Saturday, June 09, 2007

Movin' On

Sad news, kids.

I've picked up a new project -- one that I'm really excited about. But it precludes me blogging here at Sexual Evolution. I honestly feel a sense of loss akin to ...well, what I imagine leaving summer camp must be like.

But now, like Candy and Pre before me, I'm closing up shop. I'll still be reading others' blogs and commenting from time to time, and you can still reach me at sexualevolution at gmail dot com.

So long... and thanks for all the fish smart sex talk!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Nimoy's Nudes



We all know what William Shatner's been up to these days, but who knew Leonard Nimoy (that's Mr. Spock, for those of you whose mothers weren't teenage Star Trek fans) was shooting nudes and showing his work?

Okay, actually lots of people knew. I just wasn't one of them.

Anyway, the Times Magazine piece on his latest work with women of size -- a collection of photos he's been working on for eight years -- isn't too terribly interesting, but it's a good summary of how he ended up taking photos of fat women and how he feels about it. It tries to give the reader a glimpse of fat activism, kind of, but it doesn't really.

I really want to see the photographs now. Luckily some of them are showing in Northampton (apparently the most liberal city in the most liberal state in the country, according to gallery owner Richard Michelson), where I will be in the middle of next week. At first I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get the beau to go with me, but then I remembered: he loves photography. Oh, and naked women.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I will stand in the rain on the corner...


It’s pouring here, the kind of rain that’s perfect for a first date. Two people who’ve just met, or met last week, or who’ve known each other for years and were suddenly drawn to each other by the immense heat of the past week – they’re out on the town, glowing, giving each other those looks. I saw those looks over and over tonight, before the rain started. “I can’t believe you’re with me,” is what that look says, and to anyone who will pay attention, “look! she’s with me!”

And then the rain starts, and sheer summer shirts stick to wet skin, and suddenly everyone is laughing. Rain like this always feels a little absurd because it seems to come from nowhere, and when it comes it isn’t kidding. You’ve got no chance to prepare yourself for this. Couples on first dates stand together under awnings, laughing and wringing out their shirts, proffering jackets, offering to hold umbrellas, gauging the probability that the rain will let up and considering making a run for it, whatever ‘it’ happens to be. And they’re grinning. They look like drowned rats, and yet somehow they just can’t wipe the smiles off their faces. I hope they take advantage of the downpour – few things are more romantic than making out in that kind of driving rain, especially when it comes on the heels of this kind of heat and humidity. I hope they tell their kids one day about getting caught in a downpour on their first date.

I walked home alone, my umbrella stowed away in my bag, my flip-flops squeak-squeaking as I struggled to keep them from sliding off my feet. Rain like this is meant for running through grass and on blacktop in bare feet and rolled up jeans (or, y’know, underwear), seeing who can make the biggest splash. Poorly drained city streets with god knows what in the stormwater aren’t made for that kind of romping. But city streets in summer storms were made for first dates.

(photo: Amanda a la drowned rat, El Yunque PR. Somehow we managed to forget that it would probably rain in the rainforest. Man, that was an awesome day.)

There’s something fishy going on.


Researchers studying water and aquatic life have found males of several species of fish whose gonads don’t quite match up. In waterways around Seattle, some male English sole have proteins normally only found in females. Male Potomac River bass and sunfish have been found carrying immature eggs. Down in Nevada, male carp in a particular lake – one subject to Las Vegas wastewater runoff – have depressed levels of male sex hormones and smaller than average testes. And in California, male fish off the coast of LA and Orange County have been found with ovarian tissue in their testes. Feminized fish are also found in England, Japan, and Denmark.

The culprit? Many would have you look no further than that little pack of pills on your bedside table. Synthetic estrogens in hormonal birth control trick the body out of ovulating, but they don’t just stay in the body and build up forever. A woman takes her pill with her morning coffee, drinks her eight glasses of water a day, and eventually those hormones get flushed town the toilet. When wastewater is spilled or leaks into waterways (through leaky sewers and pipes, storm drain overflow, or from wastewater treatment centers), those hormones are released into the wild, where they act as endocrine disruptors for fish. The endocrine system regulates growth and development in all animals – disrupt it, and you get animals that don’t develop correctly.

Scientists have found relatively low levels of estrogens in most of the bodies of water examined, but those low levels have been enough to have an impact on the development of aquatic life, and many are concerned for the reproductive future of fish. If you’re not worried (you never really liked fish anyway), think about the worst case scenario: feminization of male fish leads to widespread reproductive failure, declining fish supplies, the collapse of the fishing industry, increased reliance on non-aquatic protein supplies, and not enough land for the necessary increase in agriculture. It would be a problem in the US, but for Japan it would be a disaster, and for non-industrial countries relying primarily on protein from fish it would probably be the beginning of the end.

But we’re not there yet. Doomsday scenario aside, there is something going on with all those estrogens. Many news reports have implied that the bulk of the blame lies with hormonal birth control (and, to a lesser extent, hormone replacement therapy), meanwhile ignoring the vast number of estrogen-mimics in the environment from pollutants. Chemicals contained in many detergents, in bath oils and some cosmetics, and in pesticides act as endocrine disruptors in the same fashion as synthetic estrodiol. Even more pervasively, plastics often contain ingredients that mimic estrogens – one of which, bisphenol A, has been linked to birth defects in humans. These chemicals are often referred to as ‘ubiquitous’ by researchers who realize that the compounds will be found (in varying degrees) in essentially any water test performed.

Hormonal birth control, meanwhile, may be one of the most sustainable inventions ever created – if we use it properly. Because pills are relatively expensive and difficult to distribute (both problems which probably wouldn’t be that hard to overcome), their use in developing countries has yet to become widespread. Giving women and families the option of hormonal birth control (along with condoms and education) could go a long way towards solving the population problem. Otherwise, dwindling resources coupled with increasing populations will likely lead to population control via genocide and war (as in Rwanda; Jared Diamond’s extraordinary book Collapse does a great job of analyzing that scenario).

It’s true that synthetic hormones in birth control are contributing to the feminization of fish. As a first world country, we should take the lead in developing birth control methods that are even more sustainable – both personally and globally. For the time being, women who would prefer birth control sans hormones can consider using a diaphragm or IUD.

Meanwhile, cutting back drastically on our nasty plastic habit would decrease the amount of trash in our landfills, the level of endocrine disruptors in our water, and our over-dependence on petrochemicals. That’s three problems in one fell swoop.

Researchers are working on ways to filter endocrine blockers out of wastewater, and no one is actually suggesting that women should stop using hormonal birth control. Still, the Pill is getting an undue amount of attention in the fish feminization scandal. We (the media, all of it) should put a little more emphasis on the plastics industry and the byproduct of our petrochemical dependence.

(fabulous fish photo by wistine)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Good Magazine: Pornographic Transparency

Over the past week I have fallen in love with Good Magazine -- and this video just solidifies that. Good is a magazine "for people who give a damn", and the current issue features articles on corporate greenwashing, innovative transportation solutions in Europe, and (this is novel) an unbiased look at women married to inmates. Their hard copy is even on recycled paper.

In the video, model/actress Kelle Marie's body is the canvas for a series of factoids about internet pornography. I think the term 'ironic' can be appropriately applied here. Via Fleshbot.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pro-Choice Birth-Activist Reproductive Freedom Fighter


Radical doula Miriam Pérez believes that pro-choice activism and birth activism go hand in hand. Those who subscribe to the beliefs of either group don’t generally agree: pro-choicers are so caught up in protecting women’s rights NOT to parent, and midwifery groups so busy diligently advocating for pregnant women, that neither has the time to examine what the other has to offer (and, of course, not all midwives and doulas are pro-choice). But, Pérez points out, “Anti-choice activism and overly-medicalized birthing practices are both based on a lack of trust in women.”

Her Campus Progress article does a great job of pointing out the ways in which the two camps compliment each other. Both movements address “the narrowing scope of women’s choices.” They attempt to offer safety and support to women as they undergo difficult procedures, too often under difficult circumstances. And in both the delivery room and right-wing politics, the woman in question is forced to take a back seat to the fetus she carries. This, to Pérez, is the strongest correlation between birth- and pro-choice activism: “Both are attempts to fight back against rhetoric that prioritizes the unborn fetus instead of the adult woman.” The article also does a great job rounding up the basic facts and figures about home and hospital births.

But oh, these divisions! Pérez is right, birth activists and pro-choice activists have a lot in common. And they have a lot in common with those who advocate for comprehensive sexuality education. All three often have a lot in common with those who lobby for universal health care and for flex-time. When we talk about all of these issues, more often than not, we’re talking about the same thing: reproductive freedom. But abortion is a divisive issue, as are comprehensive sex ed and even universal health care for some. It’s true: allying abortion rights with universal health care would probably hurt the case for universal health care. So instead of getting together and agreeing that we’re all talking about the same thing (more or less), we divide it up into bits and pieces. In the end, though, all of those things affect reproductive freedom. It’s about the right to reproduce – or not – when and how we want, the right to affordable and accessible health care, the right to the knowledge we need to make informed decisions, the ability to make motherhood a viable part of our complex lives if we choose to, and the right (and the NEED) to be heard and supported when it comes to our reproductive choices – whether that means choosing not to continue a pregnancy or choosing to give birth naturally. All the little slivers of the overarching issue, put together, could mean huge advances for women’s equality.

Check out Miriam Pérez’s blog Radical Doula for lots more information on midwifery, reproductive freedom and progressive politics – it’s good stuff!

PS - thanks to Frank for the tip!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

It's baaack...

Last month a friend called and asked for a quick consult on STI testing. I ran down a list of STIs I thought were relevant: Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, HIV, and herpes, HPV if insurance covered the more expensive and slightly more accurate test. "What about syphilis?" my friend asked, and I felt a little silly for having left it off the list, but (despite the outbreak in season two of Grey's Anatomy) rates of syphilis dropped enormously over the course of the 20th century, and generally speaking it's not something many people need to worry about.

But according to this Washington Post article, rates have been on the rise again in the past three years in Virginia and DC. The article alludes to outbreaks occurring in the gay male community, but the jump in numbers is alarming no matter who you're sleeping with: in the District, it went from a record low 38 reported cases in 2003 to 115 cases in 2006.

Much more info in the CDC Syphilis Fact sheet.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

How I spent my day off...

I just looked around and realized that I'm laying in bed with a vibrator, a bag of chocolates, and a notebook and pen. This is how days off are meant to be, I think. At least once in a while.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sustainable Underwear


Remember my quest for the perfect black lace bra? I found one. I’m not sure I’d call it perfect, but it is black lace and sexy as hell (if I do say so myself). I got the matching underwear, too, but because the website I bought the bra from didn’t have the underwear in black I had to buy it from a different company and have it shipped separately. The underwear arrived first, and as I unwrapped it I was totally blown away by the amount of packaging that had been used to send me one itty bitty piece of fabric.

It started with a brown shipping box, somewhere along the lines of 8x8x6. That’s a lot of box for not a lot of underwear. Inside the box, a couple of sheets of lavender tissue paper were meant to make me feel as though I was receiving a present. (An old trick. Back in my days at the toy store I was a sex-toy shipping queen: slip the toy into a satin storage bag, surround it with leopard print tissue, write the customer a glowing thank you note along with any care instructions for the toy, and toss in a few packets of lube to show our appreciation – that’s how you get repeat customers.) Beneath the tissue were two printouts – a return form, and an advertisement from the company – on standard paper, printed in color ink. And beneath that…

My underwear? Oh no. That would be too straightforward. Instead I found yet another box, this one about a tenth of the size of the first, printed with the fancy French lingerie company’s name. and inside that, finally, were my new panties – panties so small they fit literally in the palm of my hand. Amazing the resources that were used to get this little pair of underwear onto my bottom.

By amazing, of course, I mean sad and scary. I didn’t think to check the return address to see where they had been shipped from, but I’m guessing it was fairly far away (meaning lots of carbon output). Add to that the synthetic materials used to make the underwear, the fact that I have no idea where or how or under what conditions they were made, and you’ve got one very non-sustainable purchase. Shame on me. On the upside, the experience was significant guilt-inducing that I’ll be a lot more thoughtful the next time I purchase fancy undergarments.

Certain companies have caught on to the fact that we – ecologically conscious consumers of sexy stuff – want more than just organic cotton briefs (although those are great too). For great options in “green” underwear, check out Enamore, GreenKnickers, and Peau-Ethique. Also Buenostyle, whose "Eat Organic" panties are freaking hysterical, and BUTTA, whose products are made in Africa under good work conditions. The only problem is that every time I look at their website I can distinctly hear my first boyfriend hissing "bring me the butta" in his best mobster accent. Ah, memories.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Happy No Pants Day!


I've never liked pants very much. The beau and I had only been "dating" for a couple of weeks when I walked through a rainstorm to his apartment, threw down my bag, and immediately stripped off my soaked-to-the-knees pants. At the time he was a little less keen on no-pants than myself, so I was worried that he'd think I was weird -- after all, what kind of girl walks into a room and takes off her pants? But I'm happy to report that my no-pants policy has, um, rubbed off on him.

Like the bio says, I'm a big fan of no pants time. I mean really, they just get in the way, and they're restrictive. As long as there's no one around who minds, who needs them? I'd much rather be in my underwear or my ex-boyfriend's boxers. Or in my unpants, which are size XL elastic waist tee-shirt material pants that say "Smith" across the ass. They're so comfy it's like you're not even wearing them.

Some very bright people at the University of Texas invented No Pants Day to bring no pants time to the masses. I've got to say, of all the silly made up celebrations, this is probably my favorite. Now all we need is to get business and workplaces to understand the importance of No Pants!

C'mon, take 'em off. You know you want to.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Theory Heads, Take Note

Heather Corinna has written a long and very interesting post about the problematic nature of "sex positive feminism" as a category. It's really worth a read if feminist theory interests you. This response post is a little less to-the-point, more rambly, and less cohesive than my usual post, but bear with me.

Clearly, sometime this fall, I decided that "sex positive feminist" was a label I could claim for myself. Before that I had claimed "sex positive", but as for feminist... I guess I thought it went without saying. Anyway, Corinna raises some very important points, most importantly (I think) that these kinds of divisions amongst feminists aren't beneficial. While it's true that my opinions on pornography and sex work and the "adult industry" might differ from another feminist's, we still have a common goal, and for most of the relevant issues our differing perspectives on sex won't be pertinent.

She points out the sex-negative "strawfeminist" -- that is, that no such feminist exists -- to which I initially reacted "well of course no one labels herself that way." She creates a women's sexual autonomy manifesto of sorts, which is worth quoting:
To whit: women DO need the agency to have sex (or physical and emotional intimacy combined, however you’d like to put it or whatever you’d like to have) on their terms, and by their definition, that is pleasurable, that is real communion, that honors our bodies and selves.

Women DO need real sexual autonomy and ownership of our bodies and our sexualities.

Women DO need a cultural sexuality that includes them, truly allows for them, and which holds them in equal regard.

Women DO need to be able to define sex on our own terms, whatever they may be, and have equal allowance made for us to even be able to discover what our authentic sexualities and terms even are — to truly author our own sexuality — free of pressures to make our sexuality fit, support or enable a cultural model of sexuality which men created, not women, and which men created without much, if any, accord for women. Hell, we didn’t even get to be the ones who named our own parts.

She follows it with an assertion that radical feminists recognize that masculine sexual culture is one source of women's oppression. That may be true, and I also think she's right that most feminists affirm the importance of women's sexual equality, but I certainly feel like issues of sexuality are often treated as frivolous and unimportant in radfem circles. The exception, of course, is when pornography and sex work are being burned at the stake as the primary means by which men are keeping women in their place (okay, I'm taking a deep breath, I'm moving past it).

Corinna also worries that adding "sex positive" to the label "feminist" weakens it by half:
To plenty of men, that sex-positive in front of feminist says that either I am the sort of feminist they just don’t have to worry about, because I pose no real threat to them — since I don’t appear to want to take away or limit access to sex — or worse still, in some cases, it says additionally that they will get the heart of what they really want from me — sex — regardless, so who freaking cares if I’m feminist, right? So, you nod and smile when I talk women’s equality and it’s all cool: you’re still getting laid, Joe.

This reminds me of my own rejection of the term "bisexual" based on the fear that people would hear it and assume I was 'easy' or 'greedy'. A housemate of mine put "bisexual -- and still not interested in you!" in her facebook profile to combat that perception; I chose queer as a label instead, for several reasons, but definitely to prevent people from thinking that I'm just a horny bitch who'll do anyone she can get her hands on.

But if we reject terms like bisexual and sex positive based on what other people think we mean by them, aren't we just perpetuating the stereotype? I am sex-positive; that doesn't mean I'm not critical of sexual culture (in fact it may well mean I'm more critical than most), and it sure as hell doesn't mean I'm going to sleep with you. Why should I allow anyone to think that my intellectual and political interest in sex means I'm indiscriminate when it comes to sexual partners? I want a bumper sticker: "sex positive -- and still not interested in you!"

So. Corinna makes a lot of good points, although I don't agree with all of it. Certainly lots to think about, in any case; I think one of the most basic, and most important, points she makes is that feminist "community" isn't sweet and gooey and always supportive. It's hard, and challenging, and critical, and in order to be a part of it you have to be willing examine what's really behind your position.

"Mommy, why aren't yours that big?"

Someone in a New Jersey Comcast facility was very bored yesterday morning. And possibly looking to get fired.
LINCROFT, N.J. Many New Jersey residents watching the Disney Channel Tuesday morning were outraged after the family-friendly programming turned into a pornographic display.

Jennie Sherman still can't believe what happened while she was watching the show "Handy Manny" with her two twin sons.

"We were just sitting here and the screen just froze and then all of a sudden I saw very graphic pornography on the television and I scrambled to get the remote to shut it off," Sherman told CBS 2.

Sherman said she immediately recorded the X-rated graphic video on her DVR. She then e-mailed wcbstv.com to report the shocking news.
Comcast appologized and pointed out that the mistake was theirs and not the Disney Channels.

But seriously, dude: replace MTV with porn, or even ABC Family, but the Disney Channel? That's just wrong.

Monday, April 30, 2007

no wonder I hate the long distance thing...

I feel loved when...

The Five Love Languages

My Primary Love Languages are probably Physical Touch and Quality Time

My Detailed Results:
Physical Touch: 9
Quality Time: 9
Words of Affirmation: 8
Receiving Gifts: 2
Acts of Service: 2

About this quiz

Unhappiness in relationships is often due to the fact that we speak different love languages. It can be helpful to know what language you speak and what language those around you speak.

Take the Quiz!
Check out the Book

Friday, April 27, 2007

If it were up to me... I'd take away the porn?

Hello, my name is Amanda, and I'm an erototoxin addict.

Apparently Dr. Judith Reisman (whose doctorate, by the way, is in communications) believes that the Virginia Tech murders were sparked off in part by the killer's erototoxin addiction.

Erototoxins... is that some kind of new drug? Or maybe it's some kind of chemical being washed into rivers and lakes, and humans get infected by eating too much fish? Damn those chemical companies!

Oh wait, now I remember: erototoxins are a certain kind of endorphin, produced in the brain in response to our "society drenched in sadosexual arousal as entertainment" and, um, porn. Oh, and they have no base in biological reality. According to Dr. Reisman, "erototoxins" "have a toxic effect on everyone and we all know that... We don't need billion-dollar studies to know that." That's right, folks: Dr. Reisman would have us believe that all that smut we've been exposing ourselves to is poisoning our brains.

Luckily we've been informed before our addictions had a chance to go too far. For Seung-Hui Cho, the perpetrator of the Virginia Tech murders, the poison had already done it's job.

In an April 23rd editorial on World Net Daily, Reisman offers a list of contributing factors leading to the killer's actions, including the line about sadosexual arousal as entertainment and creating a mental image of him sitting "at the Internet every night, angrily lusting after naked young blondes who provoke his loins". Her analysis gives lengthy attention to his sexually explicit (and often disturbing) writing and the story that he took upskirt shots of classmates. In an interview with XFANZ, she asserts that "It's a distinct component in predators — frustrated that he can't get the girls he wants to get — and that builds up to a volcanic eruption."

What Reisman doesn't mention -- and this comes as no surprise -- is that all the porn in the world can't kill 33 people in ten minutes. It was a pair of guns that did that. To even insinuate that the cause of Cho's destructive rampage was an addiction to pornography is an insult to the victims of this complex tragedy. It disregards all of the other factors that allowed the killings to happen -- the medical treatment of people suffering from psychological disorders, the response of the University's administration to previous reports of his problems and problematic interactions with classmates, and above all the ease with which he managed to obtain the guns.

Way back in 1997 ('99? somewhere around there), Cheryl Wheeler recorded a song called "if it were up to me." I loved it in high school, but I had forgotten all about it until iTunes played it on random the other night. How incredibly timely. I'm guessing it's not the porn, judging by the number of people who use pornography and lead perfectly normal, healthy lives, but you know what? Even if porn did play some roll here, maybe there are other things we should look to first.

Lyrics reprinted below.
See also Alex Koppleman "Why Democrats Dumped Gun Control" (Salon.com)

# Maybe it's the movies, maybe it's the books
# Maybe it's the bullets, maybe it's the real crooks
# Maybe it's the drugs, maybe it's the parents
# Maybe it's the colors everybody's wearin
# Maybe it's the President, maybe it's the last one
# Maybe it's the one before that, what he done
# Maybe it's the high schools, maybe it's the teachers
# Maybe it's the tattooed children in the bleachers
# Maybe it's the Bible, maybe it's the lack
# Maybe it's the music, maybe it's the crack
# Maybe it's the hairdos, maybe it's the TV
# Maybe it's the cigarettes, maybe it's the family
# Maybe it's the fast food, maybe it's the news
# Maybe it's divorce, maybe it's abuse
# Maybe it's the lawyers, maybe it's the prisons
# Maybe it's the Senators, maybe it's the system
# Maybe it's the fathers, maybe it's the sons
# Maybe it's the sisters, maybe it's the moms
# Maybe it's the radio, maybe it's road rage
# Maybe El Nino, or UV rays
# Maybe it's the army, maybe it's the liquor
# Maybe it's the papers, maybe the militia
# Maybe it's the athletes, maybe it's the ads
# Maybe it's the sports fans, maybe it's a fad
# Maybe it's the magazines, maybe it's the internet
# Maybe it's the lottery, maybe it's the immigrants
# Maybe it's taxes, big business
# Maybe it's the KKK and the skinheads
# Maybe it's the communists, maybe it's the Catholics
# Maybe it's the hippies, maybe it's the addicts
# Maybe it's the art, maybe it's the sex
# Maybe it's the homeless, maybe it's the banks
# Maybe it's the clearcut, maybe it's the ozone
# Maybe it's the chemicals, maybe it's the car phones
# Maybe it's the fertilizer, maybe it's the nose rings
# Maybe it's the end, but I know one thing.
# If it were up to me, I'd take away the guns.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Planned Parenthood's Wall of Protest

Oh, the age of user generated content. Planned Parenthood has created an interactive Wall of Protest, where users can post photos, videos, and comments about the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. I added my two cents. I wouldn't say it's an effective tool for change, but it created quite an impression to see all of those little thumbnails and know they're all people who are as outraged and frightened as me. Here are a few choice quotes:

Dear Supreme Court, By legally mandating my pain, suffering, injury, and endangerment in the face of a safer medical alternative, you are devaluing my humanity in the worst and most institutional way. Your brutality against women and your disrespect for valid Supreme Court jurisprudence will leave blood, shame, and torture on your hands until the end of time.

I don't tell you what to do with your penis, don't tell me what to do with my vagina.

(with a photo of a baby) Beautiful Sophia. A beautiful CHOICE in my life. Please keep abortions safe and legal.

(from a fella) Reactionary fundamentalism has no place making such laws. The hubris of this abortion ban strikes at the heart of Woman, Human, and American rights.

18th century gay rights text discovered

This news story totally does it for both the history nerd and the sex nerd in me:
The 18th Century writings of Thomas Cannon, believed to be one of the first gay activists, have been found by a University of Manchester academic.

According to that BBC article, the text said "Unnatural desire is a contradiction in terms; downright nonsense." I'm pretty sure this judge would agree with him wholeheartedly. I myself don't think I'd go quite that far, but I'm pretty sure his heart was in the right place. Interesting stuff!

PS: Dear BBC, when did 1749 become "ancient"?

So, things have been a little crazy...

I worked a two-week stint of ten-hour days -- and as soon as that was over, I had a convenient couple of days of to move into (drumroll, please...) my new apartment! The last several days have been a flurry of moving and shopping for accouterments (like an absolutely beautiful set of dishes that I decided to splurge on a little, since hey, I'm going to be eating off of them for a while) and opening a bank account here (since at this point it's pretty clear I'll be here a while) and getting internet installed and having online Ikea dates with the Beau to pick out our furniture and... it's been a little overwhelming, but also very gratifying.

Meanwhile, I've missed out on commenting on all kinds of things -- especially the Supreme Court's unfortunate decision to uphold the Partial Birth Abortion Act as constitutional, and North Dakota's trigger law (which will make abortion illegal in the state immediately upon a reversal of Roe v. Wade, heaven forbid). At this point, pretty much anything I would have said has been said. It's all fucking terrifying.

In much better news: Massachusetts has joined the list of states which will decline federal money for abstinence-only programming! Way to go, Deval. We knew you could do it.

Over at Eden Fantasys, my review of the Swinging Pendulum has gone up, as well as an article I wrote for them about Phthalates and sex toys -- check it out!

So: my apologies for the dearth of posts, readers dear. Things ought to get back to normal around here now -- I hope -- for a few weeks at least!

(also: HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my favorite veggie connoisseur!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The American Family Association wants your opinion!

The American Family Association (ugh, just the name makes me shudder. It's so disgustingly biased.) want to know what you think of corporations supporting "the Homosexual Agenda." They've got a combination poll/petition up on their website, which poses the following:

Several corporations are now supporting the homosexual agenda. These companies have been convinced by homosexual activists and the mainstream media that in order to be “fair and tolerant,” companies must make special rules for homosexuals and provide company money and resources to help promote their lifestyle. Many companies, at the urging of these groups, have also begun to support same-sex marriage.


The poll then asks you if you would be more or less likely to support a company who supported the homosexual agenda, or if it wouldn't make a difference. Filling out the petition signs you onto their email list, but you can unsubscribe (after you confirm your vote) by sending a blank email to leave-afapetition@lists.afa.net.

Those nice people at AFA want to know what we think -- I think we ought to tell them!

Click here to answer the poll.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Things Fall Apart

So, apparently the world is falling apart. Nothing new, I guess. Like most people, I'm angry and sad and horrified and scared and sad, sad, sad. I want to take a moment and acknowledge a few things that have happened in the past week. I've started thinking of them in my head as "reasons to become a hermit," although I don't actually believe that's the answer.

I spent all of Monday glued to the radio, terrified to leave, unable to turn it off despite the fact that my heart was alternately in my throat and my stomach. There are no words to express... but for what it's worth, my thoughts are with the students, staff, and faculty at VA Tech, and with the families and friends of the victims.

My heart also goes out to the 23 year old Columbia grad student who was raped, tortured, and left for dead on a burning futon -- and still found the will to escape.

And to the friends and family of Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell, whose body was found in the Philippines more than a week after she disappeared while on a hike.

And to the loved ones of the more than 180 people killed in the series of bombings in Baghdad the past two days.

If there was ever a time to call the people you love, I think this is it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Spanking Dilemma Solved!


Isn't it beautiful? Coco de Mer, the company that makes it, uses fair-trade and renewable resources, and they make truly beautiful, classy looking products. The product description:
A classic wooden paddle, handcrafted by a passionate English spanker. This paddle is ethically made by a fair trade project in India and the wood from a substainable source. So spank away for a better world!
Good stuff, right? Their leather cuffs are beautiful as well, and totally belong on my kinky wishlist.

Abstinence-only programs don't work? Shock!


Bloglandia is abuzz this weekend with the news that a federally funded study of “abstinence only” sex education programs found that they are not effective in reducing sexual activity or increasing age at first sexual activity amongst young people. The study, by Mathematica Policy Research Inc., followed participants from four abstinence-only programs as well as young people from the same communities who were not receiving structured sex education. It is by far the largest study that has been done on the topic, looking at more than two thousand students in cities and in rural communities and conducting long-term follow up research. The four programs studied were chosen because they were supposed to be the “all-star” programs. The federal government spends $176 million funding abstinence-only sex education programs annually (and approximately, oh, PRACTICALLY NOTHING on comprehensive sexuality education). Put it all together into once sentence and this is what you get:

A federally funded study has demonstrated that the government is spending $176 million annually on abstinence education programs that are ineffective while refusing to seriously fund other, potentially more effective comprehensive programs.


This is big news, right? And yet, somehow, it got buried. It was released late on a Friday. There was hardly a word about it on NPR, and major media outlets like the New York Times and CNN have only posted the AP story (the Washington Post does have a staff-written story up, and it’s good). The Bush administration immediately went into spin-control mode, as evidenced by a soundbite from Harry Wilson, a top official at the Administration for Children and Families: "This study isn't rigorous enough to show whether or not [abstinence-only] education works." Clearly this administration wouldn’t recognize rigorous research if it bit them on the ass – I’m suddenly reminded of the rigorous research (read: forged letter) that served as evidence enough for us to start a war in Iraq.

The Medical Institute for Sexual Health, a pro-abstinence organization, released a statement about the report in which they claim that the “small and unrepresentative study sample” (of the programs, that is, not the participants) and “methodological issues” mean that “the study findings provide an insufficient basis for policy decisions.” Clearly, no evidence will ever be enough for these people. They would much rather look to the results from tiny, poorly conducted studies that make their programs look good.

Meanwhile, the researcher at Mathematica who was in charge of the study is quick to point out that the students receiving abstinence-only sex education were no less likely than their peers to use protection when they began having sex. According to the AP article,
“Trenholm said his second point of emphasis was important because some critics of abstinence programs have contended that they lead to less frequent use of condoms.”
In actuality, I think it’s fair to point out, most critics of abstinence-only programs contend that they lead to less frequent use of condoms compared to comprehensive sex education. From what I can tell, this study didn’t examine where or how the control group students were getting their sexual information. No one expects young people to just spontaneously use condoms – that’s why we have a responsibility to educate them about risks and options and consequences with all of the information in our arsenal.

Like I was saying, though: this is big news, despite the fact that it isn’t getting the attention it deserves. The major funding program for abstinence programs is going to expire in June, at which point Congress will have to consider whether or not to renew it. This study gives proponents of comprehensive sexuality education all the evidence they need to get some changes made. Big things are on the horizon, kids. Us sex educator types might actually be able to get jobs some time in the next 5 years!

speaking of sex educators: photo by the brilliant and beautiful G. Reichert !

He's On Top (just where I like him)


People who know me personally know that I have a pretty big friendcrush on Rachel Kramer Bussel, so when I got the chance to participate in her Kinky Virtual Book Tour (For He's On Top and She's On Top, two kinky anthologies she edited) I jumped at the opportunity. Then again, I'm always eager to please! Which brings be back to the subject at hand...

Sometimes I wonder, when “vanilla” people dream of good sex, what do they dream about?

The obvious answer is that -- well, there isn’t an obvious answer. There are endless permutations of “good sex”, dependent entirely on the people involved and their own kinks, fantasies, and sexual history. If you love being ball-gagged, for example, but the idea of gagging you is a turn-off for your partner, it’s not likely to make for hot sex even if you do manage to talk him into it. I had a woman approach me in the store this summer while her husband stood nervously near the entrance. “Do you have anything that will make me want to have sex?” she asked in a barely audible whisper. I tried to suggest clitoral stimulating gel, but then she explained the real problem: she wanted to be roughed up, and her husband was only interested in slow, sweet, romantic sex. We talked for a bit longer, but I wasn’t able to suggest anything that sounded really viable to her. As she left, I thought dear god, please don’t ever let me end up in that situation!

Kinky or vanilla or anywhere in between, though, trust and vulnerability pervade the good sex fantasies of a great many people. Whether you want to be having slow, passionate, stare-deeply-into-my-eyes-and-tell-me-you-love-me sex, or hard, fast, please-Sir-fuck-me-harder sex, many find that the best sex forces you to bare more than just your naughty bits. The occasional fling with someone you barely know can be really freaking hot, but it doesn’t compare to the cerebral sex that happens between people who trust each other utterly.

Trust becomes especially important when you’re a bottom, when having sex sometimes literally means putting your life in your partner’s hands. When you’re bound, your faith in that other person must go well beyond knowing they’ll hear and listen to your safeword. A good top tries to know at all times what it going on for the bottom. In turn, a Dom must trust his sub to be honest and straightforward about what’s going on for her – and if she doesn’t trust him, she won’t be. That exchange is the kind of sexy that takes your breath away.

That’s what I liked best about He’s On Top. The women in this collection are tied up and held down, spanked and teased and humiliated, all for their own pleasure and by men who, invariably, adore them. There’s no doubt that these stories will get any lover of female submission hot and bothered, but what’s surprising is that this is a book of love stories. Hot sex is shot through with trust and vulnerability, worshipful subs and the men who have agreed to protect them and guide them to the farthest reaches of their boundaries.

The narrator of Lisabet Sarai’s story Incurable Romantic, for example, is clearly smitten with his “perfect slave.” The story leads him through his love for her, his lust for other women, and his knowledge that, whatever else goes on in his life, Ilsa trusts him to be the kind of Dom she needs. He, in turn, must be willing to continually cultivate that trust.

In Yes by Donna George Storey, it’s the she who pushes his boundaries at first. She knows what she wants and asks for it shyly, and it unleashes in him a desire to push her further, as far as she thinks she can go, and then even a little bit beyond that. The story ends with some of the best writing I’ve ever seen in an erotic story, including this little snippet:

“Your chest swells with the possibility of it, because you can do anything together. You can push her over the edge and catch her at the bottom, soft and safe in your arms. You can watch her dance and be inside her all at the same time, because you are the music she’s dancing to now, faster and faster.”

The book arrived, conveniently, on day two of my Beau’s 10 day visit. We read a couple of the stories together, and they got his stamp of approval as well, although that may have had something to do with the fact that I started trying to get into his pants before the first story was even halfway over. But isn’t that what good erotica is for?

This is definitely good erotica, full of steamy stories which emphasize what SM relationships are really about: trust and vulnerability, admiration, a sense of responsibility, and the desire to give and receive, take and be taken. Now if you'll pardon me, I have some more reading to catch up on.



What's next on the Kinky Virtual Book Tour? Click here to find out!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sex Nerds Do It Better

A couple of things:

Stormy Leather has been bought out by JT's Stockroom. Although I'm sad to see them "go", Stockroom.com assures that it plans on bringing the entire production team on board -- hopefully they'll continue to produce the same fabulous products, because the leather corset selection at stockroom.com is relatively tiny. Stormy Leather's retail store in San Francisco is having a big blow-out sale April 20th-30th... So, um, if anyone who lives there (like maybe a certain awesome baker-turned-PA!) wanted to go and get a Genevieve Corset (size small, please), I would love her forever even more (and express-mail a check, of course).

Also, the always witty Melissa Gira has a post up at Sexerati that's worth a glance-and-giggle: The 10 Reasons Why Sex Nerds Make Better Lovers. It's true, too, I can vouch from personal experience. I swear I'm only dating sex educators from now on. I think #3 is my favorite: sex nerds need study breaks. Let that be a lesson to friends and housemates who would walk in to a room saying "don't be having sex!" as though that were the furthest thing from possible.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"I was on my way to work!"


I don't own a black lace bra. I'm pretty sure this is some kind of sex-blogger crime. When I told my (underwear loving) roommate that I was looking for one, she said "you mean you don't have one?" as though the sky was falling down around her.

So yes, I'm looking for the perfect black lace bra. Preferably with matching panties. I want it for a lot of reasons: to go with my black garter belt, to show off to my beau, to take naughty pictures in. Mostly, though, I want it because I deserve it, and because I haven't splurged on really lovely undergarments in a very long time.

I've scoured the internets and come up with a few contenders. Let me tell you, it's been hard work looking at all those nipplesbras. Whew.

So, blogosphere, have any personal favorites? I'm looking for something with lace cups, not padded (I'm happy with what I've got, thanks) but with underwire, more lace than mesh, but definitely something that shows a little nipple -- because what's a lace bra without some nipple?

Bonus points to anyone who gets the reference in the title of this post. More bonus points to anyone who gets that damn song out of my head.

Spankers and Slappers and Paddles, Oh My!

Handcrafted leather paddle with embroidered and jeweled design.
I stood in front of the wall of spankers and slappers, fingering the wooden paddle. I liked its dimensions, but the handle felt too narrow to be held comfortably for any length of time. It was black, but poorly painted. It was dotted with little holes to eliminate wind resistance, making for a sharper, faster smack. That was good. But it looked to be made out of some cheap wood and I could already see it splintering around the holes. I pictured splinters in my ass. That was bad.

I remembered the paddles I’d seen online the night before. Unfortunately, my conscience and my wallet rejected the beautiful and expensive exotic wood paddles on spankers-r-us-dot-com. I let out a sigh, said my goodbyes to the cute gay boy at the counter, and headed out of the leather store and across the street to the woman-owned sex toy store.

I had been in the store before, but couldn’t remember if they even had an SM section. As upscale erotic boutiques go, this one… well, isn’t. All the decent toys – the Vixen products, the glass and metal toys, and the rabbit habits – are kept in glass display cases. Prime retail real-estate is devoted to cheesy, crude, cheap, ugly novelty items for use at bachelorette parties. There’s an enormous rack of trashy lingerie (y’know, the fun stuff), which I’ll admit I perused with interest before remembering that my A’s were unlikely to fill any of those outfits. Then I remembered why I was there. I approached the young women behind the counter, amused at my own feeling of camaraderie with these women I’d never met. When I asked for paddles, I was led to a room blocked off with a velvet rope. The clerk opened it for me, pointed me to the paddles and stood there waiting. Apparently we the people cannot be trusted alone with punishment implements.

I took off my jacket, lifted one leather paddle and smacked it against my forearm. Wimpy. I put it back and picked up the other, which was also leather but with a metal bar down the middle of the interior. This made me nervous. I went a little easy on my forearm. It was good, but not great. It wasn’t terribly well made despite its overcompensating price tag, and I could picture the leather wearing through. The woman standing behind me was making me nervous anyway, so I put it back, thanked her, and headed out.

I’ve been spanked by hand, flogged, belted, and even smacked with the back of a hairbrush. I don’t have a favorite (okay, that’s a lie, I love the belt). I like sting, but I crave the thud of a heavy paddle, the kind of pain that turns into an ache and is accentuated by each subsequent smack. I’ve scanned all the usual suspects online (you know the stores I’m talking about) and I’m not falling in love with anything. I’m intrigued by the idea of paddles made from recycled tire rubber – I mean, does it get anymore environmentally friendly than that – but I’m pretty sure they’re no longer being manufactured. A shame, since they look awfully painful.

Sigh. Whatever is a naughty girl to do?


photo: Rainbow Nights Paddle at EdenFantasys.com

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Quick Linkage

I'll second this:
I’m not interested in reading about someone else’s fucking. I’m interested in reading about their love, or their power exchange, or their discovery, or their life. A sex session may be the best way to illustrate one of those themes, but if there’s not a theme beyond sex, I’ll buy a Hustler Variations. At least I can read that on the subway.
-Mandy at How About Now

more soon. posts will be eratic for a while as I'm doing nearly 12 days straight of ten hour days!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

TAG! You're It!


Preheated, the culinary cutie behind For The Love of Cake and Cock, has tagged me with the Thinking Blogger Award! I'm totally flattered.

Here's what happens now: I pick 5 blogs that make me think and tag them here. Those bloggers then pick their own five, and then those bloggers... you get the idea.

Sassywho, who authors I Never Leave the House Without Incident, posts an extremely entertaining and enlightening mix of political commentary and personal anecdotes with a sprinkling of well-chosen clips from youtube. Sometimes I think "sassy" might be an understatement!

A's Pursut of Pleasure is a college student's tales of love and lust. Smut for the thinking man, and very good stuff.

Amber, of Being Amber Rhea, is as tech savvy as she is poltically savvy. She's the kind of person who's writing makes you want to be her friend. She must've been tagged before, but since it's not on her very first page I'm tagging her anyway (so there!).

Veggie Love
! This girl seriously loves her veggies, and her posts are incredibly engaging -- which is even more remarkable when you know how quickly she writes them!

Jessica Gold Haralson
seems to have gotten caught up in the demands of being a full-time college student -- her posts have slowed down a lot recently. Nonetheless, she's a smart writer with a lot to say about sexual culture and politics (not that that stuff interests you, readers dear).

That ought to be enough linkage to keep you procrastinating for a while, eh?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Warning: This Post Is Not About Sex.


And it's kinda sad.

One of my dogs had to be put down this morning. Blazer was twelve and a half, which is old in Siberian Husky Years. I hadn't seen him since January, when I gave him a goodbye snuggle and admonished him not to die before I saw him again. A week or two ago my mother let me know that things weren't looking good -- his eyesight was going, he whined all the time and slept very little, and he'd gotten too weak to walk up the stairs to go to bed at night (which led me to imagine my father carrying a 60lb Sibe up the stairs, and it's a pretty funny image, especially because I'm sure Blaze would have fought it the whole time).

I found out when I called this morning to leave a message for my parents, both of whom I knew would be at work, and my 17 year old sister answered. I was, of course, walking down the street on my way to a coffee shop to write for a while when she told me. I stood still on the sidewalk, trying to keep it together, and managed until I tried to say goodbye. I hung up, cried, was embarrassed to be crying in public and over a dog (when so many people wouldn't understand), pulled it together, called Beau and started crying all over again when I heard his voice on his voicemail message.

Blazer was the Alpha Male, although he started to lose that position in the group towards the end. Koda will take over now, I'm sure -- he's one of the smartest dogs I've ever known. I asked my sister how Hoover was handling it -- Hoover is a little slow(to say the least), and he really loved and relied on Blazer. Ab said she was pretty sure Hoover didn't get it; he stood there wagging his tail at Blazer's body as if to say "come on, get up, come play!" Tucker, on the other hand, apparently got it right away -- the first thing he did was find and sniff the injection site. When they took the rest of the dogs back into the house, Hoover tried to slip his collar to go back out and be with Blazer.

Needless to say, I'm finding it a little hard to write about sex right now. This is the problem with being a Big Girl and moving away from home; animals, and eventually people, will die, and I won't be there when it happens.

Blaze is the one in the photo who's trying to jump out of my dad's Lemans. He's furious that my mother put a pink scarf on him for the christmas photo.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Youth Sex Crisis

This is a quick taste of a longer, more analytical post to come.

I'd like to bring two news stories to your attention.

First, in New Hampshire, parents are protesting an edition of the high school newspaper whose organizing theme was "Sex". The content, which the editor said had "been edited and re-edited for content and delivery, keeping in mind that the job here is to inform, not shock," contained an article about lesbianism and a quiz with a question about (GASP!) anal sex. In the AP article, one parent comments that "I thought it was a vile, disgusting piece of pornography I wouldn't want to be in front of children, let alone paid for by taxpayers."

Meanwhile, four 5th graders in Louisiana have been arrested on charges of obscenity for having sex in an unattended classroom. A fifth student has been arrested and charged with being an accessory after the fact. The students were 11, 12, and 13 years old. This comes on the heels of an incident in Indiana where two 6th graders had sex in class with a teacher present -- a case which the school tried to hush up.

Setting aside for the moment how completely and utterly ridiculous it is to arrest 12 year olds for having sex, maybe we should use these two news stories as a reminder of something we seem to forget as a culture: young people are curious about sex. They have been forever. It's normal. Maybe if we tried talking to them about it instead of making it a taboo, adults-only topic we could make their exploration a little safer, healthier, less public, and maybe even a little less hands-on.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Tantus G-Spot Review and a Headache

Contoured silicone G-spot didlo with flared base and vibrating microstimulator.
My review of the Tantus G-spot is up at EdenFantasys!

Products from Tantus are hand-made with high-quality silicone. No phthalates there, folks! This wasn't the best toy I've ever used, but I think it would make a good g-spot toy for use with a harness, so if you use one of those you should check it out.

In other news: apparently my immune system survives full-on attacks better than guerrilla warfare. Ten days of throwing caution to the wind with my sick boyfriend got me approximately two days of mildly sore throat. Then my roommate got sick, and somehow -- even though I make out with her a lot less than I make out with my beau -- today I feel like hell. Go figure.

Keroack Resigns

Eric Keroack has resigned as head of the federal Office of Population Affairs due to some legal action being taken against his MA based private practice. In a message to their pro-choice action network, NARAL is calling it a victory. I'm glad to be rid of the guy too, but I don't see how this is a victory. If he had been forced to resign, maybe because... oh, I don't know, maybe because he doesn't believe in providing birth control? Then it would be a victory. As it is, since the protests of Dems in congress and reproductive rights activists around the country didn't seem to register with the Administration, Bush will probably just appoint more of the same.

But we can hope. And like I said, good riddance. Click here to go send a letter urging President Bush to "take this opportunity to appoint a medical professional who actually believes in birth control to lead the nation’s family-planning program."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Gentleman's Quarterly? That's a laugh.


In their April issue, GQ is running an article titled Where to Find Her, 2007. The caption beneath the title reads, “A whole world of smart, beautiful women are out there, from the beaches of Uruguay to aisles of Whole Foods. We searched far and wide to discover the best spots on the planet to meet them.”

The article, which if full of pictures of women who are indeed beautiful (in the most current sense), contains a sidebar which describes where not to find her. The list is meant as a joke; for example, men are instructed not to look for her at the family reunion, in high school, or while on vacation with the wife and kids. They’re also instructed not to look in Hooters or a Red Light District window, since of course women who use their bodies to make money cannot be both smart and beautiful (nor would they be fit company for a gentleman – for more than a night, that is).

According to the article, men should also avoid looking for her at a goat show in Tijuana, on Mykonos, and at Smith College.

I suppose I don’t even need to tell you that Smithies are pissed. Well, some Smithies at least. The Facebook group “F*ck You, GQ: Smithies are Beautiful” has 487 members as of 1pm today, and that number has grown by more than a hundred since I looked last night. The group constitutes a call to action to Smithies to send photos of themselves showing off their inner beauty and confidence to the editor of GQ to demonstrate their beauty. From the website:

…while this list offends all different types of nationalities, sexualities, religions, hobbies, and age groups in addition to ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE, I feel that it is our JOB to stand up for our college. Smith does not get enough positive publicity. This article appears in a well-known, well-read magazine. It offends our school, our intelligence, our beauty, and our beliefs. It lowers us to a worthless thing. According to GQ, we are merely a place where smart and beautiful women cannot be found…

I am damn proud of my Alma Mater, and make a point of loudly declaring myself a Smithie whenever possible. Smithies are beautiful on many different levels, and it’s really hard to be at Smith if you’re not smart. But there’s another thing Smithies are, and it’s the thing that got the college landed in this article.

Smithies are Queer.

Okay, wait, don’t get mad at me yet. I know that not all Smithies like the ladies or identify with the queer community in any way. After all, some of my best friends are straight. But Smith has a reputation for being The Big Gay. Now, that reputation doesn’t go as far as you might think – in fact, it’s primarily known by people who went to other Small Liberal Arts Colleges in the Northeast. Students at SLACs like Dartmouth, Wesleyan (technically a University, I know), and our own beloved Amherst, as well as those at other women’s colleges know Smith’s reputation for being queer. I’d be willing to bet $20 that the person who contributed Smith College to the list either went to a Northeastern SLAC or to UMASS Amherst.

Although there are debates about how Smith got its gay reputation, I am proud of the atmosphere at the college that allows that reputation to thrive. Smithies are open-minded, tolerant, willing to learn from each other and politically and ideologically minded. It’s a tough place to be conservative, and I’d like to see both students and faculty make a more concerted effort to have those kinds of political discourses, but in general I think that Smith is a good place to learn how to be who you are. If that means that the “gentlemen” who read GQ don’t want to date us, so be it – we can do better than them, anyway. You know, like by having partners who respect us.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sex in the News: Rhythm Method Woes

Now birth control can be as easy as not having sex two weeks out of every month! We no longer have to worry about -- wait, WHAT? No sex for half of every month?

You've probably heard of the rhythm method. Young people often receive a simplistic version of this complex birth control method i.e. "A woman can count the days since her last period and not have sex around the 14th day, which is when she ovulates." The method is often joked about -- after all, this is the only form of family planning approved by the Catholic Church. How many married childless Catholics do you know?

Of course, not all women ovulate on the 14th day, and (when practiced correctly) the rhythm method is a lot more complex than just counting days. The sympto-thermal method of family planning (which has evolved from "counting days") requires a woman to wake up at the same time every morning to take her temperature (called basal body temperature), monitor her cervical secretions, and keep a fertility calendar. During her two most fertile weeks of the month -- which other research suggests is when she'll want it the most -- the couple must abstain from sex. A recently released report on a German study reveals that, when practiced properly (one might say "religiously"), the method has a .6% failure rate, which is comparable with hormonal birth control.

But according to this article in the Scientific American, failure rates for normal couples are actually much higher. I know, I know, you're shocked. You thought that young women, some of whom can't even remember to take their pill at the same time every day, would simply jump at the chance to get up early on weekends and get all up-close and personal with their lady-juices. Not to mention the fact that it's a good way to get out of sex for half the month -- more, if you don't have sex during your period -- since, of course, women don't actually enjoy sex.

Okay, I'll be serious. The thing is, if you're willing (and have the leisure) to be diligent about it, fertility awareness is a great option. It means you don't have to put hormones into your body -- and the environment -- in order to effectively avoid getting pregnant. Fertility awareness over long periods of time is also of use when it comes to intentionally getting pregnant. I'd even go so far as to argue that charting her fertility can put a woman more in touch with her body and her sexuality. This is a family planning method that deserves a place in the adult birth control arsenal. For the average person, though, this isn't going to be the right option.

So, what do we tell the kids? Not the kids, so much as the teens: a book called Cycle Savvy: The Smart Teen's Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body, which describes fertility cycles in detail, is stirring up debate among proponents of comprehensive sex ed. Some argue that giving teens too much information about their fertility cycles will lead them to have unprotected sex on days the believe they are "safe". Others say that young women should be given as much information as possible about their bodies, and support the book. Cycle Savvy doesn't go into detail about fertility charting or discuss in detail which days are less fertile. It contains no reference to any day of the month being "safe", and encourages young people to always use protection, describing fertility planning as a useful tool for adults.

All of that being said, I have a confession to make: as sex-educated as I am, I still consider the rhythm method when having sex. Not the fancy sympto-thermal method, either. I wouldn't say it's my primary birth control method, but I usually find myself counting days, as in "okay, I'm on day 15 of my 24 day cycle, what are the odds I'll get pregnant if something goes wrong?" And when I was younger, there was a point in time -- before my 17th birthday, when I went on the pill -- when I did use the so-called rhythm method as my sole form of birth control. If I'd had this book to explain to me just how complicated fertility awareness really is, maybe I'd have thought twice. I fail to see how arming girls with solid information about their own bodies could ever be a bad thing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Walk On Eggshells


Last night, a man came into my place of employment. He'd been in before; last time he'd stayed only a short while, and commented to me that he didn't like the music that was playing. When he came in last night, I smiled like I do at every customer, and cracked a joke: "I'm playing NPR tonight, so you don't have to run away from the Dylan." He laughed, was surprised I remembered him. "That's great!" he said. "And you're here consistently, so you'll be easy to track down."

Only a mildly weird comment, right? His body language made clear that he was getting ready to chat me up, though, so I decided not to play too nice. "That's kind of a creepy thing to say, actually," I told him, arching my eyebrows. "Oh jesus," he groaned, "you're one of those fucking paranoid..."

"I'm kidding!" I said, cutting him off, "and anyway, I just won't tell you my last name." He started to change the subject, but then he backtracked:

"You know, I hate that men have to walk on eggshells around women now. It hasn't always been this way, you know. This has just happened in the last five years or so. It's like you can't say anything to a woman without her getting all paranoid."

"Seriously, I was just kidding," I said, although what I was thinking was you fucking misogynist. "But anyway," I added, "women have had to deal with being afraid of men for ages. I think men will have to walk on eggshells for a while, spend some time really examining their own privilege, before things will ever be equal."

He made a face. Isn't that vindictive?" he asked, and it turned out to be rhetorical. "I'm still getting over my ex... now she was paranoid, like seriously..." He trailed off and looped his index finger near his temples, the western hemisphere's sign for crazy. He paused, then he continued, "But you know, I was just making an offhand comment, and you took it and went someplace dark. You went someplace dark and twisty with that. There are some really crazy people out there these days, some real kooks on the street, it's true, but it isn't me, it isn't men like me, it's these women who think men are out to get them."

At this point I was completely uncomfortable -- too uncomfortable and nervous to even be angry. Nice Girl is so ingrained that I felt like I couldn't ask him to leave with other people in the store, so I let him talk and nodded and pretended to listen. He told me I was cute. I thanked him. He told me about his band, gave me a flyer, signed it. Asked if I had a boyfriend, and I told him I did. He asked if I was in love and I told him I am. He went on about what a shame it was, but I was nice and young and -- was I 18? yes, okay, good -- had plenty of time to change my mind. How old did I think he was? Actually, never mind, he hadn't slept in a few days, he'd ask me again the next time we talked. I still didn't tell him I hoped there wouldn't be a next time. I was too busy hoping the situation would just go away.

He held out his hand for me to shake as he was leaving and I took it, happy he was heading for the door, but then he turned my hand over and kissed it. I yanked it away and gave him a dirty look. I spent most of the rest of the evening feeling vaguely nauseous.

There was more to it than that, but the details are fuzzy. It's hard to put into words exactly what was so unnerving about the interaction; in text it looks like he was just some patronizing asshole trying to get a date. But in the moment it felt like I was being manipulated, talked down to, and searched out. I don't like that he knows where he can find me.

More than that, though, I think the incident left me shaky because I didn't stand up for myself. I should have told him exactly where to go the moment he called me paranoid -- you try walking down a dark street at night by yourself in my (female) body, and tell me if you feel paranoid. It makes me SO angry to have to be concerned for my safety in a city where very few men have that same feeling. It makes me furious that I can't just pick up and travel the world by myself, working odd jobs along the way, without constantly being on guard. And it makes me literally sick to my stomach that I couldn't tell this asshole that I'm not fucking interested and to get his chauvinist ass the hell out of my store. If I can't stand up for myself, what kind of feminist am I?

Then, this afternoon, I came across a link on Amber's blog to a post by Sassywho, whose blog I Never Leave the House Without Incident is a consistently good read. This post made me want to yell and cry all at once. As Amber says, "HELL FUCKING YES." Go read the whole post, but I'll snip the best part for you:
I am the Woman that misogynists love to hate. I am the Sister, who, before puberty I could kick your ass, or at least take as good of a beating as you could give. The Tom-boy on the playground who did not respond to you telling her that girls couldn't play football, instead tackled your ass when you caught the ball.

I am the Slut that owns her sexuality, and will insist that you give me head or there will be very little chance of another sexual encounter. I am the Tease that allowed you to buy me dinner, but that does not give you an automatic pass to my body for the evening. I am the Irresponsible Hussy who if we had an oooops and I did not want to have children, I would be at the clinic as soon as I found out with $400 in hand and a smile on my face.

I am the Cunt who challenged your ideas in a meeting, and it even turns out I was right. I am the Whore who has slept with more men than your quota for a woman who deserves your respect, even if it is less than your number. I am the Fucking Slut who responds to your verbal abuse while I am bartending by making you wear that beer you just ordered.

I am the Bitch who wants equality in a relationship and refuses to be your mother. I am the Ballbuster who isn't intimidated by your masculinity. I am the Wife that was not okay with your 15+ affairs, so I had an affair myself before I left. I am the Fucking Bitch who filed a restraining order on your ass and prosecuted you to the fullest extent of the law when you tried to intimidate me and my friends with harassment to keep me in the relationship. I am a Misogynists worst nightmare.


I hope that asshole comes back in. I have a few things I'd like to say to him.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Books of Summer


Believe it or not, there are times when working at a sex toy store gets boring. Yes, even in Provincetown, even in the summer. During the week, especially on really gorgeous beach days, we’d often be terribly, horribly, poke-your-eyeballs-out slow. All by myself at the smaller of the two commercial street stores, with the door closed and the AC blasting, I’d survey my options: rearrange the displays for the hundredth time, take a demo model (and a condom!) up to the attic for a test-run, or pick a book from the shelves to peruse. Occasionally I’d fuss with the displays. I never actually took a toy upstairs, although I seriously considered it on occasion. Most often, I ended up reading a book. I read a lot of books. If you’re looking for something to read in your spare time – something, that is, that’s a little easier to curl up in bed with than your computer – take a look at what I thought of the books of summer!

I started with a pair of SM novels. Carrie’s Story and its sequel, Safe Word, both by Molly Weatherfield, follow a young woman (the eponymous Carrie) from her introduction to SM through her experience as a trained pony. The first book was sexy and intense and pushed my kinky boundaries. I’d never so much as thought about the idea of a 24/7 relationship before then, and although it still doesn’t really appeal to me, there are aspects of it that are exciting to imagine. The sequel, though, felt a little like sexual tourism. Butt plugs with horsehair tails attached? Pony carts? Slave auctions? After work I’d sit at my computer for an hour, looking up websites on pony play, trying to make myself understand that this stuff does in fact happen. Don’t get me wrong; Safe Word was a good read (with an interesting ending). It just also happened to be an eye opener for me.

From there I moved on to some lesbian pulp fiction, which was terribly depressing. If you’ve never read any, let me summarize the plot (because there’s more or less only one): mild mannered straight woman meets extremely seductive lesbian; “straight” woman is seduced; people find out and trouble ensues. In the end, the “straight” woman is saved or cured, and the lesbian dies or goes crazy. Published in the 50’s and 60’s, these books are interesting from a historical and sociological perspective – in a sense, they’re the mid 20th century’s prescriptive literature. I’m sure I’ve got some friends-of-friends who’ve written women’s studies papers on the topic, in fact, or if they haven’t they ought to. Anything by Ann Bannon is classic, and there are some great anthologies of lesbian pulp fiction out there.

Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue was a fabulous read, but then it did combine sex and history (two of my favorite topics, if you hadn’t noticed). The novel takes the bits and pieces left to us by history of a young woman whose name made the news in 18th century England and fleshes them out, creating an engaging and intriguing story. Historical fiction fans will love this one.

Best Sex Writing 2005 left me, like the best lovers, wanting more. Although some of the pieces are sexy, it isn’t a collection of erotica – it’s a collection of sex journalism. I keep meaning to pick up 2006.

Noelle Howey’s Dress Codes weaves her own memoirs in with biographies of her mother and father and the story of her father’s social and medical transition to female; she writes with grace, humor and compassion, making the book and entertaining read even if the situation isn’t a familiar one for you.

I was utterly entertained by Bingo, by the prolific Rita Mae Brown (and before you ask, no, I never got around to reading Rubyfruit Jungle, and no, that doesn’t make me a bad queer). The familial fiction, clearly based on Ms. Brown’s own experience, had me laughing out loud even when there were customers in the store. It relates the story of Nickle, an out lesbian having an affair with a man, and her cast of friends and family. I found myself saying “YES! That’s my family!” over and over. Six of One, the book that precedes Bingo in the story of Runnymede, is high on my to-read list.

Eventually I ran out of fiction and had exhausted our entire library of Dykes to Watch Out For (and Allison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Fun Home). I skipped past the exhausting shelf of “How To Have Lesbian Sex” books – honestly, why is it that publishing companies think women need so much help figuring out how to do it?

I read SM 101 by Jay Wiseman, which is a fabulous beginner's guide (and intermediate's guide, actually) in terms of tools, tricks, and safety. The author is about as well-informed as one can possibly be, but the book is definitely written from an “SM scene” perspective; I kept finding myself thinking that anyone who just wanted to tie up her girlfriend once in a while would be completely overwhelmed by the details of floggers vs. paddles, etc. On the other hand, the section on consent and negotiation is crucial and extremely accessible.

I fancy myself a sex educator, and as such it’s important to me to read books on a wide variety of sexual health topics – even if they don’t apply directly to me. A Survivor’s Guide to Sex was interesting and informative and certainly got me thinking. The way that we relate to our sexual selves is so complex, and I liked the way the book highlighted that. It made for an enlightening read. I read large portions of The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability. I seem to remember not liking parts of what I read, although I can’t recall why, but I clearly remember the light that switched on in my head when I realized how complicated sex can be. The way we shroud it in secrecy makes it much more difficult for people with disabilities to get what they need in the bedroom.

Following that, I read A Hand in the Bush, which is a guide to vaginal fisting. If you own a vagina, you probably don’t need this book. Allow me to sum it up: cut your nails, go slow, and use lots of lube. I tried to follow that up with Anal Pleasure and Health, but I had a fainting spell while reading about anal fissures and decided to set that one aside. It was full of wonderful, important information for men and women looking to engage in anal play. It just happened to make me very dizzy.

“But Amanda,” I hear you asking, “what about the smut? Didn’t you read any good erotica this summer?” Oh boy, did I. I also read some erotica that was only okay at best, but we’ll just talk about the good stuff. Exposed is a collection of stories by Alison Tyler. This collection didn’t go over well with my beau – he said it was written for women. Maybe so, because I really liked it. Alison’s stories are smart and funny. Much of this collection involves power-play in a really light, effortless way that I can imagine many of my friends identifying with.

The other collection that stood out for me was downright kinky: Best Bondage Erotica was edited by (surprise!) Alison Tyler, and is comprised of stories spanning different sexual appetites. It’s not too intense – if you’re looking for stories about bloodsports, or even watersports, look elsewhere – but it covers a good range and… well, it definitely got me off.

By the way, if anyone has recommendations for me based on the above, I’d love to hear them!

Linkage: Sugasm #71 and More of Me!

My Flexor Elephant review is up at EdenFantasys.com -- go take a look to find out about my hot Valentine's Day date!

Also, in illustration of the fact that I'm even worse at food-blogging than I am at cooking, go check out my guest post at my roomate's blog Veggie Love -- I made Greek food!

And now, the Sugasm:

The best of this weeks blogs by the bloggers who blog them. Highlighting the top 3 posts as chosen by Sugasm participants. Want in Sugasm #72? Submit a link to your best post of the week using this form. Participants, repost the linklist within a week and you’re all set.


This Week’s Picks

Roué
(http://www.easilyaroused.co.uk)

“Her sighs of contentment build as my touch does its work.”


Wrong Number (http://radicalvixen.com/blog)


“They said clients were trying to call me and getting this restaurant instead.”


Ride to the Cabin (http://eroticawriter.blogspot.com)

“As he pulled into a dark lane that led into a grove of trees, I reached over to stroke him.”


Mr. Sugasm Himself

Loveland (http://sugarbank.com)


Editor’s Choice

Your hair (http://erotischism.blogspot.com)



More Sugasm

Join the Sugasm

Erotic Writing and Experiences

3 is The Magic Number: Three Songs (http://dirtydetails.blogspot.com)

AMBER~~”Anything You Want” (Part Four) (http://buttocksblog.blogspot.com)


The Desperate Tango (http://femmefataleteen.blogspot.com)

The Dress II (http://wanklog.blogspot.com)

Entry Box…. (http://afterschoolmonologues.blogspot.com)

Midnight Thrusts (http://kinkyfarmwife.blogspot.com)

My Wet Dream (http://maude-tim.blogspot.com)


The Need (http://joeheather.blogspot.com)

Public Affections (http://www.sex-kitten.net)

Rug Burn (http://confessions112.blogspot.com)

Setting Your Panties on Fire (http://secretbrain.blogspot.com)

Startled Awakening (http://bikersballsandteacherstits.blogspot.com)


That night instead of round 2, I passed out (http://thatjuicyjuicy.blogspot.com)

Turning Tricks for Tapas, Dos (http://cakeandcock.blogspot.com)

Why Aren’t You Naked? (http://designingintimacy.blogspot.com)


Podcasts & Poetry

“Cocaine” Kimberly Was Her Working Name (http://eroticjournals.blogspot.com)


Episode #1-Sex with another woman (http://deliciously-naughty.typepad.com)

Styx Orchestra-Inspired Poem, thanks to Public TV (http://totalsensuality.blogspot.com)


Sex Work

During (http://thismuse.blogspot.com)


BDSM & Fetish


Birthday Spankings! (http://sexualevolution.blogspot.com)

Distracted pixie (http://insidedarkpixie.blogspot.com)

Happy HNT - Sexy St. Patrick’s day (http://darkside-journey.blogspot.com)

His rope (http://www.kinkerbelle.com)

Marked (http://pick-up-pieces.blogspot.com)


Nature versus nurture, spanking-style (http://www.spankingwriters.com/blog)

Relationships and the lifestyle (http://alternativealbany.xlogz.com)

“So punish me” (http://blog.atlantabondage.com)

Solipsist’s travels in subspace (http://mistress160.blogspot.com)

Zapped (http://www.timidboy.com)



Sex News & Politics

The Flaming Genitals Archive (http://www.quirkysex.com/blog)

Morality in Media Loses Congressional Funding (http://fullfrontalpolitics.com)


Thoughts on Sex and Relationships

Afro-desiacs and “Blow” Jobs (http://shayssexcolumn.blogspot.com)


Feeling Unsafe– Tease Me! (http://perverselypoly.blogspot.com)

Lights On or Lights Off? (http://sexeteria.net)

My Own Sex Confession (Part Two) (http://aslipofagirl.blogspot.com)

The SXSW date that wasn’t, and why (http://lustylady.blogspot.com)


NSFW Pics (& videos)


Can’t blame a man for being a man (video) (http://myhotbox.blogspot.com)

Half-Nekkid Thursday: G-String Season (http://www.taratainton.com)

Half-Nekkid Merkin (http://sweatshopsissy.wordpress.com)

Half-Nekkid Sex Blogger (http://www.tarasnaughtyshop.com)

Nora Marlo Peek-A-Boo Shots (http://eroticandy.blogspot.com)


Poll result: Shower sex (http://marriedexploits.blogspot.com)

Stairway To Heaven (video) (http://myhotbox.blogspot.com)