Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Squirt-Proofing with Kegel Exercises?

I've already spoken of my love for my Kegelcisor (although not in great detail; that post is yet to come). Come to find out, using the vaginal barbell the way it was intended -- that is, to exercise the pelvic floor (or kegel) muscles -- may put a stop to female ejaculation! Why on earth would you want to? According the this article by the infamous Sam Sugar, doctors in the UK have been telling women who are embarrassed that they squirt to do their kegel exercises. I'm willing to bet that this advice is linked to the idea that female ejaculation (FE) is merely urinary incontinence, since strengthening your kegels is supposed to help with that. On the other hand, the sex-positive FE community is often heard to say that strengthening the kegels will help a woman female ejaculate.

Just for the record, all the information I've ever read about female ejaculate fluid says that it is formed in the periurethral gland, located in the urethral sponge. That is to say, most "experts" agree it is not from the bladder. It does come out the urethra, but I don't think "bladder-water" is an accurate description. Here's some evidence to back it up, from the awesome website The Squirting Truth.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Back to School gets Sexy, Intersexuality, and Lesbians Do It Right

The New York Times Magazine printed an interesting piece today on the "back to school" sales push that condom companies do on campuses. Here's a link to the Trojan Sexual Health Report Card mentioned in the article.

The Times Magazine also printed an interesting, well-written and fairly balanced article about the treatment of babies born with disorders of sex development (intersexuality). I might write more on this in the coming week. Thanks to Dan for the tip.

And finally, researchers have told us what we knew all along: women are more likely to orgasm during lesbian sex. Surprised? Me neither. Finding a man who knows that intercourse isn't the only way to have sex is like finding the baby in the king cake. (via Fleshbot)

Edit: Okay, it's actually way more exciting than finding the baby. What was I thinking?

CDC's New HIV Testing Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made changes last week to the federal government’s recommended protocol for HIV testing, suggesting that the test should be part of routine medical care. Under the new system, everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 would be tested, and those in high-risk categories would be tested annually. Their reasoning is that too many people who don’t know their HIV status are passing the virus on.

Not only could the new system go a long way towards curbing the spread of HIV, but regularizing testing will hopefully help to remove some of the stigma that still exists, stemming from its connection with the gay male community and drug use. In a day and age when most new cases of HIV/AIDS are in black and Hispanic teenagers infected through heterosexual sex (1), testing people who think that the disease only happens to those people or who are afraid that being tested will single them out has the potential to really change the way we think of HIV infection.

So why is the ACLU skeptical of the new recommendations? Because to implement the increased testing rates, the new guidelines suggest doing away with two safeguards currently in place: written consent, and pre-test counseling. The new guidelines are for an opt-out system, meaning that in any clinical situation a practitioner informs the patient that the test will be administered unless they decline it. A close reading of the guidelines themselves reveals that the general consent to medical care that patients sign before treatment is to be considered consent. According to the guidelines:
“Patients should be informed orally or in writing that HIV testing will be performed unless they decline (opt-out screening). …the patient should be offered an opportunity to ask questions and decline testing. With such notification, consent for HIV testing should be incorporated into the patient’s general informed consent for medical care on the same basis as are other screening or diagnostic tests; a separate consent form for HIV testing is not recommended.” (2)
The ACLU fears that this will lead to patients being tested without their knowledge or understanding, especially in emergency care situations. Widespread voluntary testing, they fear, could easily become mandatory testing.

The ACLU also fears the effects of doing away with pre-test counseling. In addition to losing a critical educational opportunity, there are fears that uninformed patients may tend more towards self-destructive behavior after receiving a positive result. According to the ACLU’s statement on the new guidelines, “Studies have shown that patients who are tested without consent are less likely to get the follow up care that is critical to maintaining good health.” (3) People who are unprepared to hear the results of their HIV test will likely have the same response.

The ACLU also addresses the issue of privacy. In theory, widespread voluntary testing does away with the need for anonymous testing by removing stigma. Especially in light of the state of New York’s increased collection of very personal data from HIV infected individuals, maintaining patient privacy and consent is a pertinent issue. The information that the state wants to collect pertains mostly to disease prevention – for example, which strain of HIV subtype a person presents, along with antiviral resistance data (4). This information is critical to disease prevention, but it is important that patients at the very least be informed of what information is being collected and how it will be used. Beyond reporting that the case of HIV exists, patients should be given the option to opt-out of having their information reported.

The CDC has come forward with a good faith effort to increase and normalize HIV testing, but I think it may be too early to do away with the safeguards of pre-test counseling and signed informed consent. They’ll only become unnecessary when the stigma of HIV has been erased. In the meantime, testing all the little old ladies in Alabama and the 13 year old children of politicians will go a long way towards normalizing HIV testing and reducing the stigma of being diagnosed as HIV positive.

1.New York Times: US Urges HIV Tests for Adults and Teenagers. Donald G. McNeil Jr. September 22, 2006
2.CDC’s New Guidelines, pg. 7
3.ACLU Says New CDC HIV Testing Recommendations Raise Health and Civil Liberties Concerns, September 21, 2006.
4.NYCLU Open Letter to New York Department of Health, September 18, 2006.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Elexa: A Woman's Perspective by Trojan

What is a woman’s perspective, exactly? Well, for one thing, it’s what Trojan’s new line of products claims to be. Elexa is a line of condoms that have been repackaged to be more woman-friendly. I imagine that new colors and motifs on the box are the only changes; what else can you do once a condom has been lubricated, ribbed, and given one of those funny little pleasure-pouch things? But since I haven’t actually seen the new products yet, I’ll withhold judgment until my free sample arrives.

In addition to condoms, Elexa has a series of feminine intimacy products that are meant to be sold in the “feminine care” isle of your local supermarket. Their Intimacy Gel is a warming lubricant, not unlike KY Warming (and probably about the same quality, which is to say, poor). You use it like any other lube – on the naughty bits during sexual activity – and it heats up with friction. Sounds nice, right? I’ve talked to a few women for whom warming lube rekindled an interest in sex. There are other products out there which are slightly better quality (Wet Warming, for example, or Warm Embraces), but nothing beats the convenience of buying your lube with your tampons!

Elexa’s Freshening Cloths are just what you probably think they are: wet wipes for big girls. Lots of companies are producing (non-gender specific) products like this now, because who doesn’t like a clean bottom? Always brand menstrual pads is marketing a new product which comes with a cleansing cloth attached to each individual package, which I think sounds perfect for traveling. I’m not the type to use these products obsessively; I think I clean well enough in the shower, thank you. I can see their appeal for pre- and post-coital clean up though: enter Elexa Freshening Cloths! Now that’s some clever marketing.

As for the Vibrating Ring, Trojan began marketing this product about a year ago and I doubt it’s changed much for its woman-friendly incarnation. It’s a simple rubber ring, basically like the base of a condom, with a tiny bullet vibrator in it; it’s meant to be worn around the base of the penis, providing extra stimulation for him. According to several (apparently quite well-endowed) friends and acquaintances who have tried it, the vibrating ring feels great while it lasts – but then the ring busts. What a bummer! But my major beef with this product is the utter wastefulness. They’re intended to be a single-use product (and each comes packaged with a single condom). If you just want to see if vibrating cock rings are for you, this is the perfect option (assuming it doesn’t bust before you can do the deed). But dear lord, I hope people don’t start buying these on a regular basis. I can hear it now: “I’m running to the Stop & Shop to pick up some more Vibrating Rings honey – don’t start without me!” Couples who find that they really like the sensation should invest a little ahead of time buy a regular vibrating cock ring. You’ll save money in the long run, and it’s not creating lots of extra waste!

What I would really love to see Trojan do with this new line is to market a dental dam. A dental dam is a square sheet of very thin latex which can be used between giver and receiver during oral sex on a woman (cunnilingus) or oral-anal sex (commonly called analingus). Why use a dental dam? Because STIs can be transmitted during oral sex. The one that gets people’s attention is herpes. If your partner has a cold sore – even just the very beginning of one – and s/he give you head, s/he could give you genital herpes. You don’t want genital herpes, but you do want to get head? Use a dental dam.

Dental dams are generally considered a novelty item and are pretty expensive; at Wild Hearts in Provincetown they sell for $1.65 apiece, as opposed to condoms, which sell for about a dollar individually. Even at Smith, where I’d like to think that oral sex on a woman is taken seriously, dental dams are in short supply – partly because of the prohibitive cost to Health Services of purchasing them, and partly because of PSE’s inability (try as we might) to convince people that they should be using them. Now, if Trojan’s brilliant marketing execs got behind dental dams, maybe people would sit up and pay attention. Not to mention the fact that it would make Elexa a little less heterocentric and a little less androcentric. So far the only product they’ve released that’s really about her pleasure is the Intimacy Gel, and although the Elexa website and the Blog they sponsor are both choc-full of sex-positivity, it’s all for straight women. Some of us like women, damnit! And dykes use condoms too! If Elexa wants to be a woman's perspective, maybe they should start by realizing that there's more than one.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Toys for Boys, HIV Testing, Ortho Evra, and Blogs

I really don't like to be one of those people who fawns all over a "star", but Rachel Kramer Bussel is just so ungodly awesome I can hardly stand it. Check out this weeks Lusty Lady on Boys' Toys, and if you want more RKB check out her blog. Also, I can probably tell you more about the Aneros than you'll ever need to know, all thanks to a summer spent in Provincetown.

The CDC yesterday issued a statement urging all Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 to be tested for HIV, and those with high-risk behavior to be tested yearly (New York Times). This would likely involve the repeal or adaptation of state laws requiring signed consent for testing and pre-test counseling, which the ACLU and AIDS advocacy coalitions oppose on the grounds that they could turn widespread voluntary testing into mandatory testing. More on this sometime soon.

Ortho Evra, the birth control patch, went through a rough time the past year or two when it was linked to a higher incidence of stroke, blood clots, and heart attacks. Recently the FDA produced the following amended health risk label; I'm not sure how much better it makes me feel, but I don't think it would stop me from using the patch (which, incidentally, I did for a while -- feel free to ask me about it).

Important Safety Information: Most side effects of the Patch are not serious and those that are, occur infrequently. Serious risks, which can be life threatening, include blood clots, stroke and heart attacks and are increased if you smoke cigarettes. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of serious cardiovascular side effects, especially if you are over 35. Women who use the Patch are strongly advised not to smoke. Some women should not use the Patch, including women who have blood clots, certain cancers, a history of heart attack or stroke, as well as those who are or may be pregnant.

Hormones from patches applied to the skin get into the blood stream and are removed from the body differently than hormones from birth control pills taken by mouth. You will be exposed to about 60% more estrogen if you use ORTHO EVRA than if you use a typical birth control pill containing 35 micrograms of estrogen. In general, increased estrogen exposure may increase the risk of side effects. However, it is not known if there are differences in the risk of serious side effects based on the differences between ORTHO EVRA and a birth control pill containing 35 micrograms of estrogen.

Last but not least: I'm continually updating the Links section, and there's some really good stuff there now! Especially check out Girl with a One Track Mind. Funny stuff!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ms. Magazine: the I Had an Abortion Petition

In the spirit of the 1972 debut issue of Ms. Magazine, in which 53 important US figures signed their names to a statement declaring that they had had abortions, Ms. is sponsoring another "I Had an Abortion" petition. This release from the magazine's website says it best:

It is time to speak out again– in even larger numbers —and to make politicians face their neighbors, influential movers and shakers, and yes, their family members. We cannot, must not—for U.S. women and the women of the world—lose the right to safe, legal, and accessible abortion or access to birth control.

Women who have had abortions can authorize Ms. Magazine to print their names in a (long, long) list of women who have signed the petition in the October 10th issue. Women who have not had abortions can also sign, in solidarity. The petition will be delivered to the president and members of congress.

Whether or not you've had an abortion, if you're a woman who supports other women's right to safe, legal, and accessible abortion (not to mention birth control and comprehensive sexuality education), please go here to sign the petition. It's a small thing for each of us individually, but together we can make a big impression.

I Want to be Phthalate Free!

This is a fabulous article by Emily Gertz about the materials our sex toys are made of. To summarize: Many sex toys are made of soft rubber material (cyberskin, jelly-rubber) that contains phthalates (THALE-ates). Phthalates are in PVC, and are most recognizable by their smell -- eau-de-new-shower-curtain. The stuff is considered toxic, and you probably don't want it in any orifice.

A review of my personal collection reveals:
  • 1 PVC toy (that's okay, it wasn't one of my favorites anyway)
  • 1 totally safe Vixen silicone toy
  • 1 toy of indeterminate material, but probably containing phthalates, which is sad. I really liked that one.
  • 1 stainless steel toy, my hands-down favorite, the Kegelcisor
The take-home lesson? You're always in the clear with silicone, steel, and pyrex glass toys. Definitely something to take into consideration the next time you're in the market.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Romania to Legalize Prostitution

In order to curb the spread of STDs and human sex-trafficking, Romanian authorities plan to legalize prostitution. Prostitution laws in Romania before the switch have been a lot like those in the United States, with the crime being punishable by fines or short prison stays, but according to this article it was considered a petty crime and only the fines were every really doled out.

Fleshbot is quick to point out that you don't see the US media rushing to cover this hot story. I think it's safe to say we can add "legalized prostitution" to the long list of things the media isn't reporting.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Sexual Evolution is now searchable on!

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Playing Rough; or, How Not to Run a Business

This article, published on the front page of the Cape Cod Times on September 3rd, pretty much sums up my summer.

That's not true exactly: there was a lot more drama within the confines of the store than the article lets on, and there was a lot more fun outside the store. And sometimes there was a lot of fun in the store. And sometimes there was a lot of fun outside the store, with products purchased at the store. That's an employee discount that's hard to beat!