Sunday, January 28, 2007

Health In the News

Some interesting news stories on women's health:

The FDA is considering stricter rules for hormonal birth control methods, citing research demonstrating that current birth control methods are less effective than their previous counterparts. That, of course, is because old-school BCPs were made with enormous doses of hormones that had lots of adverse side effects. Hormonal birth control now tends to have an effectiveness rate of 98-98.5%, but is much less of a health risk for the average woman. These contraceptives are much less likely to cause blood clots. Remember back in the fall, when the FDA announced that the Ortho Evra patch carried a greater risk of blood clots in the legs and lungs? Ortho Evra also contained (and delivered) higher doses of hormones. 98.5% is a pretty good effectiveness, especially for the health trade-off. No reason to stop using hormonal birth control, ladies (who do it with men), but if it makes you nervous then back it up with a condom! (via Feministing)

In other news...

Women with lower levels of education, lower-income, and high BMIs are more likely to be given inadequate doses when being treated for breast cancer. (NYTimes)

"Female orgasms are potentially a deadly shocker for men" (via Love and Latex)

And, from RH Reality Check, the Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Be Terrified that Dr. Eric Keroack is in Charge of the U.S. Federal Family Planning Program

Finally, a kvetch: the (considerable number of) people who have clicked here looking for a certain video of a certain young man getting head from a certain young woman should probably consider the fact that since said young people were under 18, that video would constitute CHILD PORN. Even if it gets leaked, I'm not going to watch it, let alone post it here. Good lord. Also, I'm still feeling a little unnerved by the media's (and the sex-positive community's) treatment of the conviction. Yeah, the law was crappy, but Wilson isn't someone I want to rally behind.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Sexuality Education: Our First Line of Defense Against “Pornotopia”?

Here’s how I feel about the complex issue of pornography:
I like it.

I’m not ashamed to like porn. I don’t feel like watching porn has had any ill effects on my life, my self-esteem, my relationships or my intelligence. In fact, I would join with many who’ve come before me (pun not intended, I swear!) in stating that there’s a lot of good to be had from porn: it can help a person learn about different kinds of sex and become more comfortable with sexuality, and it’s a great way to explore a sexual interest (or fetish) that would otherwise be difficult to pursue.

There are those who feel that the pervasive way in which pornography has infiltrated pop culture is having a negative effect on our lives and relationships (and in case you couldn’t tell, I’m putting it mildly). In a 2006 article in the Walrus which extensively quotes Pamela Paul (author of “Pornified: How Pornography is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families”), Charles Foran has a lot to say about pornography, but in particular he is concerned with “newly sexualized youths, who may never recover from being consumers of its distortions.” Foran’s particular argument is that jerking off to “women and men, most of whom are performing lewd sexual acts before a camera because they are poor or damaged” leads to a lessening of human sympathy. “Porn,” Foran states, “may yet be the death of empathy.”

Setting aside for the moment my disagreements with the arguments that Foran and his anti-porn counterparts make, lets look at the ways in which the porn-ruins-our-lives problem can be solved. The typical response is to censor pornography. The degree to which pornography should be censored has been debated, but legally in order for material to be considered obscene it must offend community standards of decency. What counts as “community” in this constantly-connected age is a tricky question, but generally speaking most pornography passes muster. And, as the author of Defending Pornography argues, censoring pornography because some people find it morally indecent breaks with the freedom of speech our constitution guarantees us. I may not like the porn you watch, but I will fight to the death for your right to watch it.

So we’re not going the MacDworkinist censorship route. What’s the next plan of attack? In Pornified, Paul argues for a “censure-not-censor” method of attack. According to Paul (and many who think like her), the media glorifies pornography, making it seem sexy and “hip” to like porn. If light was shed on porn to demonstrate that it is, in fact, “harmful, pathetic, and decidedly unsexy,” it would fall out of favor and its effects would be curtailed. And, simultaneously, we would be returned to the days when pornography was the domain of shame-faced men carrying brown paper packages, hiding their sexual interests and living in fear of the label “pervert.” As I’ve already mentioned, I like porn. I’m not ashamed of it, and I refuse to ascribe to any scheme of things that would have me feel ashamed of it. Just as not all porn is fun and sexy, not all porn is harmful and pathetic.

What if, rather than trying to ban pornography or make people who use it feel bad, we give people the information and emotional tools they need to use pornography in a healthy, positive way? More than that, what if we make it a goal of comprehensive sexuality education to specifically address concerns raised by pornography? If we’re concerned that pornography is making young men disrespectful of their female partners, we should make meaningful and respectful communication skills a part of the curriculum. If we’re worried about the effect porn is having on young women’s self esteem, we should stress self-respect. We should be absolutely and explicitly teaching consent. How can we teach young people how to say and hear no, as well as yes, in an abstinence-only system? Likewise, we should be emphasizing mutual affection as a major factor when choosing sexual partners. A good sexual health education program would address all these topics without the prompting of our apparent pornography-induced relational breakdown.

The anti-porn pundits are often heard to bemoan the over-sexualized nature of our culture, and especially its youth. Whether the mainstreaming and popularity of pornography is a symptom or the cause, the fact remains that pornography is not going away. The adult industry is $10 billion strong. Pornography ushered in the age of VHS, and the technology the porn industry uses will be the technology of the future (personally, I think Sony just wrote Blu-Ray’s obituary, but that’s beside the point). The way to handle the effects of pornography on society is to respond pro-actively, by giving young people the power to make responsible, informed decisions and conduct their sex lives with empathy and respect.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Quick Linkage

Interesting reads from some brilliant ladies:

Jessica Valenti on the Huffington Post: Trust Women
Today--on the 34th anniversary of Roe v Wade--I have a request. Instead of writing about the legislation, the rhetoric, or the politics surrounding reproductive rights and justice, let's keep it simple. Let's just trust women.

Heather Corinna talks about what "choice" is really about
[...]while it is, absolutely, positively vital to talk about backalley abortions, to talk about what abortion was like before Roe vs. Wade (and what it still is like in areas where abortion is illegal or inaccessible), it’s equally important to talk about what choice as a whole was like and still IS like, even with the help of Roe and other supports. I think many often forget or simply don’t know the combined impact Roe vs. Wade,Title X and other feminist initiatives had when it came to reproductive choice no matter the choice a woman made. More accurately, no matter what a woman did or what was done TO her when she became pregnant before she had any sort of choice.

At Sexerati, Lux Nightmare discusses the Hounddog debacle:
We are so squeamish about adolescent sexuality, about the idea that young people can be sexual (though it is worth noting that the idea of the asexual child is a relatively recent one). We want to believe that children are innocent, unaware of the greater world around them, that, as Andrew Vachss, a child protection consultant and attorney, commented, “A 12-year-old girl can’t consent to any damn thing.”

Monday, January 22, 2007

34 Years of Choice

Happy Anniversary, Roe v Wade! It's also Blog for Choice day, so:

I've been pro-choice (or, as LadyRed of Postcards From Guyville puts it, against forced birth) since the second grade. It was Bush vs. Clinton, and I didn't know much about politics, but I did know that Bush wanted to take away women's right to have an abortion. And I knew that sometimes women needed abortions, and it wasn't their fault, and they should be able to not have a baby if they didn't want to have a baby. I remember sitting near the baseball field with Lily, Kristin, Kristen and Ayla and discussing how to make sure our parents were voting the way we wanted them to.

One night when I was in the third grade, my parents went to bed and left me in the living room watching nick at nite. I got bored with Mary Tyler Moore (I was more of an "I Love Lucy" girl at that age) and started flipping through the channels. I ended up watching Melrose Place. When it was over and I was upstairs kissing my mother goodnight, I guessed she had been watching Melrose Place too and I asked her if she thought that so-and-so was going to have the abortion. "I don't know, honey," she said, "But I think she'll make the decision that's right for her." I could tell by the look on her face that I wasn't supposed to be asking about abortion. The next day, Melrose Place joined 90210 on the list of TV shows that were off limits.

I was pretty young when I started having sex, and I was stupid about it -- for all my rhetoric about safer sex, I certainly wasn't having it. Sometimes I think it's a miracle I didn't end up pregnant, and sometimes I think I must be infertile (I'm hoping it's the miracle, though). Anyway, if I had gotten pregnant, I would have had an abortion. I talked to my mother about it once -- told her that although I supported other women's right to abortion unconditionally, I didn't think I could have one. I was 16. My mother calmly disagreed with me. She didn't push the issue, but she made it clear that I was going to be childless until after college, period. I didn't argue, because on some level I knew she was right.

Now, one of my 16 year old sisters is pregnant. This sister is my biological father's daughter; for most of our lives she's lived in upstate NY, and we don't see each other often. I cried when I found out she was pregnant, and I wish I could say they were happy tears. I felt like on some level I had failed her, by not being around to protect her, to remind her to be safe, to teach her about her options. But when we talked, I realized that for all of my pro-choice fervor, I had forgotten something: having a baby is a choice, too.

"People are so shocked when I tell them I'm having the baby," she said. "They feel bad for me. They try to tell me how hard it's going to be. And yeah, I know, it's going to be really hard. The timing sucks, the circumstances suck. But it's a baby, not the plague. I'm having a baby."

So my little sister made a choice, and she's having a baby, and I'm going to be an aunt. I am pro-choice because all children deserve to have mothers who chose them, and all women deserve to be able to make that choice.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Peer Sex Ed in China

A college student in China has written a sex ed manual for her peers, based on her own knowledge and experiences and those of friends. From this article:
"I got the idea to write a sex education book for college students three years ago when I saw many schoolmates begin to get involved in love affairs," Wang told the Xinhua News Agency. "However, many of them are almost illiterate about sex , so pornographic websites, and magazines became their sex teachers."

The hand-written manuscript was passed around to friends, parents, and teachers, and apparently created quite a stir. The young woman's parents were less than pleased. I admire her initiative -- there's no information about sexuality, so she put it out there. I have to say I'm also a little jealous of her audience. The students at my Alma Mater are so sex-saturated. It's often hard to convince them that just because they've seen lots of porn, or they have no problem talking to their friends about sex, they don't necessarily have all of the information they need.

Clinton: "I'm in"

Hah! Hillary Clinton has announced her presidential bid, meaning that the two front-running candidates for the democratic nomination are a woman and a black man. Wow. This could be big, kids. History in the making (knock on wood).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Diamond Lee Person, and some nerdy academic sex links

This is the only substantial article I could find on the murder of Diamond Lee Person, a transwoman in Washington DC. Person's partner has been accused of the murder -- her body was only found after a 7-11 burglery led police to his apartment, where they discovered Person's body. This should be NEWS. How can anyone act up about violence against transpeople if they don't know it's happening? Here's an article from the Southern Poverty Law Center about violence against transpeople.

Willful Ignorance
If we want to change the toxic sexual culture on our nations’ college campuses, we need to start looking at the sex education our high-schoolers receive.

The New Prudishness
A resolution for 2007: No more punditry about our "oversexed" culture.

Pap Test, a Mainstay Against Cervical Cancer, May Be Fading Thanks, C!
[...]a newer genetic test that detects human papillomavirus, or HPV, which causes cervical cancer, is starting to play a bigger role in screening. And other genetic tests are being developed. At the least, some experts say, women will no longer need Pap smears as often.

New Bill Proposes Parents Choose Kid’s Sex Ed
House Bill 311 would require a school district to obtain written consent of a parent before the student could take sex education. Currently, all Texas students take sexual education unless a parent requests otherwise. Under the bill, all parents would have to make a choice.


So. The Village Voice has replaced Rachel Kramer Bussel with two new columnists, both married Brooklyn moms. Let me be perfectly clear here: I love women, married women, people who live in Brooklyn, and moms. I support their right to get busy. But this:
Editor's note: This week, the Voice introduces our new sex columnists, Nora Shelley and Essie Carmichael, two married women raising kids, living in Brooklyn, and still hoping to get lucky—preferably with their husbands.

This makes me nauseous does not sound like the proper column with which to replace Rachel's Lusty Lady. Where's the queerness? The kink? The beautifully written combination of sex-positivity and endearing humility? I'm so disappointed in the Voice. I'm sure the editors realize this new column won't appeal to the same demographic as Rachel's (although they're sure to have some overlap), so what are they doing? Mainstreaming. How disappointing. She's too good for them.

Anyone who reads me regularly knows that I'm a total Rachel Kramer Bussel Fangirl (seriously. It's kind of embarrassing). There's still lots of Rachel floating around on the interweb -- check out her Lusty Lady blog, which is choc-full of links to her other work and also a great read.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The SF/DC Decision

This is one major reason why San Francisco is somewhere I want to live:
A friendly band of San Francisco pornographers can't wait to get inside the old armory on Mission Street and start tying people up, artistically. Not only tying them up, but also spanking them, swatting them, cuffing them and whipping them, with sensitivity.

And I will live in San Francisco. Eventually. But for now, I'm moving to DC, and I'm pretty damn excited.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sex Ed, Lady Farmers, and Thinking About Dogs

A couple of interesting sex ed tidbits: First, the Montgomery County (MD) board of education has approved a controversial new sexuality education curriculum which discusses homosexuality, but not its origins. The curriculum has detractors on both sides, with some saying that it doesn't go far enough in protecting LGBT students at the school and other arguing that "Absolutely nothing is allowed to be said that is negative about homosexuality." Which, as we all know, is a travesty. It sounds to me like a step in the right direction, particularly if they decide to include a phrase which points out that mainstream medical and mental health organizations have concluded that homosexuality is not a disease or mental illness. Still a long way to go, sure, but any step forward is a good one.

Then, over at RH Reality Check, Andrea Lynch writes about a decade of federally funded abstinence-only education. My favorite part:
"Newsflash, folks: your mom has had sex, and so will your kids."

This post over at Feministing caught my eye: Apparently the number of women farm operators has increased 13% since 1997. Farming as a feminist issue: just another reason to run a small-scale farm someday.

And lastly, when your mind is consumed by important thoughts (like which city to move to), Raven of Questionable Content has the answer: Think About Dogs.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

NYC Condoms, Gay Sheep, and a personal update

Wow! Although it won't suit my friend Elle's purposes, I'm sure NYC residents will be thrilled to learn of the new NYC Condom campaign. Apparently the city, which the Post calls "the country's HIV/AIDS capital", is all set to launch a line of condoms which will be available for free. The condoms will be standard size and lubricated, but packged in colors to mimic the subway lines (clever, clever). Here's the Post article.

In other news, research into sheep sexuality has revealed that 8% of rams are homosexual, and another 8% of ewes appear to be asexual (although since ewes demonstrate sexual readiness by keeping still, who's to say?). The homo-rams have been found to have smaller hypothalamus glands, even while still in utero. Researchers found that by increasing the amount of hormones the rams were recieving, they could be induced to mate with ewes. While this makes good business sense to the farmers who otherwise lose out on 8% of their sires, some gay-rights activists (including, apparently, Martina Navratilova) worry that the studying of "fixing" gay sheep may lead down a slippery slope. On the other hand, the research has proven that homosexuality, at least in sheep, is natural. I like what the author of this article had to say on the subject:
Yes, like Navratilova, I fear the consequences of moves to abort or "cure" gay people - but I cannot fear greater knowledge of the biology of human sexuality. We cannot ringfence whole areas from biological investigation because we might not like what we hear, or because lunatics might misuse it. These experiments - and our scientific understanding - must roll on. It's up to us to create the political circumstances in which they will not be abused.

To the person who Jolted my blog, thanks! And welcome, Jolters. Also, because these seem to come up a lot in searches: As far as I know there are no health risks associated with warming lube, other than the possibility of allergy. And I've never heard of any problems associated with using it during pregnancy, although it wouldn't hurt to ask a doctor. And for pornotube alternatives, although I'm not endorsing these sites, try or

And now, a personal update: I've been living in Northampton for a few weeks, with a brief sojurn back to the Berkshires for the holidays. I'm ready for my next advenure, but to where? I've narrowed it down: at the end of this month, I am moving to Washington DC, or to San Francisco. I've got a set of pros & cons lists a mile long and I'm no nearer a decision. San Francisco is the bigger risk, but the size of the sex-positive population there (as well as the presence of two of my close friends) makes it an exciting possibility. Meanwhile, DC feels like conquored territory in some ways (mostly in that I know I can get around and find a job there). But my interests, skills and background are a little less dime-a-dozen there, and I have a support network and some very interesting friends in DC already. I've given myself until friday night to make the decision. I'd LOVE to hear from people who live or have lived in either city, and anyone who has strong feelings about the subject. Or any feelings at all, really. I'm a remarkably indecisive person, so I need all the help I can get!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Turn Me Up, Over, and On?

Stephanie Sellars writes about erotic spanking for New York Press' Lust Life column:
There’s nothing like a good spanking after a hard day’s work. A hearty slap on the rear awakens the senses and gets the blood flowing. Maybe that’s why it’s sexually arousing—that sudden boost to the circulation reverberates in every direction, expanding evenly like ripples in a lake, flushing the genitals with heat. A pain in the butt becomes pleasure in the crotch because the nerves are so close. It’s an involuntary response.

She paints a pretty picture -- as, apparently, did the spank-er (as opposed to the spank-ee) she writes about:
Everybody else stopped what they were doing to watch. She handled that monstrous instrument of torture with such grace, as if she were painting a landscape on his derriere.

Completely regardless of my personal feelings about spanking as an erotic activity, I love how mainstream it's become. Spanking was once considered the domain of the seriously kinky (though I'm sure many secretly fantasized about it and even tried it out). Now it's out-and-proud, and the kind of activity that even those with otherwise very vanilla sex lives can engage in without feeling like they've crossed that invisible line to "kinky".

More on Spanking:
Naughty Spanking Stories A to Z (Edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Also check out Volume 2!)
Spanking Blog
Babeland's Slappers and Floggers
Turn Me Up, Over and On -- classic dyke porn

Big Condom Trouble

Brooklyn Resident and "Artsy NYC College" Staffer Elle, who is one of my favorite people, has a horror story to tell about buying condoms in New York:
Today I needed to buy non-lubricated Magnum condoms for the show I am working on (You put wireless headset transmitters in them and they prevent the units from being soaked in sweat, thus preserving the life of the unit...totally dorky).

So I go on my hunt through NYC - where you supposedly can find countless drugstores/pharmacies later, I cannot find any Magnum condoms that are not lubricated NOR can I find non lubed condoms of any brand.

I finally go to Kmart...where I find nonlubricated condoms, though not Magnum. I figure, what the hell, better get them in case they work.

But they are locked. Behind a scary glass cabinet.

So I find the nearest employee and tell him which I want, and he gets them for me. I reach for them, but WAIT! I can't carry them to the counter...he has to carry them to checkout for me.

Ridiculous...It's easier to buy cigarettes...grow up NYC

Wow... what's that about? Buying condoms is scary enough when you're inexperienced. Even I would probably give up if presented with that many obstacles. Then again, I know from this summer that men get a certain thrill out of specifically requesting Magnum condoms. Maybe having to ask multiple times at multiple stores would enhance the experience.

While we're on the subject of Magnums, though: Until this summer I never believed they were actually necessary. After all, I've stretched a regular old lifestyles condom over my entire forearm up to the elbow. I haven't seen all that many penises, but given the size of those who claimed to be well-endowed... let's just say a penis too big for a regular condom seemed like a "stretch" (HAH! Awful pun totally intended). But one afternoon at Ye Olde Sexe Shoppe, my adorable co-worker was complaining to me about how painful it was to use regular condoms.

"It hurts!" He said. "Seriously, the base is really constricting. This one time it snapped right in the middle, like a rubber band!"
I rolled my eyes. "Sure, buddy, that's what they all say. You must have some massive junk hidden away down there."
He smiled modestly and shrugged. I laughed a little incredulously. "What are we talking about, here? Bandit? Large Realistic?"
"Um... well..." And off he went to the other side of the store. He returned with a dildo we called Max. Max was a Vixskin product -- to the best of my knowledge he was a sort of prototype of Maverick or Outlaw. But Max was... huge. We're talking something like 12 inches in length, with a circumference of about 7 inches. When people would point to one of the large dildos and boast about a past lover, we would reach for Max and ask, "But have you ever had anyone this big?" It almost always shut them up.

So there I am, holding Max and wondering if my coworker would swing my way if I got him drunk enough. He tossed a condom at me from the display, and I tore it open (without checking the expiration date, but don't tell anyone), squeezed the tip and began to roll it over Max's head. And you know what? It didn't fit. It took me a solid two minutes to get a condom on that cock, and it was a struggle the whole way.

So I had to concede to my coworker. Apparently not all men are just trying to boost their own egos when they buy Magnums! Although I've got to tell you, that one ex of mine who used them? Yeah... he didn't need 'em.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Academy of Music to Close

We interupt our regularly scheduled program to bring you the following public service announcement:

Attention Smithies past and present who are not currently in the valley:

The Academy of Music closed yesterday. The move is publicly being called a "hiatus", but the staff has been entirely laid off, including the General Manager who had been with the theater for more than 30 years. The decision was made by the Board of Directors, which includes Northampton Mayor Mary Claire Higgens and Smith's President Christ. The theater, which is the 6th oldest in the country, is owned by the city of Northampton and primarily funded by donations. The Board plans to honor all current contracts for live events scheduled at the theater, but beyond that its future is unclear.

I know how upset I would have been to come back from J-Term and find the Academy closed. The staff wasn't really notified: those that were there Tuesday evening found out when Board members arrived and told them. Others found out with the rest of the city on Thursday morning, when it hit the papers.