Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rescripting sex.

Life has scripts.  Little socially-agreed plays that we enact rather than trying to figure out all our interactions from scratch every time.  Many of them are very simple.  There's the script you follow when you're checking out at a store ("have a nice day"), the script for talking to someone who's sad ("I'm so sorry"), and of course the script for talking to a dog ("WHOOZAGOODBOY").

And there's scripts for sex.  Unfortunately, the most common script out there sucks.
Script: Consent Roulette 
Active partner (generally male) and receptive partner (generally female) are alone together.  They're chatting, drinking, or watching a movie.  Active partner detects (or wishful-thinks) the whiff of romance/lust in the air.  Active partner gradually increases his physical closeness to receptive partner and makes some sexual innuendos.  Eventually A goes ahead and kisses R.  If she doesn't object, A leads R to a bed or sofa and lies her down.  A kisses R more and gropes her.  If she doesn't object, A then puts on a condom and R is expected to spread her legs and stuff.  Intercourse happens.
The above script is, let me be clear, not rape.  That's not what I'm saying.  What I'm saying is that it's crappy.  It doesn't give people the chance to have any sex besides kissing->groping->intercourse, it doesn't have any emotional component except A's uncertainty how far R will go, and it's just not all that fun.  Even if A is female and R is male, all that does is ease the man's anxiety a bit; it doesn't fundamentally change the story.

And it's "roulette" because it makes consent all about luck.  If you have this kind of sex with a woman and it turns out she wanted it, then yay--by sheer luck, you're not a rapist!  On the other hand, if she doesn't want it, now she has to play roulette--if she says "stop," will he stop, or will he start holding her down?

This isn't just a first-time-sex script, either.  I've had relationships where every time was kinda like this.  It gets abbreviated and informalized a little with familiarity, but it's the same basic scene: guy senses "the mood" is right and guy starts doing his thing unless girl says "stop."  After a while, even if it's totally consensual, it's just boring.

A big problem with getting people to break that script is that they think you're trying to get them to do this one.
Hypothetical Script: Robot Lawyers Consenting To One (1) Act Of Intercourse 
Active partner and receptive partner are alone together.  They're chatting, drinking, or watching a movie.  Active partner detects (or wishful-thinks) the whiff of romance/lust in the air.  A breaks into the conversation and asks R, "may I kiss you?" If she says yes, they kiss, although he is careful not to place his hands anywhere not specifically pre-approved.  A breaks off the kiss, ceases all physical contact, stares politely into the middle distance, and asks R, "may I touch your left breast? may I touch your right breast also?" If she says yes, he touches her breasts.  After some silent, tentative, arms-length touching he breaks off again and composes himself before asking, "would you like to have sex?"  If R responds positively, he clarifies: "with me?"
No question, that shit is dull and awkward and probably would work excellently as Vagina Repellent in an emergency vagina-attack situation.  (I'm overstating my case.  I've totally had sex with guys like that. But I'm kinda charmed by awkwardness.)

But the problem with it is not that it's too sex-positive.  The problem is that it's not sex-positive enough. It's still one-sided, it still treats sex like a linear progression from first base to home run, and it still doesn't give R much of a chance to say anything beyond "yes" or "no."  It may include explicit consent, but it's not a negotiation.

The other problem is that it's kind of a strawman, since explicit consent doesn't magically vaporize all your social skills.  People seem to imagine that talking about sex means talking in the dorkiest possible way, and I honestly don't know why.  Personally, I've never seen the romance in no-talking sex.  I know it's supposed to be all "swept off your feet by the heat of the moment" and shit, but in practice it always seems more clumsy and oafish, like trying to convey the concept of "Deleuze's Plane of Immanence" in Pictionary.  With your feet.  There's shit you can't just convey, you know?  Even in long-standing relationships, it's pretty goddamn hard to say "I want to gently pull your hair while we fuck and whisper sweet dirty things in your ear" with raised eyebrows and meaningful looks.

And then you end up taking a chance and just grabbing their hair when it seems like a look has been meaningful enough, and then they stop everything and go "what the hell are you doing?", and boy, you think you've seen awkward.  Even the most stilted negotiation has nothing on the awkwardness of that crushing moment when you're forced to admit you don't have Sexy ESP after all.

So the structure of this post requires me to write a good script at this point. But I'm having trouble coming up with just one, because the essence of the good script is that you're dealing with each other as humans, that you're enacting your sexuality and not some stock scene.  So I can't write you the good script.  But I'll write one possible one.
Script: Communicative Sex That Doesn't Suck 
Partners A and B are alone together.  A detects (or wishful-thinks) the whiff of romance/lust in the air.  A says to B, "You are so goddamn cute, you know that? I'd really like to make out with you."  B answers by leaning in and passionately kissing him.
B puts a finger on A's top button and asks "may I?" with a wicked grin and a raised eyebrow.  He nods and she opens his shirt, touching and kissing down his chest.  "Shall we take this to the bedroom?" she asks, looking up at him, her lips brushing his skin just above the line of his jeans.  A responds by taking her hand and leading her there.  B sits on the bed and starts undoing her clothes.  She pulls A into the bed with her.
"Do you want to have sex?" A asks.
"Oh hell yes," B says, and starts kissing A again.  She brings her hand down to the level of his zipper but hesitates, making eye contact before going further.
"Hang on," A says, "just so you know, I really don't like having my balls touched."
"Okay," B says, "but can I play with your cock?"
"Please," A replies, and she slips her hand into his pants, his answer turning to a groan as she wraps her hand around his cock and begins to stroke.
And you know, so forth.  I'm not trying to make this particular scenario a prescriptive thing.  People communicate in different ways.  What really matters is that you know rather than hope that whatever your communication style is, it's in sync--that the other person is intentionally sending all the signals that you're receiving, and vice versa.  It's also nice to get in a little more specificity, both physically and emotionally, than "sex or not sex."  Also, when you're used to this degree of extremely engaged back-and-forth, it's really obvious when something's wrong or the other person isn't really into it.

For me, this is sexy.  What I remember, what turns me on, isn't just the fact that I did stuff to someone, but that I know they wanted it.  The physical action of stroking a dick is boring, it's just rubbing my hand on some skin, whatever, I can take it or leave it.  What's exciting is stroking a dick that wants to be stroked.  It's so hot to know that for certain.  It's not the dick that makes my night; it's the "please."

This is the kind of sexual script we need.  Not necessarily one that's based in talking a lot (although that's what works for me, and you do have to talk some), but one that's based in desire and shared humanity.  One that's based not in "can I do sex to you?" but in "let's do sex together."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Consent culture.

Today I'm going to fulfill a promise I made quite a while ago, and talk about what a consent culture would look like.

A consent culture is one in which the prevailing narrative of sex--in fact, of human interaction--is centered around mutual consent.  It is a culture with an abhorrence of forcing anyone into anything, a respect for the absolute necessity of bodily autonomy, a culture that believes that a person is always the best judge of their own wants and needs.

I don't want to limit it to sex.  A consent culture is one in which mutual consent is part of social life as well.  Don't want to talk to someone? You don't have to.  Don't want a hug? That's okay, no hug then.  Don't want to try the fish? That's fine.  (As someone with weird food aversions, I have a special hatred for "just taste a little!")  Don't want to be tickled or noogied? Then it's not funny to chase you down and do it anyway.

The good news is, there are things you can do to bring this about.  Things beyond just "don't rape people" (although that's an excellent start).

Ways You Can Work Toward The Creation Of a Consent Culture
1. Don't rape people. It does bear saying.  And I don't just mean "don't put on a ski mask and jump on strangers in dark alleys" rape, either.  Don't have sex with someone who is not unambiguously, enthusiastically, and continually consenting.  Don't have sex with someone who says "I guess so" or "okay, fine" (unless they are grinning lasciviously as they say this).  Don't convince someone to have sex.  If they don't want you, really want you from the bottom of their heart and/or groin, respect that.

2. When someone doesn't want to have sex with you and so you don't, talk about it.  Share that you're bummed but also that you take pride in your ability to take it gracefully.

When you didn't want to have sex with someone and so they stopped, talk about it.  Share that despite the awkwardness you're glad they took it gracefully.

These are tough things to discuss (in part because they sound kind of Captain Obvious, like, no shit it was nice of you not to rape someone), but they're important narratives to put out there. Others' stories shape our ideas about sex, and hearing stories that fall outside the "have sex or you're a failure" mindset are important in changing those ideas.

3. When someone tells you about pressuring or tricking someone into sex (and you're in a situation where it's safe to do so), call them the hell out on it.  "That's not cool.  It doesn't sound like he/she wanted it."  You don't have to use the R word, you don't have to tell them they should be arrested, you don't have to call them a rapist piece of shit--you just have to make it clear they're not getting any goddamn high fives.  When you hear someone bragging about sex like it was a prank they pulled on their partner, bring the mood in the room the hell down.

You can do this with fictional stories, too.  You don't even have to be no-fun then.  "Wow, you guys, 'Baby It's Cold Outside' is totally a date rape song."  Without requiring a rant or a buzzkill, it just quietly plants the idea that no, that is not a "totally legit way to get sex" song.

4. When you see something that looks abusive or nonconsensual going on, don't turn your back.  At least be a witness--just the presence of another person can be someone's biggest guarantee of safety.  Stepping in and checking if everything's okay is even better.

5. Ask before touching people.  Say "do you want a hug?" and if they say no then don't hug them--and also don't give them any shit about not being friendly or affectionate.  Don't make a big deal out of it, just make it part of your touching-people procedure.  If they say "you don't need to ask!" nod and smile and keep on asking.

6. Negotiate sex!  Explicitly negotiate sex play, and BDSM play if you do that.  Be eminently clear about the fact that play is not a package deal for you, and your partner is free to change their mind about any part of it at any time--as are you.  Err on the side of blunt, and say corny shit like "can I kiss you now?" and "I'd like to touch your chest."

Once in a blue moon (really not as often as some people would have you think), you may run into a partner who refuses to negotiate, or who says "I would have done it before you killed the mood by asking."  Do not have sex or play with this person.  Their loss.  This is you putting the principle of "consent matters" above the principle of "have sex at all costs!", and you can brag about it when you're busy changing narratives.

7. Re-negotiate sex!  While I don't think every step of "can I kiss you now?" is necessary in a long-term relationship (although Rowdy and I really do ask every time about intercourse), it's important to keep talking about what you want and don't want.  You're not strangers anymore, no, but you're also not merged into the same person.  Keep active consent alive in your relationships.

8. Learn to love consent.  I worry that I've made getting consent sound like a chore.  It's anything but. Asking for consent is a moment of delicious tension, of emotional connection.

A "yes" brings the joy of knowing someone is really hot for you, really wants you.  It means that they're going to not just go along with but be into the stuff that comes next.  That's not "prerequisite checked off," that's "awesome, this is going to be so much better now."

A "yes, conditionally" helps you be a better lover to them, someone who can give them just what they want and nothing they don't want.

9. Learn to appreciate "no." A "no, not at all" is bittersweet--or okay, sometimes it's fucking crushing--but it brings some finality and certainty with it.  If you're not going to have sex anyway (and you're not, unless you were going to rape this person), at least you get to banish the "maybe I could have, why didn't I try" thoughts.

Remember that ultimately asking for consent is not asking someone to make a decision whether they want sex with you or not.  That decision's going to get made, one way or another.  Asking for consent is simply asking to know about that decision.

10. Talk about consent.  Make consent part of the stories you tell about sex.  Just a natural part of the process, something that ought to be taken for granted will be part of a sex story.

"So last night I asked Sandra if she wanted to hook up and she totally said yes."
"Ohmygod, Jane asked me to have sex with her, and it was awwwwesome."
"I heard that Rob and Josie--I'll totally kill you if you tell anyone--totally agreed to have sex at Jesse's party!"
"Kirk laid Spock tenderly across the science console and whispered hoarsely in the Vulcan's pointed ear, 'Do you want this? Do you want me inside you?'"

11. Bring consent out of the bedroom. I think part of the reason we have trouble drawing the line "it's not okay to force someone into sexual activity" is that in many ways, forcing people to do things is part of our culture in general.  Cut that shit out of your life.  If someone doesn't want to go to a party, try a new food, get up and dance, make small talk at the lunchtable--that's their right.  Stop the "aww c'mon" and "just this once" and the games where you playfully force someone to play along.  Accept that no means no--all the time.

Beyond what's necessary for their health and education (and even that touches iffy territory), I don't believe in doing this to kids, either.  The size and social-authority advantages an adult has over kids shouldn't be used to force them to play games or accept hugs or go down the big slide.  That sets a bad, scary precedent about the sort of thing it's okay to use your advantages over someone for.

It's good to practice drawing your own boundaries outside of the bedroom, too.  It can be shockingly empowering to say something as small as "no, I don't want to sit with you."  "No, you can't have my phone number."  "I love hugs, but please ask me first."  It's good practice for the big stuff.  Simply learning to put your mind in the frame of "this person does not want me to say no to them, and they will resist me doing it, but I'm doing it anyway" is a big, important deal.

Consent culture is a tough thing to build. I think it's got a foothold in BDSM--we at least talk big about consent--but it's far from established here.  It's barely starting to get tiny little footholds in the mainstream culture.  But it grows in little microcultures, tiny bubbles of sex-positivity and circles of friends where consent is the norm, and it has potential to grow so much more.  Give it a hand.  Make it part of your own life, and it becomes just a little bit bigger part of the world.  Start living consent culture.

Friday, January 13, 2012

What would you do?

Today on the Pervocracy we're going to play "You Be The Armchair Quarterback," because I don't think I did the right thing in this situation, and yet I don't know what the right thing to do was.

I was at a party that had a hot tub, toweling off after a good soak.  A man and a woman were in the hot tub together.  I don't know their relationship--I knew the guy only as a vague acquaintance, the woman not at all--but they were obviously some kind of intimate.

The man tried to push the woman's head underwater.

It was a laughing, silly thing for him--he wasn't acting aggressive, he was acting like a kid giving his little brother a noogie.  The woman was a little less amused.  She started out gigglingly resisting, but when he tried really hard to drag her underwater, she said "No, I don't want that, stop it."  He kept going.  They were sorta laughing and sorta not; it still had the tickle-fight atmosphere but it looked to me like he was putting a bit of strength in trying to shove her underwater.

The woman never yelled for help, never tried to get out of the hot tub or hit him, never even stopped smiling, and yet it was clear that she for-serious did not want to get dunked.  There was a lot of her saying "ha ha, but no, really, don't do that," and a lot of him responding "haha, nice try, I'm gonna getcha!"

Watching this, I was paralyzed.  Part of me was "oh my god, fucking stop this" and part of me was "they're just messing around, maybe she's a little annoyed, this situation does not call for Feminist Batman."  I ended up deciding that I wasn't going to interrupt them (heroic, I know) but I was also not leaving the room while this was going on.  I sorta gave him stink-eye until he stopped and I stayed in the room until they left the hot tub.

I'm going to toss this one to the audience.  Some factors to keep in mind:
A) There are a lot of people at this party.
B) There are two or three other people in the hot tub room, but as far as you can tell they're ignoring the situation.  None of them are well known to you.
C) The hosts of the party are in some random other room in a large building, and it might take 10-15 minutes to track them down.
D) This party is slightly extra-legal (ahem) and anything that gets the police called there would be extremely upsetting and legally-risky for a lot of people not involved in the Hot Tub Dunking Situation.

What would you have done?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cosmocking: February '12! Part Two!

I set out on this ridiculous quest to read every goddamn issue of Cosmopolitan, and now I guess I'm committed.  So let's get on with it!
[My husband's] lack of stereotypical maleness became particularly obvious when a piece of baseboard in our hallway broke off, and he suggested I "just call someone" to fix it. I did; the guy hammered three nails into the wall and was too embarrassed to charge me for his brief time and effort.  When stuff like this happens, I wish Scott would just man up, deal with random repair hiccups, and in general, do more traditional guy stuff.  Why do women like me marry our evolved, sensitive soul mates then secretly wish they'd be more macho?
So now I'm in a Triple Feminist Fury.

Fury 1: That being "evolved" and sensitive is treated as the opposite of being male.
Fury 2: That mechanical competence is treated as a masculine trait.
Fury 3: That mechanical competence is treated as not just masculine, but exclusive to men.  The writer couldn't get her man to man up, so she had to call another man--these were the only options!

Ideas like this construct a crappy world.  Women who can hammer are unattractively masculine; women who can't hammer are dependent; men who can hammer are insensitive caveman clods; men who can't hammer aren't Real Men.  There's no goddamn way to win!

Meanwhile in the real world I'm a manly woman who can hammer and cuddle, and I am a whole lot happier than Cosmo would ever let me be.
The move that makes him forgive you: Tilt your head so that you're gazing up, exposing your neck.  This is a submissive posture that lets him know you genuinely understand you're in the wrong.
Are you dating a wolf?
To really up the ante while he's down there, ask him to take your clitoris into his mouth and suck on it--it'll boost the pressure and feel awesome for you.
On its own, there's nothing egregious about this quote.  A little questionable if this should be a categorical imperative--"if this sounds good to you, then try having him do this" would be better wording--but by Cosmo standards it's fine.

It only becomes bizarre in the context of Cosmo (the Costext? no) because it tells women to ask their partners for something sexual.  This is an act all the advice and relationship columns forbid or treat as unthinkable in the first place.  How does "ask him to suck your clit" fit into a world where you can only ask for things via subtle hints and odd body language?  In the real world it's no big deal, but in the Cosmos (yeah, I'm owning that one), you can only ask for a sexual fantasy by leaving a romance novel open on the table or claiming it was a dream you had.  How are Cosmo readers supposed to make requests this immediate and explicit of their partners?  Every other article in the magazine explicitly disallows them the tools they'd need to do so.
Deadly Decision: Ditching Your Friends At Night
[Kenia Monge was a young woman who was abducted and murdered by Travis Forbes.] 
[...]Kenia and her girlfriends were partying happily that night. During the evening, she excused herself from their table to go to the restroom.  She left her purse, car keys, and phone with them, giving every indication that she planned to return, according to the Denver district attorney's office. 
[...]What went wrong for this girl who seemed to have everything going for her? The alcohol she drank must have blurred her thinking and led her to make the error that endangered her life: breaking away from her friends and leaving the club with a guy--not Forbes--she'd just met.  Minutes later, she was caught on surveillance tapes alone, no longer with the guy she'd left with, wandering between an apartment building and a hotel blocks from the club.
In other words, it was all her mistake.  Travis Forbes was a force of goddamn nature and bears no human responsibility for his decision to abduct and murder her.  Nope, the real problem here was that she took the wildly dangerous action of going outdoors.  How can we ever stop the tragic scourge of women going outdoors?  If only we could keep all the women indoors.  Then murderers would surely go home and go "aw drat, I guess I just can't murder anybody."

Why is Cosmo fucking doing this?  It really pisses me off, not even joking pisses me off, that they're framing this as some sort of suicidal recklessness on Monge's part.  (Hey... why is she "Kenia" and her killer "Forbes"?)  All she did was step outside for a couple minutes.  Forbes is the one who randomly murdered her.  Gosh, which one do you think made the worse decision that night?  Fucking hell.

Oh, okay, maybe she wasn't to blame, but maybe she could have been safer, right?  Maybe if she'd stayed home at her apartment altogether, right?

Something Cosmo doesn't mention: Travis Forbes assaulted another woman a month later.  He raped, beat, and tried to kill Lydia Tillman (trigger warning, everything in that story is horrible and will make you cry) in her own apartment.  What mistake did she make, how did she secretly doom herself?  She was in her home.

I guess it's too horrifying to face the idea that bad people are out there and they can't always be stopped.  (Then again, if Travis Forbes had been caught sooner, Lydia Tillman could have been saved. Talking about what the victims did wrong obscures things like that.)  We want to find some way to say "the victims were stupid, and because I'm smart, nothing bad will ever happen to me!"

The sickest part--sicker than the insult to the victims, sicker than the attention taken off the perpetrators--is that the criminals themselves sometimes use the same logic.  "She should have known better than to be out there alone."  Perpetuating the idea that women who take innocuous actions are asking for trouble isn't just insulting.  It's dangerous.
You find an amazing LivingSocial deal for a tropical vacation. Immediately, you:
A. Decide if it pops up again, it's a sign you should buy.
B. Forward it to your BFFs and ask if they'd be into it too.
C. Enter your credit-card info and handle any pesky details later.
Along with "colors," "the nervous system," "testicles," and "human decency," I think we can add "browser cookies" to the list of things Cosmo doesn't understand.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cosmocking: February '12! Part One!

Light pink cover!  With light yellow text!  Shouldn't they run this stuff past a grown-up at some point between crayon-based layout and printing 3 million copies?  Anyway the thing that is "Too Naughty To Say Here!" is 69!  How can that be too naughty?  It's a number!  "This Decision Could Cost You Your Life!"  They mean the decision for a woman to be alone at night!  Because it's too goddamn dangerous for us to live like fucking humans!
The Naughtiest Thing I've Ever Done: "I had sex in the middle of my wedding--twice"
I wanted this to mean on the altar.  That would be a much better naughty thing.  If the minister is halfway through reading them the vows and has to take a break for "for richer or for poorer... oh come on, knock that off!"  And then again during the reception they just swept a bunch of chaffing dishes off the buffet table and started going at it with "I dare you to tell me to stop" looks on their faces.

Instead, though, it means this:
As [the maid of honor] was bustling my dress, John walked in.
"Is everything okay?" he asked.
"Just a minor emergency," I said.
"Can I help?" He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. Knowing that my maid of honor's vision was blocked by the layers of my dress, I mouthed "Seriously?" He nodded.  We were really going to do it.
This might be a matter of feminism making me all sensitive, but is anyone else kinda sketched by how that went down?  She didn't go "oh yeah," she went "seriously?"  That's the reaction of someone who's being told not asked.  If she was uncomfortable with having sex during the wedding--you know, not "I absolutely will not," uncomfortable, but just "I don't actually feel good about this" uncomfortable--did she have a graceful way out?

I'm not saying it was literally rape.  But it reflects an ucky, ucky view of consent that this was presented as an enviably sexy story.
Caught Two-Timing!
This is photos of celebrities wearing the same clothing item more than once.  Seriously.  In one case it's shoes.  If it's gauche to rewear shoes, I've been caught eight-hundred-timing.
Guys told us the topics they're dying to quiz you on.. but don't for fear of being bitch-slapped.
"Are you on birth control?"
Dying to quiz you on?  That's a question that's important to ask before sex and utterly irrelevant otherwise.  Unless they're still in some sort of high school mindset that taking birth control means you're a slut who will totally put out, I guess.
[Clue he's secretly into you] His thumbs point up.  A guy is mentally giving you a good review if he unknowingly does something like holding his beer glass with his thumb to the sky.
Oh Cosmo.  There's also one where he's secretly into you if he makes the ASL sign for "I love you," which raises a fascinating question: What if he doesn't know ASL?  Is this some kind of Jungian collective unconscious ASL springing forth?  That could revolutionize our understanding of language and the brain!
Shocker: This Word Is a Turn-Off To Guys
It's not "marriage" or "period." According to our most recent crop of Cosmo Bachelors, it's the F bomb--more than half said it's unattractive. [...] Experts say it's like burping. He knows you do it, but he'd rather think you don't... so you maintain a sexy, girlie mystique.
Yeah... Fuck that fucking steaming mound of fucking bullshit.  I'm a fucking person and I will use all of the words available to fucking people.  I will talk like I fucking want.  I will accustom men to the idea that some women say "fuck" a fuckload and others don't because we're fucking people and we're fucking different.

My ninth grade English teacher tried to convince the girls not to swear by saying "if you say it, people will think you do it."  Slut-shaming aside... so "shit" is still cool then, right?

Probably not by Cosmo standards.  Do you really want everyone knowing you have a digestive system?
Q: I asked my guy to spank me, and he said no. Does he think I'm a total freak?
A: [...] The next time you're having sex, grasp his hand, put it on your ass, and tell him you'll do anything if he gives you a light smack.
Pre-feminism: "No means try harder, guys!"
Post-feminism: "No means try harder, everyone!"
If you want to be focused during a big presentation, try this: wear red nail polish. [...] Because it has the longest wavelength in the color spectrum, people might need to look longer to process it, so all eyes will be on you.
The furthest visible red is about 750 nanometers.  Divide that by the speed of light, and you get... 2.502 x 10-15 seconds to view a cycle of red light.  That's 2.5 femtoseconds.  Your audience will be captivated for femtoseconds.

(The human eye and brain take about 1/15th of a second to process images anyway, but we're already so far into the realm of cartoon logic, I hate to even bring that up.)

There is too much terrible in this Cosmo to finish in one entry!  Part Two will be up late today or early tomorrow!  Thanks to Rowdy for color math and @tinam2011 for co-Cosmocking!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A sex lesson from a cat.

You can learn an important lesson about sex by petting a cat.

Oh God, no, not like that!  Pet the cat's head!  This is metaphorical!

That aside... if you have a friendly cat handy, go give the kitty some scritches.  Cats, even (or especially) the neutered ones, are shameless pleasure-seekers.  They know what feels good and they have no inhibitions about going for it.  You'll never hear a cat say "I'd love to eat some houseplants, thoroughly lick my own genitals, and spend the rest of the day napping on the sofa, but I'm so worried what people would think!" Cats don't have those hang-ups.

So when you pet the cat, if you're not quite in the right spot, kitty will help you along.  If you're scratching the right ear but kitty's left ear needs some love, kitty will turn its head.

What you can learn is to not compensate for this.  Instinctively, you'll move your hand and follow kitty's right ear around so you're still scratching the same spot.  This isn't what kitty wants.  Kitty wants you to hold your hand still and let kitty work around you.  Otherwise you're at cross purposes, canceling each other out.

Learn to accept messages like this.  If kitty pushes harder against you, don't back off; understand this means kitty wants more pressure and has just showed you exactly how much more pressure would be good.  If kitty pulls away, don't follow; understand this means kitty wants a break.

In this regard, sex partners can be a lot like cats.  (Also sometimes in terms of sounds they make and the ability of a tiny one to somehow crowd you off a huge bed.)  They'll show you what they need with their bodies, and you'll miss the cue if you try to move in sync with them.  If someone tilts their hips differently, presses into you or pulls back a little--keep moving just the way you were moving and make a little mental note, because how they shifted things is how they like it.

Myself, I like real firm pressure on my vulva.  Real firm, grinding right up against the bone, pushing against me like a wrestling hold, hard muscular sex with absolutely no surface delicacy to it.  I try to say this with my words, but I'll also say it with my hips.  When your hand is down my pants and I move my hips up hard against you, don't back up and make me chase you.  Understand that it's a message and listen to it.

Kitties know what they want.  Bodies know what they want.  And sometimes all you have to do is a very deliberate nothing to learn what that is.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

This is what negotiation looks like.

Friday night, Rowdy and I had a pretty major re-negotiation of our relationship.  It was a hard conversation to have, the kind with a lot of sentences like "I want... well, I shouldn't want... but I'll just tell you... I mean to say... nnngh," but ultimately a productive one.  So I figured I'd post the meeting notes up here to give a concrete example of what relationship negotiation looks like.  (A couple items are omitted for privacy, but you get the idea.)  I talk big about this kind of negotiation, but what does it actually look like?

Minutes on 12/30/11 Meeting Between Holly and Rowdy at Boston's Most Generically Irish Pub
1. We love each other super-much. Yay.

2. Because it's not sex but relationships that make me insecure, you will keep me in the loop about your relationship status/prospects with other people you're seeing.
(2b. You are not actively seeking a new partner, but have not ruled out the development of a new relationship, and I am not asking you to rule it out.)

3. I will tell you when I'm uncomfortable or feel ignored instead of just making mopeyface.
(3b. When you're following our agreements and there's nothing I actually want changed, I will not go around making mopeyface anyway.)

4. Because always planning our dates makes me feel unwanted, you will ask me out on dates sometimes.

5. Yep, I'm genderqueer, and I'm not entirely sure what that means, but something along the lines of "I'm still 'officially' a woman and don't plan to change that, but I want to start expressing myself more as a boy."  You are outstandingly understanding and supportive about this.

6. Because both of us feel our current sex life is too vanilla but we've had difficulty developing a repertoire of kinky activities we enjoy together, we will specifically and explicitly negotiate new kinky things to try.

7. We will make an effort to do fun and interesting activities together, because a "shlump around the bedroom all day" date is kind of the relationship equivalent of eating an entire jar of peanut butter in one sitting--tastes good but you just feel wrong afterwards.

8. Neither of us really knows how much time together is good vs. overdose, so we still need to figure out by experimentation how many dates per week works for us.

It's difficult exposing and working on the guts of a relationship--if this stuff comes naturally and painlessly to you, you're probably the Kwisatz Haderach--but God do you feel better afterwards.  The only thing more uncomfortable than making explicit agreements is trying to live without them.