Thursday, August 31, 2006

Savage Love on Jane and Jack

Dan Savage discusses the Times article on FTM transsexualism in this week's Savage Love.

"At the risk of being burned in effigy at the next dyke march, the fluidity of female sexual identity sure does make me appreciate the solidity of male sexual identity."

He puts it too bluntly, coming off as the asshole we all know and love, but the idea that females have a more fluid sexuality and sexual identity than males is intriguing. It's tempting to think it might have something to do with sex hormones -- maybe estrogen-heavy systems are more affected by slight variations. I'm going to revert back to the old girls-can-wear-pants explanation though. It is more acceptable in a patriarchal society for a woman to want to behave like a man (which is the perception of masculine behavior, FTM transsexualism, and even lesbianism) than for a man to want to behave like a woman, because women are simply trying to move up the chain of command. What kind of man would debase himself by giving up power? A sissy, that's who. A little tautological? Yeah, maybe. Don't tell me, tell the guys in charge.

It's fall. Can you tell I'm missing Smith?

HPV Vaccine... and Jackalopes?

New York Times ran an interesting article about the history of the HPV vaccine. Fluffy, but very interesting to history geeks and sex geeks alike. And sex-history nerds? We hardly know what to do with ourselves! Thanks to CD for the tip.

Incidentally, when my sister enquired at her clinic as to whether they'd be carrying the vaccine, she was told that they would automatically offer it to all of their patients 14-24 years old. Her name is already on the list. It's funny how even though sex-safety is such a broad, community based thing for me, when it's that close to home -- and it's working -- I just want to cry in relief.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Future is Now

Danielle Corsetto's Girls With Slingshots is right on the money with this one. For the record, they do make usb-powered vibes. They also make ones that plug into your ipod and pulse with the rhythm of the music, and even ones that plug into your cell-phone and are controlled by the person you're talking to (which I've seen in distributor catalogues in the store, but can't seem to find online). And how could I forget x-box controlled vibes? The technology is called teledildonics. Sex toys and porn, always on the cutting edge of technology!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Trouble with the New York Times, and Bravo Mich Womyn's Fest!

I've been sitting on this for days, having told myself I had to finish my application (due tomorrow) before I could blog this week. I'm relieved to finally be able to unleash my wrath.

Edited 9/6/06

In The Trouble when Jane becomes Jack, published by the New York Times on August 20th, Paul Vitello recounts the experience of the lesbian community in dealing with female-to-male (FTM) transsexuals. That he represents the story from the point of view of the lesbian community, particularly those in the community who consider FTMs to be “traitors”, is an interesting choice. That he entirely neglects to report on the experience of transitioning (the social and medical process by which FTMs bring their bodies into accordance with their being), that he muddles pronoun usage, and that he either overlooks or chooses not to use the proper vocabulary in many places confuses the issue and makes it sound as though these men might actually be the “traitors” many women make them out to be.

It is possible that Vitello chose to avoid the correct terminology out of fear that it would confuse the general public – and, since the article was printed in the widely read Style section, that seems like a sensible concern. By trying to adapt the too-simple labels “man” and “woman” to fit the situation, though, he misrepresents transsexualism. An example:

“The increasing number of women who are choosing to pursue life as a man can provoke a deep resentment...”
While many men of transsexual experience might have emerged from lesbian communities in the sense that they were accepted there, had friends there, and sometimes really identified as lesbians, they are not "women... choosing to pursue life as a man." They are men, choosing to pursue life as men, just like other men get to. They are not women. Many will say they never were women, even though they lived as women for a period of time. Again, in the following passages, Vitello uses the word “women” to describe transmen who probably would not have used that particular term for themselves during their period of transition:

“The word for the process is “to transition,” a modest verb for what in women usually means, at the minimum, a double mastectomy and heavy doses of hormones...”

“For women especially, the genital surgery is still risky.”

What Vitello actually means here is, "For FTMs," "For female-bodied people," or even "for those considering genital reconstruction of a penis,” but since he chose not to introduce the proper terminology at the beginning of the article he cannot employ it here.

Shane Caya is quite the manly-man, pictured in the article with his daughter and ex and showing off his top-surgery (or, as Vitello would say, “double mastectomy”) scars with his muscles and tattoos and goatee. Shane's ex, a lesbian, decided to leave him when he decided to transition, because she didn't want to be in a relationship with a man. Totally fair, totally legitimate, and totally representative of the fact that Shane -- who the author refers to as "she" on at least one occasion -- is not a woman choosing to pursue life as a man, but a man pure and simple. Vitello does not discuss the experience of transitioning from the perspective of those who go through it. If he had researched that side of the story a little more completely, he might have been able to represent the ways in which a man who transitions is not being a traitor to the lesbian community, but loyal to himself. Lesbian drama might make for a more fun, accessible story, but it doesn’t do much to increase public understanding of trans issues.

In other news, the article mentions Michigan Womyns Music Festival and its ban on anyone who doesn't fit the description "women born as women and living as women." This year, Festival organizers changed their tune and decided to allow all women, even those of transsexual experience, onto the premises. Hooray! And it's about damn time. The press release from camp trans follows:

Michigan Women's Music Festival ends policy of discrimination against trans
women: After 15 years of controversy, supporters welcome trans women to 'the land'

HART, MICHIGAN - The Michigan Women's Music Festival began admitting openly
trans (transgender/transsexual) women last week, bringing success to a
longstanding struggle by trans activists both inside and outside the
festival.

"Seeing trans women inside the festival for the first time brought me to
tears," said Sue Ashman, who attends the festival every year. "It's
restored my faith in women's communities."

Ashman said "I have friends who have already committed to bringing
themselves and others for the first time next year."

Organizers of Camp Trans, the annual protest across the road from the
festival, say that every year at least one trans woman at Camp Trans walks
to the festival gate with a group of supporters, explains that she is trans,
and tries to buy a ticket. In past years, the festival box office has
produced a printed copy of the policy and refused.

"This time, the response was, 'cash or credit?'" said Jessica Snodgrass, a
Camp Trans organizer and festival attendee who spent the week reaching out
to supporters inside the fest. "They said the festival has no policy
barring any woman from attending."

The woman purchased her ticket on Wednesday and joined supporters inside the
festival. Another trans woman, Camp Trans organizer Emilia Lombardi, joined
on Friday to facilitate a scheduled workshop discussion on the
recently-retired policy.

"This kind of discussion has happened before inside the fest," said
Lombardi. "But for the first time in years, trans women were part of the
conversation. Over 50 women shared their thoughts about what the inclusion
of trans women means for the Festival and how we can move forward."

"We didn't expect to change anyone's minds in the workshop - but in the end
we didn't need to. The support we found was overwhelming."

Both trans women say they were moved by how friendly and supportive other
festival attendees were.

"We spent all day inside the festival, talking with other women about how
Michigan has grown to embrace the diversity of women's experience," Lombardi
said. "The attitudes of festival goers have definitely shifted since the
early 90's."

With their original mission accomplished, organizers say Camp Trans will
continue to be a place for trans people and allies to build community, share
ideas, and develop strategies for change. And they will keep working
together with festival workers and attendees to make sure trans women who
attend the fest next year have support and resources.

Camp Trans will partner with a group of supporters inside the fest next year
to establish an anti-transphobia area within the festival. Representatives
from Camp Trans and A group of festival workers and attendees, organizing
under the name "The Yellow Armbands," plan to educate people on trans issues
and provide support to trans and differently gendered women. Festival
attendees have worn yellow armbands for the past three years as a symbol of
pro-trans inclusion solidarity.

Both Camp Trans and supporters at the fest say they are excited to be
working together to welcome trans women and support a trans-inclusive,
women-only space.

"This is not about winning," said Snodgrass. "It's about making our
communities whole again. The policy divided people against each other who
could be fighting on the same side. We want to be part of the healing
process."

Camp Trans (camp-trans.org) is an effort to end discrimination against trans
women within women's communities. For 14 years, Camp Trans has been a site
for trans people and allies to protest the policy, build community, and
develop strategies for change.

BACKGROUND

The festival's policy against trans women was first enforced in 1991, when
festival security ejected Nancy Burkholder from the grounds of the festival.

As the largest women-only festival of its kind, and as one of the few
remaining women's events to openly discriminate against trans women, the
festival was well known for its policy, drawing criticism from trans
activists and festival attendees. Two years ago, a group of attendees
deployed a 25-foot banner opposing the policy during the headline act.


EC OTC

Finally! After three years of dragging their feet, the FDA has approved over-the-counter sale of emergency contraception. Plan B will be available to those over the age of 18 at pharmacies without a prescription.

Those under 18 will still need a prescription, even though (as Planned Parenthood's press release points out) there is no scientific basis for the cutoff. Doctors decided on the 18+ cutoff because there are already other products which are available to those 18 and up and require proof of age -- specifically, tobacco products. The FDA says that the non-minor cutoff age will make it easier for pharmacies to keep track. I say, comparing a product that could keep a girl from getting pregnant to one that could cause her to die of lung cancer is bullshit.

Don't get me wrong. It would be great if every 16 year old girl who'd had unprotected sex or a condom accident -- and the boy she'd been with -- could sit down with a respectful, caring doctor for a nice conversation about why and how to be more careful next time. But that's not the reality, and many young women would rather take their chances with pregnancy than figure out how to get to and pay for a clinic appointment or (the horror!) tell their parents. As Cecile Richards put it:
The U.S. has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the western world — anything that makes it harder for teenagers to avoid unintended pregnancy is bad medicine and bad public policy.
I would buy my sisters or any of their friends Plan-B in an instant if they needed it. Hopefully lots of young women will have supportive older women they can turn to when they need it.

NYTimes goes into detail on the abortion-politics that held the decision back for so long here.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Tristan Taormino on "The Slut Shot"

Pucker Up, Tristan Taormino's Village Voice column, covers the new HPV Vaccine this week in an article called The Slut Shot.

I was thrilled to note that my parent's health insurance (which no longer covers me, but still covers my sister) is one of the companies that has committed to covering the vaccine. Taormino makes some great points about the importance of making the vaccine a requirement for school and the real meaning behind right-wing rhetoric about the vaccination. Definitely one of her better articles of late.

Notes on Provincetown's Carnival celebration coming soon!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

La Petite Mort

Most porn is gross, and most erotica is cheesy. Finally, someone has caught on to what makes sex... well, sexy.

At Beautiful Agony, contributers send in videos of themselves coming -- just like lots of other amature sites, right? Not really. The only nudity in Beautiful Agony's clips is from the shoulders up -- and according to the site's philosophy, "That's where people are truly naked."

Now, I'm not very adventurous when it comes to masturbation. I figure I know how to do a damn good job myself -- what do I need all that extra stuff for? Occasionally if I needed some inspiration I'd head on over to Literotica.com. If I was feeling really adventurous I might dig up some free (short, grainy, and generally unappealing) video clips. Hell, I didn't even own a vibrator until I was 20, and when it broke within a month I didn't miss it. Before Beautiful Agony, my most recent porn find was 89.com (free clips every day).

But oh oh oh, Beautiful Agony.

It's amazing. The view from directly-above, the facial expressions, and good lord, the sounds! The format is nothing short of sex-positive brilliance. The people who run Beautiful Agony have recognized that very little is sexier than watching someone get off, and I wholeheartedly agree. It's almost enough to restore a girl's faith in human sexuality.

Here's a mashup from YouTube -- it's like a movie trailer, only much sexier. There are lots of clips on YouTube (just search "Beautiful Agony"), or you can get the freebies on the website.



PS: If you made it past that first link and are still reading, I have to admit, I'm impressed!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Creating a Sexual Self-Inventory

What follows is not my own personal sexual inventory, but the most broadly-ranging and inclusive list of "Sexual Activities" I've seen in print. It comes from the book A Survivor's Guide to Sex by Staci Haines (1999).

  • admiring asses
  • anal sex
  • being penetrated deeply
  • being tied up
  • biting my lover's breasts
  • caressing a lover to orgasm
  • cross-dressing
  • cyber-sex
  • double penetration
  • dressing slutty
  • dripping hot wax on skin
  • erotic dancing
  • exhibitionism
  • eye contact
  • fantasizing about making love
  • fisting
  • flirting
  • foot worship
  • french kissing
  • fucking
  • gender play
  • getting a piercing or tattoo
  • getting head
  • giving head
  • golden showers
  • group sex
  • hair pulling
  • having my breasts stroked
  • having my ears and neck licked
  • having sex while blindfolded
  • holding hands
  • hugging
  • intercourse
  • kissing
  • kissing my partner's nipples
  • kneeling
  • looking at my lover's body
  • massage
  • masturbating with a vibrator
  • modeling for erotic photos
  • orgasm
  • outdoor sex
  • phone sex
  • playing with butt plugs
  • playing with feathers
  • playing with ice cubes
  • playing with nipple clamps
  • playing with riding crops
  • playing with saran wrap
  • putting on a condom
  • reading erotic fiction
  • reading sex manuals
  • rimming
  • role-playing
  • shaving
  • spanking
  • talking about sex with friends
  • talking about sex with a potential partner
  • tickling
  • tying up my lover
  • uing dildos and harnesses
  • using essential oils
  • voyeurism
  • watching erotic movies
  • wearing a man's suit and tie
  • wearing corsets and sexy lingerie
  • wearing leather
  • wearing rubber/latex clothing
  • whipping
  • wrestling
  • writing in a journal about sex

It seems obvious that the list would be inclusive on the "vanilla" end, since it's aimed at survivors; an experience that might not seem sexual at all to someone without that experience (hugging, for example) might be a loaded act to a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. On the other hand, we would all do well to realize that we define -- in our heads, every moment -- what is and is not sexual activity. There's a big difference between a platonic hug and one that turns your motor, and that second one an definitely be a sexual activity.

I like that the list is so inclusive on the other end of the spectrum. There's an assumption in our society that survivors are too delicate for even the most gentle sex. That someone who has experienced abuse or assault might explore and embrace her kinky side is rarely discussed. Haines takes it almost as far as it can go, even including a full chapter on SM in the book. She assumes that survivors can safely and carefully push their boundaries, just like anyone else.

I like the idea of a sexual self-inventory. What have I done? What did I enjoy? What do I not want to do again? What would I like to try? It did two things for me: allowed me to take stock of the status of my current sex-life as it compares to my ideal, and to appreciate the breadth of the spectrum of my own sexuality.

What's missing? Some classics, actually: oral sex and manual stimulation. Also, bloodsports (cutting) and scat (excrement) play, although golden showers made the list. Anything else? Suggestions?