sex robot: As a nation obsessed with cutting-edge electronics, it should be no surprise that many Japanese men have turned to technology as a surrogate for human companionship. Last year the trend of men dating electronic girlfriends they carried on their phones became so popular that at least one Japanese resort town started catering to these men and their virtual lovers. This year there were at least three robotic advancements in Japan that will help give rise to realistic, sex robots. One researcher unveiled both a kiss and a hug transmission device; these machines simulate artificial forms of these human exchanges over the Internet. Another team of researchers developed a robot that can talk and mimic facial expressions as flawlessly as the animated creatures on Avatar.

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An Indonesian plant may lead to male birth control:
Indonesian researchers have been testing the chemicals of a native plant, Gandarusa, on the fertility of male mice since 1987. The chemical doesn’t interfere with a male’s hormones; it disarms sperm and makes them unable to penetrate the egg. Researchers have since moved on to human trials. Of the 100 couples to take the drug, none conceived a child while on the pill and the men’s sperm returned to normal in less than two months. Gandarusa could hit shelves in Indonesia as early as next year.

FDA approves the first erectile dysfunction machine:
Reflexonic announced the impending release of the first FDA-approved vibrator for men: Viberect. This device is the first physical alternative to erectile dysfunction drugs as well as the first tool for promoting ejaculation in men with spinal cord injuries. A Viberect currently requires a doctor’s prescription and costs $300. Considering the one-time investment and the lack of side-effects, it will be interesting to see how competitive these machines are against ED medications. Also, expect sex toy companies to produce knock-off versions marketed as novelty items.

Cheap and early gender tests may lead to selective abortions:
Gender tests are becoming ever easier. They are important when screening for sex-specific diseases, but some couples are using these tests for sex-selective abortions. Gender selection is just the start of a larger debate regarding genetic selection. One day soon doctors will be able to isolate and combine specific sperm and eggs that carry “ideal” genes. The inherent flaw with selecting your child’s genes, or even its sex, is the delusion that parents know what will be best for their offspring in an ever-changing world.

Gamers develop a model for an AIDS enzyme:
Pessimists have long seen the rise of video games as one of many elements rotting the minds of the young. However, innovative thinkers have discovered ways to harness the electronic skills of gamers. The Foldit computing project challenged gamers to create a 3D model of a critical AIDS enzyme that has eluded scientists for nearly a decade. Gamers solved the puzzle in three weeks. This 3D model will provide researchers with insight into the enzyme’s structural strengths and weaknesses.

Space sex isn’t stellar, at least for conception:
While NASA has yet to officially conduct experiments on human sex in space, some grounded NASA scientists analyzed the feasibility of procreation and pregnancy outside the Earth’s protective atmosphere. Space pioneers will face a variety of problems when it comes to conception. Radiation bursts from cosmic rays and solar flares will bombard their genitals like swift kicks of cosmic energy to the gonads. This will boost the rates of miscarriages and infertility.

First successful test tube sperm:
It has taken nearly a century, but scientists have finally grown mammalian sperm outside of the body. Researchers took tissue fragments from the testes of mice and soaked them in various culturing solutions in the hope that these cells would divide into sperm cells. The team ran into problems with meiosis. The key turned out to be culturing the tissue in a serum that is used to grow embryonic stem cells. The resulting sperm were then injected into egg cells and produced healthy offspring. Researchers are hopeful about using this procedure to help infertile men.

‘Viagra condoms’ may help resurrect safe sex:
Many men don’t use condoms or remove them during sex as the loss of sensitivity can make it difficult to maintain an erection. This blood loss can also increase the risk of the condom slipping off. To combat these issues, manufacturers tried coating the inside of condoms with a gel used to increase blood circulation. Men who tested the product reported having stronger and longer-lasting erections. Even if this innovation was primarily developed as a gimmick to sell condoms, many hope it will have the added bonus of preventing unwanted pregnancies and reducing the spread of STDs.

"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.

Facials

embroidered pillow that says, "Just don't cum on my face"There are a lot of sexual practices that, on top of the shame and stigma that sometimes comes from just  being sexually active, have their own specific stigma attached to them.  One of them I want to talk about in depth today: facials.

 

Why facials?

 

For whatever reason, our society has heaped extra shame onto people that enjoy facials.  It is seen as particularly dirty and degrading.  Particularly problematic to the idea of female equality.  Particularly hurtful and uncomfortable and ugly.  Particularly awkward to talk about.

I would have never thought to write about facials (which, if you didn’t know, is the act of ejaculating on a partners face), because they are something I’ve never experienced and never really desire to experience.  I tended to side with dominant culture on this one, actually.  I thought facials were pretty gross, and yeah, kind of degrading.  At least I did, until I read this article from Jezebel.

The article starts by contextualizing facials as an aesthetic in porn that derived from the AIDS crisis of the mid-80’s:

“Cum on me, not in me” was a popular sex educator slogan as far back as the late 1980s. … [In porn], if the male actor came on her face, the viewer could see two things at once: evidence of male pleasure (symbolized by the ejaculation) and the equally important sign that a woman’s reaction to that pleasure mattered.With sex now so dangerous — and HIV particularly likely to be spread through semen — facials were relatively “safe.” But in the era of AIDS, they were also compelling visual evidence that a woman wasn’t threatened by a man’s semen. In that sense facials were, almost from the start, more about women’s acceptance of men’s bodies than about women’s degradation.

I think that’s a really powerful statement, and for one reason in particular.  The women’s movement has brought us really great rhetoric and dude with paint all over his face; white text "Clown Porn: Always Ending with a Facial!"performance pieces about loving our bodies and our womanhood, as evidenced by the popularity of “The Vagina Monologues” (also linked to in that article).  But there hasn’t been the same kind of affirmation for men’s physicality, and particularly for the subject of the penis.

I know a lot of feminists will get up in arms with me about this point, because the penis has been the symbol of power and manhood and all these valued ideas for so long, but aesthetically, I think there’s just as much neurosis and discomfort with the male genitalia as with the female.  Boys grow up worrying if they’re long enough or big enough, if their guy “looks funny,” and I would imagine, there’s some discomfort with the idea of semen too.  But unlike women, who are now finding spaces to affirm the beauty of their vulvas, most people still squick and say “ewwwww” when we talk about penises and balls.

So in a way, facials are that kind of radical acceptance for men that “The Vagina Monologues” was for women: a way of saying, yes, your junk is ok.  It’s nice enough that I will allow it on my face, a place of great dignity and respect.  That same argument tends to apply to oral sex as well.

I don’t think this argument stands to invalidate the power dynamics at play with facials.  There is definitely still a sense of possession or authority that can come into play when giving or receiving a facial.  A lot of people specifically use facials as a kind of humiliation play in D/s relationships, and I think that’s legitimate too.  But the point being, facials don’t inherently HAVE to be about power.  A receptive partner can like facials without liking to be degraded, and loving relationships (kinky and otherwise) can use facials for the pleasure of both partners if they can talk about it in a way that revolves around acceptance and love of each other’s bodies.

And that’s pretty awesome.

Stay cool, queer kids.

Sext me, baby

Posted from Recombu:

Y’all need to be a little more careful with your sext messages.  Because they’re goin’ every-which-way.  I won’t lie, I’ve done it too, but I’m pretty darn careful about who is in the send to: line.

sexting infographic

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