Friday, December 23, 2011

Cosmocking: January '12!

[I'm heading out of town on Christmas business for a few days.  I hope all the Pervocrats have a merry and, if applicable, sexy holiday season!]

White cover!  Scarlett Johansson!  She's a redhead now so I guess that's exciting if that's the sort of thing that excites you!  "Sexiest. Body. Ever."!  I wonder if the person who write that headline even knew it was a Simpsons reference!  "Your Other G-Spot!" Spoiler: They just mean nipples!  Cosmo is bringing you the breaking new discovery that nipples exist!

I know I complain about this with every issue but I really want to teach the Cosmo cover artists a remedial lesson on How Necks Work!  (Lesson 1: You cannot point your head in a different direction than your neck!)
Q: I have a crush on a taken guy. Should I make a move?
A: It depends--you don't want to lower yourself to home-wrecker status over a rando crush. But if you're convinced he could be the love of your life, tell him "I would never want to break up a great couple, but if things don't work out, let me know."
One of the problems with Cosmo not knowing the difference between "she's a bad girl, she has dirty sex" and "she's a bad girl, she does unethical things" is that when they start trying to encourage bad-girledness, they still don't know the difference.

Also, "rando"?  Really?  "Rando"? I changed my mind; it's totally okay to be a homewrecker if The Amazing Rando is at stake.
If he's stressed... Stroke his earlobe between your thumb and index finger.
Sure, why not.

Because it's not just bizarre, it also avoids the much thornier topic of how to really help someone who's under stress while still respecting your own needs and boundaries?  Actually, that's a pretty good reason why not.

Sometimes my real problem with Cosmo isn't what it is (sometimes sexist, sometimes harmlessly ridiculous) but what it isn't.  They touch on stuff that could be important, could be a real issue and a chance to learn something real, and then leave their readers with nothing but pop-psych nonsense and gender stereotypes.  I know people don't read Cosmo for in-depth life advice (oh God, I hope not), but at the same time it makes me sad to see a magazine with a circulation over 3 million standing as a grandiose monument to missed possibilites.
If you really want a first date to turn into something more, there's an easy way to avoid any confusion: go home alone.
Right, because in Backwards Land, not showing sexual interest in someone is how you say you want a sexual relationship with them. Also in Backwards Land: the apples taste just like sardines. I know you think I was going to say "oranges," but nope, turns out the opposite of apple is sardine. The opposite of orange is brake fluid. Don't eat the oranges there.

I sort of intellectually know that this is, like, a signal that you're not just in this for sex or whatever.  But in Forwards Land, I like to say "I'm not just in this for sex" before and after the sex and that's actually worked pretty well for me.  If he doesn't trust me, or he is just in this for sex? Well, shit, that sucks, but at least I got laid.
Hand him your vibrator, and tell him to use it on himself while you watch.
[icons below indicate:] Freaky!  He never wants to try it!
That's sad.  Not just because every issue of Cosmo asks women to masturbate for men.  But also because Cosmo is encouraging women to not even ask about doing things the other way around, and that's a damn shame.

If you don't even ask you won't have even a chance of getting to do something completely awesome, something that lets you see his body and his pleasure in a way you never did before.  You won't even open the door to watching his muscles tighten and his face contort and then feeling his reaction as you take him in your hands and finish the job yourself.

I'm just saying.  It's worth asking.
Before you start 69, lube up your fingers. When you get started, reach up and alternate running your slippery digits over his perineum and the area around his anus.
[icons below indicate: Totally kinky! He never wants to try it!
That's mighty specific for something not to do. Is there some briar-patch shit going on here?
Spice up missionary by rubbing your lacy undies over [your nipples].
Oh Cosmo.

Someone, somewhere, is super-seriously planning to rub her underpants on her nipples during sex.  She's picking the pair out and finding a good spot to pre-stash them for easy access and everything. Godspeed to you, underpants-nipple-woman, wherever you are.
"I dated this guy who tasted really funky down there, but I didn't want to confront him about it.  So I told him I was going to suck on a strong mint while going downtown to give him a tingly sensation... which he loved."
I think that tingly sensation is my lunch on its way back up.

You know how when there's an awful smell and you spray air freshener it doesn't really help, it just smells like Country Garden and awful smell?  That's sort of what I picture unwashed-crotch-and-mint being like.
We owe nipples an apology.
Yes, Cosmo, yes you do.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What do you want?

[Finals are over!  WHEEE!  Big serious essay today!  Cosmocking next!]

I talk a lot on this blog about how sex should be dictated by what the partners want and the most important thing is to communicate and respect everyone's desires.  And I totally stand by that, but I also know that it's not always that simple.  It's not something I do flawlessly in my own life, that's for damn sure.

Because I am not always sure what my desires are.  My sexuality sometimes seems frustratingly opaque to myself.  I want something, I don't just want to kiss my boyfriend good night and go to sleep, but what on Earth is that something?  Why don't I know what I want?

I have been taught not to credit my own desires.  In part that's personal--one of the most insults I've been subjected to was "you're so selfish, all you want is the things you want!"--and in part it's cultural.  The socialization of young women is all about how to not indulge your desires: don't choose food because it tastes good, don't choose clothing because it's comfortable, don't come on too strong to boys, don't be a needy girlfriend, don't say "no" too stridently or "yes" too enthusiastically.  It's not the charitable or ascetic kind of self-denial, but there's a lot of desire-denial, of doing things correctly instead of the way you want.

(I don't think that young men have it so easy either--it's not the same but it's fucked up in different ways--but I don't have much personal experience with being treated like a young man.  My impression is that guys have more permission to express "acceptable" desires, but there's a pretty narrow range of which desires are acceptable.)

And sometimes when you do break through, when you do the things you want, it's impulsive.  It's not gourmet cooking but a binge on raw cookie dough.  It's not an ethical-slut lifestyle but a furtive tryst with a stranger.  It's not truly escaping repression, it's just acting-out.  It lets you indulge some of your more primal desires, but it doesn't let you lucidly understand them.

But now you're done with that crap.  You're not crowd-following or acting-out any more; you're committed to dealing with sex like an adult.  You read feminist sex blogs.  You have self-respect and you're ready to respect your desires. ...Now what?

Simply saying "that was all bullshit! have the sex you want!" isn't going to cut it.  Maybe intellectually, but not emotionally.  Here I am all prepared to acknowledge and communicate my desires, and my desires are... uh... hm.  I'm so used to putting the "no it's bad and selfish to want things" mental block between my desires and myself that I don't even know what's on the other side.

So here are some questions I've started asking myself.

"What do I fantasize about?"
It took years (okay, the years from 12 to 17, but still, those are years!) for me to go from masturbating while fantasizing about scenarios of sexual submission to realizing that I was into sexual submission.  I know it sounds silly, but I hadn't really made the connection between "thing I like to think about" to "thing I want to do."

"What are my best memories?"
Kevin only held me down and spanked me once, ever, in a yearlong relationship.  It still stands out in my mind as the best sex we ever had.

"What am I fascinated with?"
Another thing I did when I was a teenager: I used to read a lot of blogs and websites about kink, thinking that I was merely curious about this strange world I'd discovered, nothing personal, just something I took a detached academic interest in.  (Hi there, by the way, if you're reading this with detached academic interest.)  I had the same experience with healthcare, interestingly--I was reading medical textbooks "just for fun" before I realized it was a field I would actually enjoy working in.

"What am I stopping myself from saying?"
I've had a lot of conversations with partners that started "I... no, never mind, I shouldn't bother you with this, it's silly."  (Sometimes in my head, sometimes out loud, which is my way of forcing myself to continue the thought because very few boyfriends will go "oh, okay then" to an opener like that.)  They usually turned out to be really really important conversations once I broke through that.

The obvious extension of this is "What do I say when I'm drunk?"  Which is not the safest (emotionally as well as physically) way to get your truths out, but it sometimes works.

"What's the bad, obviously incorrect idea I came up with off the top of my head, the one that's weird and gross so I'm trying to revise it so it doesn't sound ridiculous?"
Pretty much always, that's the truth.

"What would I want?"
Imagine you were in Magical Fairy Land where you could have anything you wanted and a genie would give it to you and there would never be any consequences--what would you want then?  Yeah, that's probably what you want now too.

"Let's try this once and see how it goes."
Sometimes you can't learn without experimentation.  So I can't treat everything like a declaration or a commitment.  Sometimes I have to give myself permission to say (and to make sure my partner knows too), "hey, this might not work out, I might need to stop it halfway through, but I won't know until I try it."  It's almost impossible to be right without having a space in your life where it's okay to be wrong.

I'm not promoting selfishness here.  Knowing what you want doesn't mean always doing what you want; if you want polyamory and your partner is monogamous, or if you want to tie up your partner and they're terrified of that, then your job is not done here.  You still have to negotiate and compromise and possibly sacrifice some of your desires. But you can't even start that process until you know exactly what you're negotiating about, and that requires you to know exactly what your own raw, impractical, selfish desires are.

Me, I want four things real bad right now:
1) To have boy clothes and do boy things and sometimes be a boy in sex, but to still be a woman in the end--a really boyish woman.
2) To focus deliberately on reaching altered states through sex and BDSM, rather than having it just accidentally happen to me.
3) To be a primary to my boyfriend.  Which I am, no question, but it's something I want to keep happening and to feel secure in.
4) To get fisted, like, all the time.  Oh man is that just the awesomest thing.

And even after all this preaching I've been doing, typing those out was hard, and pressing "publish" without deleting them was harder.  This "wanting things" business is a tough skill to learn.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Guest Post: What it's like to go to an STD clinic.

[I'm busy studying for finals. In the meantime, enjoy this guest post by Jack. I think it's important information for people who've learned testing is important but are unsure what to expect when they actually go through the process. -Holly]

A good friend of mine recently had an STD scare. I figured I might as well get a physical/emotional clean slate myself, and more importantly, go through the experience to support my friend, who has been distraught and has a horror of needles that rivals yours.

[Jack once stuck me with a play piercing needle because we were curious if I would like it. My reaction was a calm and level-headed "GET IT OUT GET OUT OH GOD GET IT OUT AUUUUGH." -Holly]

She did the basic research over the internet and phone; two places in Boston, Boston Medical Center and Mass General Hospital, offer free STD clinics. If you work normal day hours like me, expect to take a day off to get in to be tested – the late Wednesday hours are generally packed, they said. You have to give your name, address, and date of birth to book an appointment.

[I edited out some Boston-specific details here; after finals I'll put together a "Boston sexual health resources" page to accompany the kink resources. -Holly]

They take almost every insurance plan. They also do testing free if you have no insurance (and they’re a public health clinic, so they ask if you have insurance but don’t look into it – and don’t much care – if you say you don’t), but only if you are symptom-free. This struck me as kinda odd, and I wasn’t able to ascertain the reason behind it. They test for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and HIV; they'll also test for hepatitis C if you request. They also offer the three-shot hepatitis A and B vaccines for free if you want them. This is a separate appointment from your STD testing.

So you walk in and take the elevator up to the clinic; when you walk up to the desk, the desk workers are rather apathetic. “You’re here for what? Huh? Oh. Fill out the form.” They have you fill out a basic form with name/address/phone number/do you have insurance/how did you hear about us, then call you in when it’s your turn.

You have to go in alone; it’s completely private – they wouldn’t let me go in with my friend, despite her and I asking if I could. The actual person who does the testing is polite, warm, and professional, very matter-of-fact but not cold. They explain that the HIV screening is a rapid reaction test with results in 20 minutes, and that the other results take a week or so to come back from the state lab – they do a pretty good job of calmly, simply walking you through everything, showing you lists of information and such, and answering your questions.

One big catch: If you come back positive for anything, you have to come back in to the clinic within a week of that call for more information and (free) treatment, or they turn your information over to the state, which will track you down as a public health risk. Aside from the threat-to-the-public good aspect, everything is 100% confidential regardless of age/status/etc. – apparently even if they have to track you down with the police it’s a private deal; the police bring you to a state doctor who works with you in private.

[Don't get too scared by this--it's actually pretty extraordinary for the cops to hunt someone down for medical treatment--but do be aware you take this risk if you get tested for anything you're not willing to be treated for. -Holly]

The physical part of the procedure is fairly simple: they do the standard spring-loaded finger prick for the HIV test; they put a very small needle (21 gauge) into your arm and draw two small tubes of blood (the needle’s in your arm for less than two minutes, I never even felt it); then they walk you down to the bathroom and hand you the urine cup (“half full, please”) and wait for you, then take it from you when you walk out. The whole thing is very private, very professional, standard doctor’s-office, alcohol-swab-and-stick routine. Your name is not written on the specimens; you're identified only by a number and barcode.

After that they send you back to the lobby (and give you juice and cookies, if you’re like my friend and look chalky-white and like you’re going to die after the needle stick). Within 20 minutes they call you in and tell you that your HIV test was negative (I’m not sure what they do if you’re positive – Bells and whistles? Herd of lemmings? Dunno), and that that roughly means that you aren’t positive, although if you were infected in the last few weeks it may not show up. The other tests take 48-72 hours; if they don't call you, after a few days you can call the phone number and and hear your results over the phone--but if you test positive, they will call you.

[What actually happens if you test positive for HIV is a lengthy meeting with a counselor to tell you "this does not mean you're dying, you can be healthy for many years after this, but we need to get you started on treatment ASAP and here's how that's going to work." They also retest you with a slower but more accurate method to make sure. -Holly]

They reiterate the we’ll-call-you-if-bad, you’ll-hear-a-few-days-later-if-it’s-good, feel-free-to-call-after-a-few-days-if-you-want-to routine, and then they wish you a good day. Other than the apathetic desk attendants it was professional and friendly friendly, anonymous, non-judgmental, and pretty low-key.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

From slutty to horny.

Female horniness is an important, and missing, narrative in our culture.  We have a well-developed idea of female sluttiness, but that's a different thing.

Sluttiness, as popularly perceived, is:
•External. A woman looks slutty, she dresses slutty, she acts slutty.  Whether she feels slutty is not something we generally talk about.
•Indiscriminate.  We seem to draw very little line between "will have sex with multiple people" and "will have sex with anyone and doesn't care if it's an alley cat."
•Mysterious.  Why is a slut slutty?  There are some attempted answers out there--need for attention, trying to get something from men--but most often she just is.  It's a character flaw or something.  Just as a slut's internal experience of sluttiness doesn't get talked up much in the popular narrative, neither does her reason for choosing the slutlife.

Whereas female horniness in the popular imagination is rare.  Admittedly our idea of male horniness is pretty scrambled too, but we have some concept of it as a near-universal male experience.  On the rare occasion a woman is horny in the mainstream culture, usually it's comical or even threatening.

This is getting better over the years.  Slowly.  But it's still not an accepted thing that a woman can just plain want to get her grind on.  (Actually, seeing women as horny isn't new; it's just undoing the work of the Victorians.  In medieval Europe women were often described as lustful and desiring--the ideal of the sexless woman in Western culture is only about 200 years old.)

Here are the things about horniness that seem to make people nervous:
•Horniness is internal.  It's defined entirely in terms of a woman's experience of her own body and feelings.
•Horniness is selective.  I'm horny for some of the men but not all of the men, and that's some sort of radical statement apparently.
•Horniness is humanizing.  Women get horny just like people do!  It's impossible to get all "woman, she is a mystery" on this; if you've ever had that warm tickly feeling in your pants, you know exactly where a horny woman is coming from.
"Nervous" is an understatement.  These are the things about horniness that drive people--male and female--to completely deny that women's sexual desire exists and matters.

I don't want to make this post just about "slutty is bad and horny is good."  The behaviors commonly called "slutty" are not bad or dirty; that was the point of the Slutwalks.  But they're a painfully incomplete portion of female sexuality.  Without understanding that women can not just invite sex but actually want it, we can't make sense of any of the issues surrounding women's sex lives.

The biggest one being: Only when we accept that women can want can we accept it when they don't want.  If sex is only ever something women tolerate, then being forced to tolerate it is not so fundamentally different from tolerating it to sustain a relationship.  This isn't just about rape either.  It's also about women in the condition of tolerating sex and not expecting anything more; women who have learned to disregard their own desires.  Women are taught how to say no, and more recently how to say yes, but we're still not up to saying "I want it."

I feel sort of weird living in a society where it's radical to say that I want my good-to-rub parts rubbed, that I want to choose who does it and how, and I'm not going to apologize for this. But it is. I guess I'm a revolutionary then. Slutwalk is old news; let's have a Hornywalk.

[Programming note: I have finals this week, hence the light posting. I have a guest post about STI testing queued up next and I'll try to get things back on schedule after finals.]

Friday, November 25, 2011

How to Buttsex Someone Up But Good.

You want a buttsex post?  I'll give you a buttsex post!  I'll give it to you right up your... Internet connection!

How to Buttsex Someone Up But Good
1. Make sure your butt-buddy wants it.  Really wants it.  If you're doing this to widen their perspective on masculinity or femininity or sexuality, that's the wrong reason.  If you're doing this to prove something or score some sort of points, that's a really wrong reason.  Do it because they and their butt want it.  Ask them how they want it and prioritize that above anything I say here.

(Special note to cis men who have never "pitched" in anal sex: from what I hear, it's not transcendently pleasurable for a penis.  It's fun, sure, but it's not like a magical penis-amazing wonder above all wonders.  It feels like PIV intercourse only sort of different.  It will not bring you some ultra-mega-tight satisfaction that a vagina never could.  So control your expectations here, and if your partner isn't up for it, don't think you're missing out on the best thing ever.)

2. Make sure you're up for it.  Just because you're the penetrating partner doesn't mean it's no big deal for you and you have no basis to object.  It's fine to be uncomfortable with the idea of penetrating someone anally, or to have reservations or specific wishes about how to do it.  Just because you're not putting your ass on the line doesn't mean you don't get a say.

3. Be prepared for poop.  You cannot have buttsex if you don't have some level of comfort with poop.  It's usually not a lot, though; we're talking "smear" here, not "load."  Even so--put down a towel.  Put a glove on your hand and a condom on your dick or any toys.  Have some wipey things available.  There's no need for your partner to have an enema, but they probably shouldn't do this if they've got a poop on deck, if you know what I mean.

4. Be prepared for different reactions.  For some people, it'll be "OH GOD YES OH GOD," for some it'll be "mmm nice," for some it'll be "no, take it out."  People don't deal with anal stimulation in one way, especially if they're new to it.  And the same person on different days doesn't deal with it the same way.  Roll with however it goes.

5. Okay, let's do this thing!  Let's start with... how about some kissing and cuddling, actually? Just because you're using a different hole doesn't mean you gotta be all brusque about it.  Or some wrassling and spanking, if that's how you warm up.  But when your fore is played, let's start with a finger.  A finger with a glove on it, to spare you their butt-germs and to spare them your fingernail.  Lube it up real good.  You can't use too much lube.  Spread it all over your finger and use as much as will stay on it.  Put the pad of your finger on their anus, not pushing, just touching.  Have your partner relax and breathe and when you feel their anus relax a little, just slowly slide your finger on in there.

You'll feel two separate sphincter muscles.  The outer one is under voluntary control; the inner one isn't, at least not directly.  If the inner one won't let you in, don't try to push through, just let your partner work on relaxing and opening up.  (If it really won't let you in, your partner may just not be made for buttsex, at least not on that day.)  Gently massaging it can help.

6. This is the awesome part.  Or the start of the awesome part.  People's butts are hot and smoothly soft inside and you can feel the tiniest contractions of their muscles.  Despite all the warnings you hear about the rectum being fragile, it's also strong; it can grab your hand so hard you worry about yourself more than your partner. But the first thing you want to do after putting your finger in them, if they're new to this, is nothing.  Don't get all thrusty.  Give them a moment to adjust.  Give yourself a moment to just enjoy it.

7a. If your partner is the sort of person who has a prostate, look for the prostate.  (Well, don't look for it.)  It's going to be on the front--i.e., crotchward--side of their rectum, about two inches in.  (If they're Canadian or something it will be five centimeters in.)  A finger slid in all the way and bent should just reach it.  You feel it through the rectal wall, so it's sort of indirect, but you'll know it because:
A) It'll feel like a distinct bump about the size of a walnut, smooth and round.
B) Your partner is likely to go "OH MY GOD RIGHT THERE."

7b. There's two directions you can take this now.  (There's infinity directions. I'll talk about two.)  One is to continue on to the fuckin'.  The other is to just focus on the prostate, because you can get a lot of people the hell off that way.  Just keep rubbing it while you or your partner plays with their genitals, and it's likely to give them an incredibly powerful, I mean blasting orgasm.  I mean, I once made a guy accidentally hit himself in the face this way and he didn't even notice for a little bit.  Then he noticed and it was pretty amusing.

8. If you turned to page 238 to "continue on to the fuckin'," add another finger.  Slowly, gently, and lubily.  Pay attention to how they adjust to this--both in their anus and in their face.  You can gently slide your fingers in and out all sensual-like, but unless your partner asks you to, don't start thrusting like you're trying to churn butter in there.  Anuses aren't vaginas and it won't feel the same way that thrusting into a vagina does.

9. PENIS TIME!  Or dildo time.  Or, I'm not judging here, eggbeater time?  Take your fingers out of your butt-buddy's butt.  Put a condom and heaps and loads of lube on your implement of choice and do like you did with the fingers--just place it against their butt, and wait to feel them relax before pushing.  And again, give them a moment to just adjust to you inside them before you start doing anything.

You will probably not hit the prostate directly with an average-size penis or equivalent toy.  Maybe it'll get some driveby stimulation in some positions, but buttfucking isn't really prostate work.  Not the way Step 7 is.

10. I think you know what to do now.  But do it a bit less vigorously than you normally would.  A lot of in-and-out isn't really how butts work.  Unless your partner is encouraging you to do more, you want to err more toward the "sliding" than the "pounding" end of the scale here.  Check in with them; they may not want you to thrust at all but just be happy with you in their ass.  They may or may not want you to play with their genitals (or let them play with their own junk) while you're in there.  They may be able to go the distance, or they may need you to stop after a bit; again, the only way to know is to check in with them and give them permission to tell you to stop.

11. Clean up (probably don't do this on white sheets) and give your partner a hug and tell them they're awesome.

-If you're doing this with a bio-dick, use a condom even if you don't for vaginal sex.  Butt-germs can get in your urethra.

-Blood and pain are not normal, even the first time.  This isn't like losing your hymen; there's no reason the first time should hurt.  (People seem to vary on whether it's okay for it to hurt a little bit.  Personally I think it isn't, but at any rate any pain more than "a little bit" is too much.  If you're gritting your teeth to get through it, you're getting hurt.)

-Lube lube lube lube lube.  And then add more after you've been going for a bit.  Butts not only don't make their own lube, they suck moisture out of the lube you put in them.  Keep things messy wet.

-There are bacteria in the ass that can make you sick if they get in any non-ass body openings.  Don't put anything that's been up someone's butt in anyone's mouth or vagina.

-Your butt-buddy is putting their ass in your hands.  (And vice versa.)  That's one hell of a gift.  Treat it good.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cosmocking! December '11! Part Two!

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving.  (Or a nice completely regular day if you're not from the US, I suppose.)  I got to spend it with some people I love and it was wonderful.  I'm thankful for pervy sex and all the wonderful things it's brought to my life, of which "pervy sex itself" is really the least of it.

Anyway.  Back to this Cosmo shitshow so I can finally get around to writing about buttsex.
Wrap a belt around each of his thighs. This will push more blood into his penis, making his erection feel even harder.
Oh dear God.  I cannot make this shit up.

(Since constriction squeezes veins shut but not arteries, belts tight enough to affect circulation would actually trap blood in his legs. Let it go long enough and they'll turn purple and swell up and possibly sustain permanent damage. Pretty sexy, huh?)
Heat up a water bottle, and roll it back and forth over his nerve-packed pubic mound.
Rowdy: "It's cool that they're suggesting doing more than just, y'know, poundy-poundy, but... really?"
[how to film yourself having sex] Use candlelight, put the camera as far away as possible, and shoot through a piece of cheesecloth.
Maybe you have a high-end, very sensitive video camera and you know how to use candlelight to create dramatic a yet effective lighting setup that nonetheless allows you and your partner room to move.  Or maybe your video will come out looking like Sasquatch fucking the Chupacabra, and for some reason there's a cheesecloth in front of them.

(Also, I put the camera as far away as possible, and it should be crossing the orbit of Jupiter in early 2014.)
Seduction Secrets French Women Know
This isn't the first time Cosmo's used "France" to mean "magical land full of romance and unicorns."  I'm guessing Cosmo's never been on the Paris metro.
French women incorporate those things [sexaaay things] into their daily lives--they spend an estimated 20 percent of their income on lingerie.
The median household income in France is about 3100 Euro a month, or about $4125 USD.  20 percent of that is $825.  Oh come on seriously.

...If these French unicorns spend 20% of their money on underwear, can you imagine what their budget for shirts is?  Add in shoes and you'll be living on whatever the French equivalent of ramen is. (La soupe de nouilles ramen.)
"I love how pregnant women focus on their babies instead of silly stuff like work drama or what's going on with their friends."
"I love how pregnant women, or what I imagine a pregnant woman to be like, focus on their babies instead of silly stuff like their own lives."

There's an article on "raunch culture" and how it's totally awesome.  The distinction between raunch culture and sex-positivity is too complicated to get into here and the Cosmo article is far too superficial, but I want to pull one quote:
If you know what you want--a hot coworker, your own cupcake shop, a good reason to wear a slutty tube top--don't ever apologize for going after it with balls-to-the-wall determination.
I agree with that, as far as it goes.  Where I part ways is in remembering that some women want their coworkers to leave them alone, their own auto repair shop, or a good reason to wear a long consersvative dress.  You can be balls-to-the-wall without being a sexied-up Manic Pixie Dreamgirl.
[from a romance novel excerpt] Sawyer wiggled out of his own jeans, revealing what was undoubtedly her favorite body part of his--the one bouncing happily at the sight of her.

"Awww!  He likes you!"

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cosmocking: December '11! Part One!

Pink cover!  Adele!  Oh my God there's a woman over 120 pounds on the cover of Cosmo oh my God!  I'm vaguely insulted they put her in leopard print because maybe I'm reading too much into this but I feel like leopard print is kinda code for "She may be fat, but she's fabulous" in a condescending sort of way!  "When He Shouldn't See You Naked!"  Hopefully this will include when you are in public or meeting his parents!  Unless his parents are nudists, then it's only polite!  "Shit My Guy Says: Where's a Muzzle When You Need One?" Oh no Cosmo no Cosmo no!
The Naughtiest Thing I've Ever Done: "I hooked up with my professor!"
[Ending line:] Peter and I ended our fling soon after I graduated. I knew it wasn't right, but hey: My school prides itself on cultivating close student-professor relationships.  Let's just say it succeeded. Oh, and I got an A in the class.
The whole article is written in that sort of smirking ain't-I-a-stinker tone.  Which nicely avoids the real issues involved, which go way beyond "it's so naughty."  Like: what would happen if you wanted to stop seeing him while you were still in the class?  Is this why you didn't break it off until graduation?  Would you consider adding a line or two about how this generally isn't a good idea when you publish it in a magazine widely read by high-school and college girls?
[How to tell if a guy is lying about his "number"]
-He grabs an object, like his pillow.
-He repeats the question.
-He bites his lip.
...So, basically, if your boyfriend is lying to you, he'll start speaking like Kristen Stewart.  (Actually, the pillow-clutch is just silly and the question-repeating is "cartoon bad liar," but lip-biting can also mean "I'm nervous about how you're going to react to the truth, but here I go.")
[A completely random listing of penis nicknames, including "dick" and "cock" and whatnot, but also:]
Winston Churchill
Squirt gun
Pogo stick
What?  Why? What?  ...Hog?  ...Winston Churchill???
Push an exercise ball up against the wall, have him sit on it, and bounce on him.
Another word for those balls is "balance balls."  Because most of the exercise you get from them is due to the added effort of trying not to fall off.  Do I have to spell out the problem here?  Okay, here's another one--most of those balls are rated to 250 pounds.  If he's 180 and you're 120, and you're bouncing, that poor thing doesn't stand a chance.
A study determined that guys lose their desire if they're not mentally turned on.
That must be from the same issue of the The Midwestern Journal of Tautology Studies where they found that people who weigh more pounds tend to be heavier.
Bind his wrists before you perform oral on him. A study discovered that women find fellatio empowering, and restricting him heightens that ballsy feeling.
Clearly the work of the MJTS's intellectual rival, The New England Journal Of Anally Derived Knowledge.  I don't know about you, but I feel empowered when I'm able to make important decisions and see the things I decided carried out.  I do not feel so empowered when I have a dick in my mouth.  It's not necessarily disempowering or whatever, it's just... I'm having sex.  I'm anywhere on the range of power dynamics that sex can have, which is to say seriously anywhere.

There's a lot of power that women can exert in their lives, in their relationships, and in their sexuality.  "The power to move my head up and down and do that thing with my tongue" is not one of the major ones.

Augh! I'm gonna be late for school!  More later.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Pervocracy Guide To Not Doing Stupid Things Because You're Angry.

A number of people on the de-escalation post asked for a post on de-escalating yourself.  I'll say up front: I'm on shakier ground here.  I have professional training and personal experience in de-escalating others, and I can't say the same for self-de-escalation.  I'm a naturally meek person (offline); I'm more likely to apologize and back off than to press a confrontation, and the last time I struck someone in anger, a camp counselor put me in time-out.  But I'll try and bring my Armchair Psychology A-Game here.

Let your body relax.
A fun fact I learned from mental health workers: your hands know that you're losing control before you do.  They'll make fists before you realize that you're about to explode.  Catch them and undo it.  Close your eyes, take a big deep breath, and as you slowly let it out, unclench your hands and let them hang.  You can only get so angry if you have relaxed hands.

Do all the cliche touchy-feely yoga things.  They're cliche because they actually work.  Deep breaths.  Relaxed muscles.  Count numbers in your head.  Imagine peaceful things.  It'll slow down your bodily response--the pounding heart and pumping adrenaline--and it's a lot easier to think clearly when your body isn't screaming "RUN IT'S A BEAR!" at your brain.

Figure out what you want.
If you're upset, it's because something in the world is different than you want it to be.  Ask yourself what that thing is, and how you realistically want the other person to change it.  This isn't Occupy Wall Street; there's no point in having an argument if you don't have a demand.  It may not be tangible--it may be "I want you to promise to be more considerate" or "I want you to express appreciation for my work"--but it has to be something.  If all you can express is "I have angry feelings," there's nothing they can do about that unless you can lay out a plan that would make you less angry.

If there's nothing they can do, if they've firmly established there's nothing they will do, or if they've given you what you asked for and you're still angry: stop arguing with them.  There's literally nothing you can accomplish.  Remove yourself and calm yourself, because there's nothing left to argue about.

Don't attack.
It's okay to have a heated discussion to convince someone to behave differently.  It's not okay to have a heated discussion to convince them that they're bad.  That's not a decent thing to do to a person and it cannot possibly produce a useful result.  If you find yourself arguing the thesis "you are bad and you should feel bad," stop.  There is absolutely nowhere good that can go.  If you want them to apologize, change their ways, or make amends to you, say so directly.  A litany of why they're so bad--even if every bit of it is true--will only make both of you feel terrible.

Don't poke your own sore spots.
In my case, this means "Don't read YouTube comments."  Here's the Chrome plugin that lets you hide them, and it's saved me gallons of wasted adrenaline.  (The tipping point was looking at videos of astronauts, and seeing pages upon pages of "hilarious" comments that the female astronauts should get back in the space kitchen. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE.)  I also shouldn't read MRA websites, news articles about "the latest disturbing teen trend," or letters from my mother that start with "I'm very concerned."

If there's a particular situation or topic that sets you off every time--just stay away from it.  It can be very tempting to seek out these things because they grab your attention and set your mind going, but you always feel worse after exposing yourself to them.  Go look at puppies instead.  Unless puppies make you angry; then you have to know your limits and stop yourself before you start getting sucked down into the puppy-hatred-spiral.

Distract yourself.
I wasn't kidding about the puppies.  When you're cooling down from something enraging, go do something you enjoy, something totally unrelated.  Play your favorite videogame, go for a run, knit a few more rows on your project, something that keeps your mind and body busy.  Give yourself permission to have fun with it and totally lose yourself in it for a little while.  Even if the angry thing still bothers you afterwards, it won't have the same heat and bite it did before.

Hurting yourself, damaging your possessions, or "letting it out" by pounding pillows or screaming are not helpful distractions.  Do something nice for yourself.

When all else fails, physically remove yourself.
If you feel like you truly can't handle yourself--if you feel certain that the next thing out of your mouth is going to end your relationship or your job or reduce the other person to tears or make them afraid for their safety--just leave.  Walk away.  Put a closed door between yourself and the person you might attack.  Is it weird and rude to walk out of the room mid-argument?  Yes.  It's just not nearly as weird and rude as what you were about to say.  It'll be easier to apologize later for walking out than it would be to apologize for acting like a complete shithead.

And if you feel like you're at risk of physically lashing out at the other person in any way, you have a moral obligation to stop yourself by getting far enough away that you can't reach them.  You're not going to slap your lover or shake your kid if you're in a different room, not unless you have advanced tele-slapping technology installed in your house, and avoiding that is worth any amount of weirdness.

Get real help if you need it.
As with the other de-escalation article, these tips (and especially the last one) are Sometimes Foods.  If you find that you need them frequently, that you're always easing yourself down from an explosion, you need more help than a sex blog with pop-psych pretensions can give you.  A professional counselor can give you a whole lot more help than I can if you have a serious anger problem.  Here's a guide to finding low-cost mental health care in the US and Canada.

Phew.  I really want to write about sex again.  Next post is a Cosmocking.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Strong woman.

It's a school night.  Quick one.  (Several people asked for a post on "self-de-escalation," so I'll try to put one together in the next couple days.)

I want to address a misconception that I had when I first started getting into feminism, and a misconception that's gotten thrown in my face a few times.  Most recently, it came up in Katie Roiphe's terrible New York Times editorial about how sexual harassment is no big deal and chicks should just suck it up and learn to run with the big dogs etcetera.  The misconception is: "Feminism is the idea that women are strong."

No.  Feminism is the idea that women are as strong as men, but no stronger.  Some men can cut off their own arm to survive; some women can lift a car to save their child.  But lots of men are delicate little crybabies and lots of women are delicate little crybabies.  Women, being people, run about the same range of personal strength as people. And this ought to be okay.  Feminism is the idea that a woman shouldn't have to be exceptionally strong to get by.  Feminism makes no predictions on whether a particular woman can survive slings and arrows, bullying and belittling, mistrust and self-doubt.  Feminism asks "hey, who the fuck said women had to run this bullshit gauntlet, anyway?"

Am I a Strong Woman?  I think I'm kinda strongish, both in the "arm-wrestling" sense and the "doing emotionally difficult things for a greater good" sense.  But that's not feminism; that's good luck.  Feminism is thinking "gosh, maybe going to work while female shouldn't be an emotionally difficult thing."

"I thought feminism meant women were strong" is rarely the full argument.  The full argument is: "I thought feminism meant women were strong, so why are you complaining if you're so strong?"  The implication here isn't just that women should have to be strong to survive, but that strength consists of shutting up and taking it.  That the strongest thing to do is to keep your head down and grind away at whatever task is set before you, silently stronging your way though every obstacle, for your entire life.

Sometimes the strongest thing you can do is complain.

Living every day with being the "girl" of the office and having your ass grabbed and everyone laughing about how funny it is that your ass gets grabbed--no, that's not easy.  But speaking up about it is even harder.  It's taking initiative.  It's taking a risk.  It's facing pushback, retaliation, skepticism, red-tape brush-offs, ostracism, the shit you get for being female compounded with the shit you get for being a troublemaker.  Complaining about how you're treated as a woman is anything but the coward's way out.  There have been times I should have done it but wasn't strong enough.

(Oh, and you also have to face people saying "guess you're not such a strong woman after all, huh?"  Forgot to put that one on the list.)

Doing what people want you to do can be hard.  Doing what they don't want you to do, and standing up for yourself instead--that's strong.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


This week in Developmental Psychology class I presented a paper on dating violence in teenage relationships.  I'm not going to rehash the paper here, because it's boring and Google-vulnerable, but I wanted to share the most interesting conclusion I found.

How much conflict there is in a relationship, or the seriousness of the conflict issues, are not predictors of whether there will be violence.  The biggest predictor is the degree to which conflicts in the relationship escalate.

The studies I read looked at dating violence, which is not the same thing as dating abuse, although obviously there's lots of overlap.  Dating violence simply means that there's hitting/shoving/slapping; emotional abuse and controlling behavior aren't factored in.  Dating violence, unlike abuse, is most often bidirectional--roughly 70% of the time both partners had struck each other.  (I wish there was more distinction drawn between a relatively equal fight and "bidirectional" violence that's really self-defense, but that's a hard thing to determine in one case, let alone establish statistics on.)

The takehome is that we shouldn't be teaching teenagers (and grownups) to avoid conflict.  We should be teaching them "don't hit people," but that's hardly sufficient.  What we should really teach is de-escalation.

De-escalation means bringing someone down from an irrational, emotionally hyperaroused, screamy-hitty state, but it does not mean appeasement.  It can sometimes mean talking someone down by comforting and reassuring them, but that's far from the only method and it's only useful if they're just mildly agitated.  If they're screaming or threatening violence, saying "honey please honey it's okay" is usually not the best way to de-escalate them.  Setting firm limits is not just more empowering for the de-escalator; it's more effective.

A full method for de-escalation is really a whole class, but here's some pointers for dealing with someone who's upset to the point that they're losing control:

•De-escalate yourself first.  If you're on the verge of screaming at the upset person or slapping some sense into them, either take some deep breaths and get yourself back to a "level tone of voice, no swear words, muscles relaxed" level of arousal, or walk away.  You can't make someone stop fighting you if you're fighting them.

•Project calmness.  No anger, no fear.  Use a low, quiet, almost monotonous conversational tone.  Talk to them like you're explaining the tax code.  Have your hands in view and open.  Stay out of their personal space and don't stare them in the eyes.  (These last two--having your hands up and keeping a little distance--will also make it easier to protect yourself if they lash out physically.)

Respond to questions with answers ("where is my fucking wallet?") with matter-of-fact answers like they asked you a question about the tax code.  Don't respond to questions without answers ("why are you such a jerk?") at all.  If they're ranting, let them rant.  Imagine the words are just meaningless chunks of wordmeat and patiently wait for them to run out of wordmeat.

•Don't try to win the fight.  It doesn't matter if you were originally talking about "who gets the last cookie" or "were you cheating on me"; if the fight has gotten to the point of insults, ranting, or yelling, presenting evidence and arguments is not helpful.  Your only goal right now is to encourage them to calm down; or to physically leave the situation if they don't.

•Set limits in the form of "If you X, I will Y." Not "don't talk to me like that!" but "if you keep talking in that tone of voice, I will end this conversation."  Make it something you can and will do.  Don't use it as a threat or a punishment; just remind them where the lines of reasonable adult behavior are.  At the same time, offer them positive options: "If you have a seat and tell me what you need me to do, I will listen."

•If they start to calm down, they'll probably be exhausted and trying to save face; they probably won't be able to rationally discuss the issue right away.  Give them time and space.

•If they threaten to physically harm you, take it seriously.  If they physically harm you just a little bit--just a little frustrated shove or a quick grab but then they let go--take it super seriously.  Get out.  Just leave.  This is not a matter for talking any more.  This is a matter for not-dying.  (Even if it's not nearly that severe, it's still extremely important to set the limit that "anything physical immediately revokes all your privileges to interact with me.")  Walk away.

If they're not calm when you come back, leave again and give them more time.  If they don't get calm, if they try to punish you for walking away instead of saying "I've cooled down now," leave for good and bring a goonish friend or the cops with you when you pick up your stuff.  I'm uncomfortably aware that doing this is not always possible, but if it's an option for you, take it.

•If you have to do this a lot, get out of the relationship if at all possible.  Things are not okay.  "De-escalator" is a role you can play in an extraordinary crisis, not over the course of a relationship.  Without using the "abuse" word or not, if you're frequently getting in fights of escalating severity, it's not okay, it's probably not going to get better on its own, and it's not safe.  Relationships should be better than that.

Monday, November 7, 2011

"Why do you care what other people think?"

This came up in comments on an earlier post, but it's worth a post of its own: why do I care and fret so much about whether or not people accept my deviant sexuality/unfeminine gender/polyamorous relationship?  Isn't it just paranoia to be upset when people don't acknowledge the existence of people like me?  Isn't it just attention-seeking to demand that everyone approve of my lifestyle?  Can't I just do my thing and not worry about what other people think?

No.  I can't.

For starters, I'm not a wall of iron. I have human emotions.  Keeping important parts of my life secret makes me feel bad and being judged harshly makes me feel very bad.  This is not a personal weakness, this is not something for me to grow out of, this is not a challenge I must overcome.  Emotional support is a human need.

But getting frowned at is the tip of the iceberg.  I don't just need social cceptance for fuzzy-wuzzy reasons.  I need it for my livelihood and potentially my life.

For example, I could be fired or kicked out of school if the wrong person learns I'm a sexual deviant--it happens, and "perv" is not a protected class.  It doesn't even have to be about direct hatred from the administration; it can also be litigation-fear.  I mean, my program has a pediatrics rotation.  I don't want to think about the chances parents will be calm and rational if they find out a person with sexual deviancies involving consenting adults was touching their child.

When I was in high school, I got bullied for being unfeminine and dating a girl.  It wasn't just words.  I had obscenities Sharpied on my clothes, I had beer bottles hucked at my head, I had things stolen from me, I had someone spit in my lunch, and I just got straight-up hit a few times.  Once three kids threatened me with Bic lighters, which is a little hilarious in hindsight because with no fuel and tiny lighters I don't think they could have done anything worse than put little scorch marks on me. But I can't just "ignore the haters!" when the haters are threatening to set me on fire.

Here's a positive one.  Recently I went to get STI testing, and I went to Planned Parenthood and explained my relationship status--polyamorous and open--to them.  They didn't tsk-tsk, didn't lecture, just talked about condom use and swabbed my crotch.  Feeling safe there makes it much easier for me to get tested on a regular basis, which is pretty damn important for my health.  (Yes, I could overcome this by being a Wall Of Iron. But I shouldn't have to be.  Tender-delicate-flower poly people should have the same access to healthcare that tender-delicate-flower monogamous people do.)

These are examples from my relatively comfy middle-class-white-American life and my relatively mild deviancies.  Once you get outside that sphere (and sometimes inside it), people are literally killed for doing their own thing and not worrying about what other people think.

Caring what other people think isn't a weakness.  Being aware of what other people think, and seeking to change it for greater compassion and understanding, is a god damn survival skill.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Slavering Beast Theory.

Photo credit: Lindowyn Stock
(Trigger warning for rape and abuse.)

I've been seeing a common underlying idea lately in a lot of discussions about violence against women.  It's an idea that explains a lot of what appear to be blindingly sexist--or just baffling--ideas about why violence happens, what it looks like, and what steps society should take against it.  I'm going to call it the Slavering Beast Theory.

In the Slavering Beast Theory, there are two kinds of men.  Two species, nearly.  (I've seen people go so far as to claim that Slavering Beasts are the result of evolution, which might make them literally a subspecies.)  There are ordinary guys and there are Slavering Beasts.  And they are very, very easy to tell apart.  They act different, even look different, to the point where any adult should be able to distinguish them in any casual social setting.

You don't have to have a PhD in Racismology to sniff out one idea often lurking beneath the surface here, but "frat boys" and "dudebros" are often suspected of being Slavering Beasts too, along with a lot of mentally ill people, counterculture members of any stripe, and sometimes even geeks.  But I don't want to make too much of this, because Slavering Beast diagnostics are almost always ex post facto--he committed violence?  Well, no wonder, he's a Slavering Beast! You should have seen it coming!

Slavering Beasts have a couple other characteristics, besides being dangerous and easy to spot:
They are brutal. If they want to hurt you, they will physically beat you and leave marks.
They are isolated.  Nobody's son, father, best friend, favorite teacher, or golf buddy is a Slavering Beast.
They are consistent. They are cruel to everyone, and have no history of positive relationships.
They are inarticulate and bad liars. They never have a convincing alibi or a genuinely sympathetic personal story.
They are useless. They never have any impressive life accomplishments or any exceptionally good qualities.
I am not one. I'm here talking to you, right? So obviously I'm not a Slavering Beast.

If a person does not meet these criteria, they are not a Slavering Beast.  Which means that they would never commit violence. Maybe if they were pushed to their absolute limit for a very good reason, but they would never be predatory.  That's a Beast thing.

This dichotomy is how someone can simultaneously believe that women shouldn't go out after dark because rape is such a big problem and believe that tons of rape accusations are false.  It makes perfect sense if you believe there are Slavering Beasts out in the dark, but if an ordinary guy is accused of rape, there must be more to the story.  It explains why people are angered by rape prevention tips aimed at men--those are insulting to ordinary guys, and Slavering Beasts won't listen.  And it justifies the belief that abuse victims had it coming: either they were abused by a Slavering Beast and should have known better, or they were abused by an ordinary guy and must have done something terrible to provoke him.

More than anything, it gives people a way to say "I'm not a Slavering Beast, so none of this applies to me."  Learning about gaining consent or recognizing abuse is pointless--Slavering Beasts will always be violent for no reason and ordinary guys never will.

Fighting this attitude without looking paranoid or accusatory ("any guy could be a rapist" seems to hit some ears as "every guy is a rapist") is tricky.  But it's necessary.  It's necessary to prevent rape--to teach people that they do have to worry about whether they, personally, are getting consent, even though they are nice people.  And it's necessary to punish rapists--to break down that mental barrier protecting Julian Assange and Roman Polanski and umpty-zillion sports players, the one that says "a likeable person who's done good things can't possibly commit rape."  Finally, it's necessary to stop blaming survivors for not having the psychic powers to know they were going to be assaulted.

This is personal to me, because I just found out that someone I knew well--someone I would never have suspected of it, a guy who was the absolute opposite of what you think a "ticking time bomb" looks like--had the cops called on him for beating his girlfriend.  But I'm resisting the knee-jerk response of insisting there must be some mistake, some extenuating circumstance, some "other side of the story."  The story is he was a jokey friendly guy and he beat up his girlfriend. Rape and abuse are acts, not people, and it's impossible to know a person so well that you know exactly which acts they can engage in. (ETA: There were outside witnesses and she was injured; this was not a he-said-she-said case.)

This is why I don't like the statement "she didn't get raped because of something she did; she got raped because she was in the presence of a rapist."  I think we need to say "she didn't get raped because of something she did; she got raped because her attacker decided to rape her.

Edit: I deliberately didn't include female or queer perpetrators of violence here because I think they don't get fit into the same stereotypes, and a friend pointed out on Twitter that this is another harm of the whole "bad men do bad things" myth--it casts straight men as the only possible Slavering Beasts.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Test tubes.

I know I promised a buttsex post, but there's something you should know about me: I am a liar.  Also something more outrageous happened.

I'm in nursing school.  I'm an "adult learner," since I'm 25 and already have a bachelor's (in film and rhetoric, seemed like a good idea at the time), as are about half the people in my class--some are in their 50s and are grandparents.  Which made Tuesday's lab even more inappropriate.

It's a microbiology lab, and usually we do things like isolating and culturing bacteria, doing stains, preparing and viewing microscope slides, and the like.  Not real politically charged.  So I was taken aback when Tuesday's lab was straight out of an abstinence-only horror story.

The lab procedure, in brief: each of thirty students was given a test tube with a few milliliters of nutrient broth.  One of the test tubes contained a sample of harmless bacteria; the other twenty-nine were sterile.  We had to randomly partner up and transfer fluid between our test tubes, then find another partner and do the same, for four rounds.  At the end we swabbed our broth onto agar plates, and next week we'll see which ones grow bacteria.  All this was supposed to represent the spread of an STD.

It made me very uncomfortable, because it's a demonstration that works on two levels.  On one level, it's modeling an epidemic, which is appropriate subject matter for a microbiology class for nurses.  On another level, however, it's all about how people who have sex are dirty.  We're going to have sixteen (or slightly fewer) people turn up with the "infection," and then we're all going to shake our heads and reflect upon how dirty and dangerous sex with four people (so slutty!) is.  It's spherical racehorses--it's intended to be--but it's racehorses made spherical in a way that grossly magnifies the riskiness of sex and "simplifies" away the existence of safer sex and STD testing and treatment.

The frustrating part is that it's almost impossible to argue with this, because the attitude I'm facing isn't opposition; it's impatience and apathy.  I asked if we could do a round with condoms on our test tubes, and the professor laughed and brushed me off not with "we're trying to show how sex has consequences, don't interfere" but with "we're trying to get this done on time, don't slow us down."  When I talked to other students about the lab, most of them expressed the same sentiment--whatever, let's just go through the motions and get this done with--although one of them said to me "It's a good thing I've only slept with one person!"

I don't think this apathy makes the lab okay.  I think it makes it insidious.  "Yeah yeah, sex is dirty, sluts have diseases, just copy the answers off the board and we'll get out of here before ten" is a much nastier and more dangerous thing than if we'd had an overtly ideological discussion of the subject.  It makes it a given thing, a thing not needing discussion, that sex is dirty and nothing can be done about it.

It also makes me seem like a bit of a sex-obsessed weirdo for getting all fluffed up about it.  But this is an attitude with consequences.  "She's probably got STDs" is a synonym for "ewww, slut" that I've heard many, many times.  And equally bad: "He wanted to use a condom with me? I'm not the sort of person who has diseases!"  (Yes, I've heard that.  It was in college, in fact, during my first go-round.)  Linking sex to inevitable STDs--and STDs to dirtiness--is not merely obnoxious, it's dangerous.  It stands in the way of condom use, STD testing, and honest disclosure with partners, and it reinforces the idea of sexually active people as tainted and less valuable.

I'll try to bring these issues up when we get our results in the next class.  I'm also considering talking to the professor about it although I'm not quite sure what to say or what constructive suggestions to make.

Mostly I'm just flabbergasted that the professor had the nerve to walk into a college class with grown adults in attendance and host one of the old "you have to keep your scotch tape sticky for your future husband!" shenanigans.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Recently I've been criticized by other feminists for being a "sex-pozzie"--a sex-positive feminist, someone who believes that unraveling our culture's sexual repression is a key part of fighting women's oppression.  On this MetaFilter thread, for instance, there's quite a few accusations that I'm "pointing out that she loves trotting merrily back into the kitchen and that being in the kitchen is what feminism is all about."  Or in this article I was linked yesterday, which is positively dripping with disdain for women who appeal sexually to men, and full of conflation between women whose "sexy" pictures are being used without their consent and women who are intentionally presenting themselves as sexy.

This hearkens back to those "Twisty Faster Is Fucking Insane" posts I did, and I admit, if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't have called them that. "Fucking insane" is ableist language; Twisty Faster and similar-minded feminists who look down upon "sex-pozzies" are merely obnoxious, elitist, sexist, and counterproductive.

Here are some of my dogs in this fight:

Most critics of sex-positive feminism have not bothered to figure out what sex-positivity is.
It's not the giggling, hair-twirling exclamation of "it's feminist to be sexayyy!"  It's really not.  I'm not going to defend that strawman.  (I also think it's funny how often I get accused of being a Hooters-girl-bot, when I'm about the least Hooters-looking-person ever.)

This is what a sex-pozzie
funfeminist looks like!
Nor is it the demand that everyone be sexy or have sex.  Nor is it the claim that everything that involves sex is beyond criticism.  Nor is it the suggestion that sex will fix all the problems of feminism.

Instead, sex-positivity is the belief that sex and sexiness are... okay.  It's the belief that people shouldn't be judged by the sex they have.  It's the belief that consent matters and social norms do not.  It's the belief that porn and erotica are valid media of expression (not that the current porn industry is hunky-dory, cause it's not) and that sex work ought to be just work (not that it currently is).  It's the belief that neither "slut" nor "prude" should be an insult.  It's the belief that every sexual and gender identity is valid.

Sex-positivity is, in a nutshell, the belief in sexual freedom as a key component of women's freedom and of having a better world in general.

If you want to argue with that belief, we can talk.  But if you want to argue with "everyone should be a Hooters girl because showing men your boobies is like totally the most feministical choice!" you're not really arguing with me.  I just think that I'm in no position to judge Hooters girls or assume that they're dimwits, sexists, or helpless victims because of what they do for a living.

Criticism of sex-positive feminism is often sexist.
A lot of criticism of sex-positive feminism is really criticism of sexy women.  It's hard to find a piece that isn't dripping with disgusted descriptions of women who wear high heels and shave their legs and then they giggle and they act all flirty and give blowjobs, oh my God.  And it's hard for me to see the difference between this and plain old slut-shaming.  It always seems undercut with the implication that sexy women aren't just unfeminist, they're icky.

If you treat sexy women with disgust and pity, you're not protecting their rights; you're just gleefully participating in their public humiliation.  (You're also often attacking them on a subject that's highly intertwined with culture, class, age, and even body shape. Not everyone who looks "sexy" to you is doing it on purpose, much less doing it to serve the patriarchy.)

And you're falling into the old sexist trap of judging women by their sexuality.  A woman being sexy doesn't make women part of "the sex class"; refusing to see a woman as a powerful individual because she's sexy absolutely does.  It says that her sexiness speaks louder than her actual voice, that who she is sexually tells you everything you need to know about who she is as a person.  It's hard to get more sexist than that.  At least Playboy publishes little interview blurbs with their sex objects.

This criticism goes beyond mere criticism, and into denying sex-positive feminists' agency.
If you tell me that I'm wrong, I can talk to you. I'll probably use bad words and too many italics, but I'll talk to you. We disagree.  But if you tell me that I don't really think what I'm saying, that the words coming out of my mouth aren't mine, how the fuck do I answer that?

Here's a bit from the XOJane article:
So you should go ahead and do things that are patriarchy-approved, if you want to. Buy new nail polish! Care about celebrities! Have a giant wedding! Wear a thong in your hair! Put your picture on the Internet! Look good according to particular patriarchal ideas of what looks good! Be flattered when men wolf whistle at you, literally or metaphorically! Whatever aspects of being a “Hot Chick” work for you, enjoy them. Maybe except the hair thong. But don’t fool yourself that you’re doing so of your own unconstrained free will.
That's right; women who are sexy are victims of mind control. You can tell by looking at them.  There's no way a woman can choose to wear nail polish or care about celebrities.  I know I've been harsh on femininity myself at times (mostly I'm just harsh at the idea of me being feminine), but this goes beyond criticism of femininity.  This is a claim that femininity is a symptom of Borg assimilation.

(Even worse than the Borg claim is the claim that feminine women are deliberately sucking up to men to get cookies from their oppressors.  Ugh.)

It's also, implicitly, a claim that women who reject femininity aren't influenced by patriarchy, which is even more unfortunate.  You don't break free from our entire social system and all the behaviors and preconceptions that come with it just by growing out your armpit hair.  If we are all blinded by the culture we live in and the privileges we have, then it's the height of arrogance to claim that you're so enlightened you've risen above all that.  If women don't have full agency in the patriarchy, where the fuck do you get off claiming that you do?

Sex still matters.
So these are all reasons that people who think it's okay to call me a stupid cock-sucking bimbo under the guise of "feminism" are poopyheads.  But what's my reason for remaining a cock-sucking bimbo?  Why do I think sexual freedom is important to feminism?

Well, for the long answer, see this entire blog.  But for the short answer: because it's impossible for women to be accepted as human beings if we aren't accepted as sexual beings.  If women's dignity is contingent on our not being too sexy, we're never going to have dignity.  We have to accustom ourselves to the idea that someone can be highly sexual, publicly sexual, sexual in a way that we would totally never do ourselves because whoa... and still have dignity.

If there's a secret motive to my making my sexuality public, it's that I want to show someone can be sexual and also other things.  I want to show that I can be sexual and also funny and interesting; I want to show that I can be sexual and also ornery and argumentative; I want to show that I can be sexual and also save lives and get colds and play with guinea pigs.

Finally, part of making life better is about making sex better.  I don't just talk about sex to say "HEY EVERYBODY I'M INTO SEX"; I talk about it in terms of promoting enthusiastic consent, promoting body acceptance, promoting the idea of finding out and coming to terms with your own sexual desires.  I think having the sex life that's right for you is an important part of being a self-actualized person.  And I'm not going to avoid these discussions just because someone might think they're titillating.

And beyond finally, I do like sex.  I do think about sex a lot.  That's not a political position; it's hormones or something.  It's who I am and I'm not going to hide it.

...Wow, that got long and preachy.  Next post is about buttsex.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cosmocking: November '11! Part Two!

Let's finish this! Mostly because I've been sitting on it in "ugh, do I have to?" misery and it's been stopping me from writing a real post! Sadly nothing in the second half can possibly top "penis mommy!"

People expressed curiosity last week about what the "kinky sex" would consist of, and now the big reveal: underpants.  Kinky now means underpants.  I don't even question these things anymore. (Phase 1: Collect underpants. Phase 2: ????? Phase 3: Kinky!)  And then it's all the fun you'd expect from an article themed "underpants" in a magazine too conservative for anything genuinely edgy but too salacious to be bound by good taste.
Use your underwear as a scrunchie.
Either no one can tell that it's underpants, in which case it's not doing that much to spice up your love life, or everyone can tell that it's underpants, in which case I wholly support this plan and would love to see lots of Cosmo girls doing it in public because I could use that kind of entertainment.
Be a down-south dominatrix... with yourself. Touch your lady parts through your underwear in front of him.
So now we have this week's "can anyone explain the connection between these two sentences?" challenge.  I guess it's because to Cosmo "dominatrix" is a generic word meaning "sexy woman of some sort," and touching yourself, wow, that's pretty sexy?
Have him place his ankles in the holes of your underwear, almost like you're tying his feet together. He'll feel dominated--aka massively turned on.
The dynamics of this work a little differently if I'm not a wispy little thing with wispy little underpants.  (Several other tips, like planting your "tiny thong" for him to find, also assume dainty proportions.) Otherwise he's just going to be standing there looking goofy with his feet in my underpants.

...Actually, no, I'm pretty sure this looks goofy no matter what your underpants size.
Q: My boyfriend wants to have sex all the time. Even if I tell him no, I end up waking up to him humping my leg. How do I let him know what a turn-off that is?
A: I'm no scientist, but I think there are two reasons why he constantly wants to have sex with you: One, he is a dude. Two, he thinks you're hot.
Does she mean literally? Because that's not normal.  It's not normal and not okay to hump someone in their sleep.  (Unless you work it out in advance, but obviously that's not an option in Cosmoland.) And it doesn't strike me as an innocent expression of dudely appreciation.  It strikes me as a passive-aggressive way to punish for her not putting out, to prove that she can't stop him from using her body anyway.  If I were her, I'd be very clear about saying "Please stop trying to do sexual things with me after I've said no. If you don't commit to stopping this, I don't feel safe sleeping in the same bed as you."

Cosmo's suggestion is "I love having sex with you, but when I'm sleepy, I don't feel sexy." Because God forbid you actually not want it sometimes; you have to give a better excuse than that! And then they go on to recommend that she have more "spontaneous" sex with him, because clearly his real issue here is that he's just a spur-of-the-moment sort of guy!

I don't have much more to say than "ugh." I'm not a sexless shrew-harpy, I swear, but I don't think the answer to every problem is "gently coddle his ego while sexually servicing him." Men are grownups and they won't crumble into tears or leave you forever if you talk to them in grownup language.
Announce your big O on Twitter:
Go all the way on November 4, then announce your orgasm by tweeting #CosmoDontFakeItDay
Right, because there's nothing that'll help out a woman who has trouble orgasming like being expected to perform on a specific date and announce it publicly!  Someone who takes this stuff to heart is going to end up faking her "Don't Fake It Day" tweet, and that's every kind of wrong.
Earlobes: These spots are packed with nerves that connect directly to the brain, so stroking them feels particularly amazing.
This is how Cosmockings seem to work, lately. I read some stuff that genuinely angries me up, and some stuff that just makes me giggle and point.  I'm pretty sure every part of your head "connects directly to the brain," but hey, earlobes, super sexy.
Signs You May Be Dealing With A Psychopath
 Serial killers often blend into society, but there are clues to look for that hint something is wrong below the surface.
-He stands stiffly
-He speaks only about himself
-His words seem rehearsed
-He is detached
-He exaggerates tiny gestures
Oh no!  He's a serial killer!  Or he's socially awkward!  Maybe he even has one of those mental illnesses that don't make you murder people but just make you talk awkwardly!  About half of these describe me, the other half describe plenty of my friends, and none of us have serial-killed hardly anybody.  Considering how many serial killers have been described as normal or even charming, this bit of "people who act different really are as horrible as you always suspected" isn't even helpful.
Describe your dream sex life.
A. Hot quickies with your man whenever and wherever you want them
B. A mix of sensual encounters as well as wilder ones, like in the bathroom at a party
C. Tons of foreplay plus a new position or prop every time
B is correct.  The other ones are incorrect and indicate some sort of problem.  It doesn't matter what you like, because Cosmo has figured out what you should like.

I guess that's Cosmo in a nutshell for ya.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cosmocking: November '11! Part One!

White cover! Nicki Minaj! What the hell is going on with her neck?! Sex secrets, kinky sex... sexify your eyes! I am not sure I want my eyes sexified! I might get conjunctivitis! This image is stolen from the Internet; for some reason the "bigger, better pleasure" headline isn't on my copy! Maybe because "enlarge someone else's penis" is the kind of thing even doesn't promise!
[quiz result] This guy is crazy for you... and crazy intimidated. Men are terrified of rejection, so you have to make it clear that if he makes a move, it'll be well-received.
Apparently it's not just men who are terrified of rejection. I'm not even sure how I'd let him know a move was welcome without that being in itself a move, but knowing Cosmo, it probably involves standing with my shoulders at a slightly different angle. Something quietly receptive. Funny thing is, if you think rejection anxiety is bad, it's got nothing on the anxieties that come up when she's thinking "does he not like me or is he just not getting the signal?" and he's thinking "does she not like me or is she sending a secret signal?"

Never even mind more political stuff about rape culture and women's roles as objects versus actors and whatnot--if you follow Cosmo's advice, your dating life is going to be like trying to get asked to slow dance at the seventh grade social... forever.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 65 percent of financial analysts are men. So head to the neighborhood Starbucks during your lunch hour.
I will buy a venti triple mocha skinny caramel macchiato for anyone who can explain the connection between these two sentences.
We spoke to experts, who gave us the full monty behind five boner-improving secrets. Obviously, we don't want you to become his penis mommy, which is why we came up with ways to implement these on the sly.
Penis mommy. Penis mommy. PENIS MOMMY.

The secrets, if you're curious, are that you should feed him blackberry jam, make sure he had enough sleep, make sure he isn't drunk, make sure he isn't on a full stomach, and have sex twice in a night because he'll last longer the second time. So that's four obvious but decent points to one "blackberry jam? guh?"

Penis mommy.
Run a pair [of your underwear] under hot water, then wrap it around his shaft and squeeze. The heat helps increase his blood flow down there, making him rock hard and explosion-ready.
This doesn't say "hot and sexy" to me. This says "oh my God, he's filthy... I have to find some way to sponge him off before I'm going to touch that thing."
Two words: Edible underwear. It exists. Wear a pair and let him devour it.
...That's twelve words.
My man went to guys' night at his buddy's house. When I called to say hi, I heard a female voice. I asked about it, and he said it was just guys. Later, he called to say he was coming home because a girl started undressing in the room he crashed in! I feel betrayed--why did he lie?
I don't have the whole story here, but I'm guessing he lied because he was in a relationship where he wasn't allowed to socialize with other women ever, not even in a group, not even if he was going out of his way to avoid any sexual involvement with them, and that wears down a human soul after a while.

Maybe I'm a fatalist, but I think that if someone wants to cheat on me, they'll cheat. If they don't want to cheat on me, they can go to a skinny-dipping-and-soapy-Twister party with thirty-eight beautiful single women and not cheat. But trying to keep them from cheating by having weird rules (other than "don't cheat on me") about who they can associate with--that falls somewhere between creepy and downright abusive in my book.
[Ways to flatter your guy's friends:] "God help the person who tries to go up against you in Duck Hunt."

"Totally radical Pac-Man skills!" "Bodacious Pong moves, dude!" "Cowabunga, Tennis For Two played on an oscilloscope screen using a room-sized mainframe with vacuum tubes!"

Hey, I can make a lot of you feel old: Duck Hunt came out before I was born.

One of the other suggestions is "Hanging with you guys is like watching a funnier version of Jackass," which is practically a cutting-edge reference considering that show has only been off the air for nine years. (Also it's kind of insulting, unless they're the sort of guys who are really, really into shooting bottle rockets out of each other's anuses.)

But wait, there's more! But you will have to wait because I'm all out of time now. Next week we'll explore "kinky" things you can do with your underwear! Hint: all of them involve "put your underwear somewhere on his or your body, okay, now you're kinky!"

Penis mommy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Beyond not rape.

Everyone (well, everyone cool) agrees that consent is the most important thing in sexual activities.  It's the difference between harassment and flirting, groping and foreplay, BDSM and abuse, between sex and rape.

But is that all it's about?  Not violating your partner?  Obviously that's a big deal, but...

Yesterday Rowdy and I had amazing sex.  It was loving and passionate and messy and rough, the kind of sex that scares the neighbors and soaks the mattress, the kind of sex that left me literally high afterwards, falling asleep spooned around Rowdy and whispering "I'm flying" into his ear.

You know what I didn't say to him afterwards?  "Oh baby, that was so not rape."

Having sex that isn't rape is like cooking food that isn't poison.  It's the bare goddamn minimum.  If your list of sex tips consists of nothing but "don't rape" and then goes straight into physical details, you're missing something in the middle.

Few things worry me more than people (okay, men) who say it's difficult to know if someone's consenting or not.  This suggests to me not just that they could be violating someone's consent, but that even if they aren't, they're having terrible sex.  If your idea of sex is limited to "one partner silently gets on and grinds away and the other tolerates it," it can be consensual, but it's probably not much fun.

Sexual communication does have gray areas and fuzzy middle grounds.  It's just that they aren't between rape and not rape--if that isn't a bright glowing line then you have a bright glowing imperative to stop cold until it is.  No, the gray area is between okay sex and great sex, between compromise sex and consensus sex, between "alright, sure" sex and "oh my god yeah let's do this" sex.

The lowest level of communication between Rowdy and me was "do you want to have sex?"  That's the part that made it not rape.  But it wasn't the end of the process.  Things like "I want to fuck you while you're doing yourself with the Hitachi" and "I want you to fist me"--and even smaller things, bits like "squeeze me tight" and "kiss me, kiss me now."  (By the way, I'm just flabbergasted by people who think talking during sex isn't sexy. I mean, you don't talk about the weather, but if these quotes aren't sexy, what is sexy like on your planet?)

So it saddens me when sexual communication is treated as being about consent only.  Consent is step one.  Consent is getting the keys to the car.  But it isn't knowing how to drive it.

And it flat-out horrifies me when sexual consent is treated as fuzzy, because if you don't know for sure if your partner even wants to be doing this, you definitely don't know what they actually like.

Seeking enthusiastic consent is awesome!  By all means, keep it up!  Not raping people is super important!  But it's not nearly enough to build a sex life on.