Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Crush, Explained by Science

Careful, don't get burned.
"What is this volatile, often uncontrollable feeling that hijacks the mind, bringing bliss one moment, despair the next?"
--Helen Fisher, Why We Love

The other day, a reader contacted me to tell me she had something I had to write about. She reported that since attending her high school reunion a month back, her old flame had been poking her on Facebook. "Every day," she said meaningfully. It was clear from her words that this virtual poking was getting her all hot and bothered. "It's knowing that, at least for some moment in the day, I am on his mind," she reported.

At first I reacted like I usually do when someone tells me something I Simply Must Write About, which is to pretend that I am interested, then never actually write about it.

But the more I thought about it, I realized the story was the crush itself. Or how this very practical woman was now obsessively checking Facebook to see if any new pokes had come in from Mr. Reunion Dude. She had actually eroticized the little cartoon poking hand icon from Facebook which, to refresh your memory, looks like this:
Is this making you hot?
Still, her Pavlovian response to Facebook pokey hand is perfectly normal. Anyone in the midst of a crush has all sorts of neurochemical crap going on.

The last time I had a crush, I could tell exactly the moment it hit me. We were talking in my driveway, he said something vaguely risque, and I felt it come down upon me, like an actual thing. Like an affliction. "Oh fuck," I thought.

Because, although a crush is delightful and exciting and makes the world shine brighter, it is an affliction. A brain affliction. An affliction as in "pain, suffering and distress."

In her (quite excellent) book, "Why We Love," anthropologist Helen Fisher identified certain characteristics of people "in love." And I mean "in love" in the sense of "God, I want to lick their neck" instead of the "We've been together 35 years and he's an excellent father" kind of love. Like crazy stupid love where you do fucked up things and act psychotic. That one governor who snuck off to Brazil to meet his lover while claiming to be hiking? His kind of love. The astronaut chick who drove across the country to confront her romantic rival while wearing astronaut diapers to hasten her trip? Her kind of love.

According to Fisher, lovestruck people exhibit certain characteristics, including:
--"Special Meaning": This is giving the loved one an elevated status above others. "Your beloved becomes novel, unique and all-important," writes Fisher.
--Focused Attention: "The love-possessed person focuses almost all of his or her attention on the beloved, often to the detriment of everything and everyone else," writes Fisher. (see above: governor ditching his job.) "Infatuated men and women also concentrate on all of the events, songs, letters, and other little things they have come to associate with the beloved." (That would be you, Facebook pokey finger.)
--Aggrandizing the Beloved:  This means that although you can see the beloved's faults, you somehow reframe them as charming quirks. This what was probably happening to me when the (thankfully unconsumated) Crush above was later telling me about some penis test he got for flippin' gonorrhea. It involved a tube and his urethra, but I was all, "Oh really? That's fascinating!"
--"Intrusive Thinking": This is when you can't stop thinking about your loved one. In a 1988 survey, in love respondents reported thinking about their "'love object' over 85 percent of their waking hours." 85 percent! This happened to me with Gonorrhea boy. I would lie awake in bed thinking of him, so much so that it actually became tiresome. At a certain point, I didn't even want to be thinking of him, but my mind kept returning to him, as though he were a plague upon my brain.
--Looking for clues: This is the source of all "What do you think he really meant when he said I was 'interesting?'" conversations.
--Emotional fire: That's when you're so damn happy that eating or sleeping seems so...pedestrian.
--Intense energy: This includes exhilaration as well as the overwhelming awkwardness in the beloved's presence. Noted Andres the Chaplain in the 1180s: "Every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of the beloved." This would be the feeling of "How do I act normal around this delightful, insanely sexy person to disguise the fact that I am obsessively thinking about putting my mouth upon their upper thigh (the left one)?"

Fisher identified several others symptoms like jealousy, hope, adversity strengthening ardor, and such but I, sadly crush-less and thus unfueled by its exhilaration, grow weary upon listing them all.

Even Richard Burton was not immune to the overwhelmingly potent forces of attraction and noted upon meeting the 19 year old Elizabeth Taylor:
She was so extraordinarily beautiful that I nearly laughed out loud...Her breasts were apocalyptic, they would topple empires before they withered...her body was a miracle of construction...She was unquestionably gorgeous. She was lavish. She was, in short, too bloody much....those huge violet eyes had an odd glint...Aeons passed, civilizations came and went while these cosmic headlights examined my flawed personality. Every pockmark on my face became a crater of the moon.
So why do we act like such insecure ass-wipes when we when love someone? Fisher asked herself the same question, though I don't believe she used the term "ass-wipes." She promptly stuck some lovestruck folks into an fMRI machine to see what the hell was going on in their poor, love-addled brains.

What she found was a neurochemical stew driving the ass-wipeian behavior. The ancient reptilian brain, with its dumb quest for good feelings was going crazy. One part--the caudate nucleus, if you must know--is associated with the reward system of the brain and affects "general arousal, sensations of pleasure and the motivation to acquire rewards." Also active was the ventral tegmenal area (VTA), spewing dopamine about the brain, willy-nilly, giving lovers "focused attention...fierce energy, concentrated motivation to attain a reward, and feelings of elation--even mania." 

As a result, few drives are more basic and strong than the quest to bind with a lover. Fisher calls it, "a primordial brain network that drives the lover to focus his or her attention on life's grandest prize--a mate who may pass their DNA toward eternity."

I'll leave you today with these questions:
--Does any of this sound familiar?
--What undesirable characteristics have you overlooked while hepped up on love?
--And finally, do you not completely love the sentence, "She was, in short, too bloody much"?

Monday, June 15, 2015

7 Things I Learned at Homemade-Sex-Toys

Homemade Sex Toys is a site for people who like DIY projects. But what sets these folks apart from regular old Squaresville do-it-yourself-ers is that, instead of thinking, "Can I fix the broken breadmaker?" they think, "Can I have sex with the broken breadmaker?"

Now, I am utterly arts and crafts deficient, so I have a healthy fear having sex with anything I made. And near as I can tell, none of my 6th grade-era macramed plant hangers or bicentennial rug hook projects seem the least bit fuckable.

Still, I admire a can-do attitude, so I wandered around the site awhile instead of doing any number of more productive things. The site wasn't nearly as entertaining as I'd hoped, but I did learn a few things. To wit:

1.  People of both genders can have sexual relations with a cucumber. (New slogan for Association of Cucumber Growers? Send memo.) I think we all know what women can do with a particularly sexy cucumber, but men, if so inclined, can hollow out the insides of a cuke (not one of those long skinny kinds) then make sweet sweet love to it. Important: Do not fall in love with your cucumber because this is a relationship that must remain brief (see also: composting).

2.  Men can also have sex with a whole host of household objects including a heated melon, balloons, a doctored-up toilet paper roll and a bean bag chair. (Note to self: avoid bean bag chair). Women can have sex with a blanket, a cell phone (There is indeed an app for that), and a toothbrush.

3. To my surprise, there's a whole section on fucking toothbrushes. When I got to the heading labeled simply, "Toothbrush in ass," I had to click away because I was too busy running to get my toothbrush--No! NOT to put "in ass"!--but to grab it to make sure it never leaves my side. I am going to insist that my toothbrush take an immediate vow of chastity.

4. The holes on blow-up sex toys are sealed with pull tab-like bits of plastic "for hygienic and safety reasons." (Warning: removed tabs may alert the blow-up doll's strict parents that you two did more than just "hang out at the mall.")

5.  You can make your own solar powered vibrator. I like solar power and *mumbling a bit here* yes, fine, I like vibrators, but when it got to talk of "soldering" and diagrams like this...

...I knew I'd rather just pony up the cash and get a vibrator made by vibrator-making professional. Besides part of the whole "solar" thing is that it uses the sun, meaning, you'd be gettin' down with your jimmy-rigged, questionably-soldered solar vibe out in the damn yard.

6. There are people who enjoy inserting a banana into their loved one's personal sexual orifice, then eating said banana.  I am not one of those people. Again, I like bananas, I like my loved ones, and yet...

7.  And finally, and perhaps most importantly, this information: "Jerking off with Icy Hot or Ben Gay will put you in a world of hurt." Which--although I now strangely intrigued by the idea--I will probably just take their word on.


(photo by Dennis Hopper.  Image source:

Thursday, June 4, 2015

What Was Your Formative Smut?

"Is it okay if the girls watch 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt'"? my friend texted pre-kid sleepover.

Considering my 13 year old had just seen the majority of the Louie episode where Louis CK ends up in a sex toy store, yeah, Kimmy was fine. (In my defense, I kept thinking the Louie ep was somehow gonna become more appropriate, like, any second. This, despite the fact that the characters were talking about vibrators and it was Louis CK, for fuck's sake. #MagicalThinking)

"I was reading Harold Robbins, Jackie Collins and Xaviera Hollander at their age," noted my friend. "The basement bookshelf was where my mom kept all the smutty books. The Story of O. Lady Chatterley's Lover. Portnoy's Complaint. I spent entire summers down there. She. Had. No. Idea."

You see, my pretties, back before the Internet, when you wanted sexual information, you had to cobble together what you could. It involved a combination of covert reading sessions in back aisles of book stores, excavations under the beds of pervy neighborhood dads (that is, all dads) and checking out the bookshelves of your parents' more free-thinking friends. My own sex ed was an unwieldy mash-up of:

--Sidney Sheldon novels
--Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex: But Were Afraid to Ask
--Where Did I Come From? in which 1977-era cartoon grown ups offer mildly helpful/icky information such as "The man pushes his penis up and down in the woman's vagina, so that both the tickly parts are being rubbed against each other. It's like scratching an itch but a lot nicer."
 --Fear of Flying
--Playboy, Penthouse and the rare Hustler
--The Sensuous Woman by "J"  (at the time her advice on giving proper head and the like was apparently so scandalous she couldn't even use her whole name.)
 --National Geographics (there is no such thing as a single issue of National Geographic--they travel only in packs) for boobic studies.

And yes, Xaviera Hollander, aka The Happy Hooker How strange to realize I'd gotten a ton of my sexual information from a hooker. A happy one, but still.

I studied these books like the Quran, looking for clues on how to behave once naked with another--and to figure out what the hell words like "necking" and "petting" meant. (Actually that's probably not what people are studying the Quran for.) My furtive peeks at these books, for better or worse, shaped my sexual worldview and informs my life even today. (Thank you, "J," you little hussy, for the "silken swirl.")

So yeah, was it the same for you? What was your formative smut? Where'd you find it? What did you learn?  Did any salient passages stick with you to guide your later sexual self? 

Here's the contest part

To enter, tell me what your formative smut was. That's it! From among your answers, I'll pick a winner, semi-randomly, depending on the vagaries of my mood. Deadline is Wednesday, May 27. [edit:  contest has ended. To see winner, click here.] You can comment below, use the comment form at right, or email me at

The winner gets a choice of:

-- a $50 gift certificates to Good Vibrations, fine purveyors of sex toys.


--a Pearly Waterproof Rechargeable Silicone Vibrator ($100 value) also donated by Good Vibrations.

"So....wanna fuck?"

Sex Museums!
My story "9 Amazing Sex Museums That'll Blow Your Mind" is running on AlterNet, featuring the highly important information that at NYC's Museum of Sex, there's an G-spot exhibit that's a Hall of Mirrors Maze. If you find your way to the spot, you can move your hands around to play the theremin. Which is genius.


"I had to donate! Otherwise I was just exploiting your blog for sex," Phebie wrote, sending money I plan to blow on household electricity. Thank you, Phebie!

"It's about time I paid a subscription fee for the wonderfulness that is you delivered straight to my inbox!" wrote Ada, who signed up via PayPal to make automatic monthly donations, thus forcing me to change the honorary title for Robert, formerly IBWMW Minister of Being the Blog's Only Patron.

To Phebie, Ada, Robert, all those who've donated before, plus anyone who shares posts (like Juanita, who bravely shares practically every post, even the ones with unseemly words like "VAGINA" in the title) and the tons of people who provide smart/funny/deep comments, you keep me out of the Pit of Despair and more like Pit of Despair Adjacent, which is a much nicer area.

Now go think of your formative smut and write me back.


(Photo source)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Sex Museums!

Hey, gorgeous. My story on sex museums ran a week ago or so on AlterNet, but if you're too lazy to click over, I'm bringing it here to you--much like a cat brings its half-dead animal victims to your doorstep.

There were no crushingly mean comments this time around, though one commenter complained that there was no mention of the Icelandic Phallogical Museum, even though there, like, was. In the second paragraph. I tried to feel miffed and insecure about it, but it just wasn't up to the level of the chick who yelled at me: "You have Numb Vagina Syndrome!" 

Anyway, here you go. I killed it just for you:

Sure, there are undeniable pleasures to seeing a nicely curated Natural History Museum exhibit on African savanna animals, but sex museums offer a whole different spin on the museum experience.

Risque exhibits like a giant inflatable boob bounce house (the Museum of Sex) or displays of the sex toys our pervy ancestors stuck up their primitive orifices (several museums--our ancestors were a randy lot) mean lots of visitors and sex museums are popping up all over the world. Even Iceland has one—the Icelandic Phallological Museum, featuring more than 215 penises and “penile parts” from mammals, including Homo Sapiens.

Here's a list of some of the world's best, if you happen to be in the area. Just don't call yourself a sex tourist, 'cause that's a whole different thing.

Museum of Sex, New York City

Around since 2002, MoSex puts a cheeky spin on sex ed, sexual history and erotic art. Running now is FUNLAND: Pleasures & Perils of the Erotic Fairground, an art installation by conceptual artist duo Bompas & Parr, featuring carnival attractions so guests can “contemplate the sexual subtext of carnivals.” (“Carnival sexual subtext” being for most people, Still, it's clever, silly and arty with grown-up fun like the boob bounce house (you can really jump in it), Grope Mountain (a body parts climbing wall) and a hall of mirrors maze leading to a “grotto” representing a woman's g-spot. Which is genius. Once inside the grotto, you can manipulate your hands to play the theremin, which is even more genius.

The Sex Machines Museum is small, but has about 200 gadgets showing how humans can't leave well enough alone when it comes to sex. See devices designed to make sex better or at least more interesting, like a racy 1880s chamber pot with a mirror or a chair with strategic holes to facilitate oral sex. There are also contraptions designed to block out sex entirely, like a German chastity belt from 1580 and a really horrible looking electric (!) anti-masturbation device from 1915 (Which, as you know completely wiped out the worldwide scourge of masturbation forever hence. Jk.) If you need to take a breather to balance your humours, step into the theater to screen 1920s porn from Spain, some of world's earliest.

MusEros, St. Petersburg, Russia

“Know everything about what others are silent!” says MusEros' (translated) site, referring to the Soviet penchant for secrecy in, well, pretty much everything. In the History Room (“You will know at first hand that there was sex in the Soviet Union!”), there is a special sex chair reportedly used by Catherine the Great. The Modern Room showcases human ingenuity via a seesaw festooned with strategically placed dildos, a chair rigged up with a naughtily-situated feather-covered spinning wheel, and a glass case of blow-up dolls including men, women, and sheep, waiting with mouths permanently agape ready for your love. The Erotic Culture room has sex artifacts from all over the world and fun facts like “For a long time Koreans believed that the best way to turn a man on was to prick his root of penis with a needle.”

The newly reopened Erotic Heritage Museum makes good on any expected Vegas showiness with exhibits like props from a “Star Wars” porn parody, a Ron Jeremy fortune telling machine and an extensive chart on all Game of Thrones sex acts. They have historical artifacts like Chinese figurines from the 1700s doing “it” and vintage porn posters plus pieces of more dubious educational value like a penis made of pennies. You can also get tickets to Puppetry of the Penis, which you will have to look up yourself—though be forewarned that is sometimes referred to as “genital origami.”

The World Erotic Art Museum was started by the late Naomi Wilzig, a spunky erotic art collector/grandmother and features of 4000 works, from 300 BC to the present. It's a lowbrow/highbrow jumble with Chinese shunga books (erotic art offered as gifts to new brides on their wedding night) and erotic drawings by acclaimed artists workin' blue including Rembrandt, Picasso and Klimt happily coexisting with more kitschy stuff like a four-poster bed with, naturally, penis posts. Guests also dig WEAMs gift shop fare like 1970s/80s Mexican sex-themed comic books for $5 and an especially good collection of postcards.

Amsterdam's Sexmuseum, may not be the most comprehensive museum of its kind, but it's the longest operating sex museum, first opening its doors in 1985 with a small display of 19th century erotic objects. It's since expanded to three floors (albeit narrow Netherlands-size floors) of sexy detritus including fetish gear, a flashing mannequin showing his mannequin naughty bits and historical artifacts like a 16th century chastity belt. Admission is cheap and you'll know the place by the giant bronze penis/seemingly irresistible photo op spot out front.

This wide and varied collection is based on the huge erotic art collection Alain Plumey and Jo Khalifa amassed over 30 years. Their devotion resulted in 7 floors of over 2000 pieces including Aztec fertility idols, Nepalese temple carvings and some Japanese wooden dildo/shoe combo which seems unfit for either purpose. Currently running is an exhibit devoted to the history of brothels from the late 19th century until 1946, including “Polisson et Galipettes,” a collection of freshly-restored erotic silent film shorts made in France between 1905 and 1930 used to 'warm up' the patrons of Paris's famous brothels.

Jeju Loveland, South Korea

Jeju Loveland bills itself as a sexual theme park, but it's more like an erotic sculpture garden with over 140 naked statues going far beyond typical “statue mode” of standing around looking dignified. Loveland is located on popular honeymoon destination Jeju Island and was created to help newlyweds lose their inhibitions by wandering among statues in various states of fuckery and a lovely penis garden. (No figures on how many newlyweds leave with even more inhibitions.)

There's also a Museum of Sex and Health on site, with a mashup of sex education films, novelties like a hands-on "masturbation cycle” and sciencey human body part models alongside less anatomically-correct pieces like a penis with wings and a penis tail and, for good measure, a regular penis in the usual place.

Antique Vibrator Museum, San Francisco

“Your great-great-grandmother might have owned a vibrator” notes Antique Vibrator Museum's web site, in probably not their most alluring enticement. Still, the Antique Vibrator Museum, located at the Polk location of seminal (er...) sex toy store Good Vibrations, offers a fascinating history of hysteria, the vibrators designed to help relieve this rampant “problem” and vintage ads that hedged around the benefits of the vibe without saying exactly where women could put it. ("American Vibrator ... can be used by yourself in the privacy of dressing room or boudoir, and furnish every woman with the essence of perpetual youth.")

Highlights include a 1906 Detwiller pneumatic vibrator that ran on (ack!) compressed gas and a Magic Rotating Disc with its box showing its tasteful use on non-crotchal areas like the feet, back and oddly, the upper arm. There's also Dr. Macaura's Pulsocon Blood Circulator, a turn-of-the-century hand crank number that never caught on, perhaps due to hand crank twisting motions meeting voluminous bushes of 1800s-era ladies. The Good Vibes site also offers a virtual tour of vibrators, starting with the extra scary ones from 1869-1920

(Photo: Salvador Dali, Paris, 1938.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Formative Smut Contest Winner! Plus (Arguably) The Most Delightful Entry Which, In a Cruel Twist of Fate, Did Not Win

"Before I was out of the 5th grade, I had read Judy Blume's 'Wifey,' repeatedly perused a number of Hustlers, and watched (and re-watched a few times) 'Clockwork Orange.' I turned out OK, but I don't recommend that course of study for anyone," read MattM's excellent, yet also cruelly non-winning, entry in the What Was Your Formative Smut? contest.

There were so many good entries that, in the end, I just went with first responder @empiregrrl. For empriregrrl's promptness, she gets her choice of the highly fuckable Pearly Waterproof Vibrator from Good Vibrations OR a $50 gift card, also provided by Good Vibes.*

So yes, completely loved everyone's entries and it was so good to know I wasn't the only Jr. Perv skulking around in the back aisles of book stores looking for dirty information I might one day need. Back then--I said, sounding like a fucking grandma (a phrase which, now that I write it, sounds like it could be interpreted another way entirely)--such activities were absolutely not discussed. I think this was especially true for girls, but maybe for everyone. I felt like what I was doing was wrong, pretty shameful and I was probably the only one in the world who did such things. I never mentioned any of it to anyone, ever.

(Until now, that is, when I'll tell all of y'all, plus any weirdo who happens to wander in via some fucked up Google search [like today's Misguided Googler who arrived via "Demi Moore anal." Sorry to displease! Come again any time!])

I hope it's different for curious kids today. No one should feel like a creepy weirdo because they want to know about a damn basic fact of human existence. I mean, we don't keep the Knowledge of Eating secret, forcing kids to sneak online to see how to cut a steak or something. (Although if the secret food porn was like regular porn, it would show cutting the steak easily with a butter knife, the steak would be moaning "ohyeahohyeah" etc...) My point is, we really need to stop being such babies about sex.

We *may* be getting better about this. The sex ed at my daughter's middle school, according to my interpretations of the giggling from the back seat during carpool, actually shows kids how to put on a condom. Though, weirdly, they demonstrate this using a pear instead of a more obviously penile-looking fruit (Banana, I thought you had this gig!) I can see this causing further confusion as girls faced with their first set of dick n' balls try to decide which part looks more pear-like.

At the end of the class, my 13 year old daughter will be coloring a picture of "The Uncircumcised Penis" which I plan to display on my refrigerator because I think the idea of a penis coloring page so perfectly captures the awkward, uncertain space that a 13 year old kid occupies--no longer really into coloring, but sure as fuck not ready for "The Uncircumcised Penis."

Anyway, like I said, I loved all your entries, especially this one from Keppie. It's kinda long, but if you have the time, it's totally worth it--funny, true and containing the phrase "he thrust his man-meat into her pulsing velvet cavity."

Love you hard. That is, a lot. Not, you know, hard. Though that's pretty good too.


The Guide(s) to Good Sex
by Keppie

Dr. Ruth's Guide to Good Sex, by Dr. Ruth Westheimer

The huge red and black block print on the cover gave nothing away other than the title, but wasn't that enough? Good sex, it screamed in inch-high letters. Guide. A book that was confident enough to put that on the cover had to deliver. In the late eighties, I was still naive enough to know I didn't want to be naive anymore, and this book promised a good solid start in losing some of that innocence—and in a practical way, to boot! It was written by a doctor, so it had to be a reliable source. Of course I had sat through “the talk” with my mother and the requisite basic sex-ed course in school (I was of an age that it was still given on filmstrip. Filmstrip!), but I was ready to learn more than the fundamentals. I wanted to know ... what it was no one was telling me. In short, the good stuff. The fun stuff.

I had recently begun reading romance novels (known charmingly and colloquially as bodice-rippers) for the informative smut to be gleaned from them. Janelle Taylor, Danielle Steele, Johanna Lindsay, to name a few. I quickly learned to recognize which authors were “soft porn”: i.e., mostly kissing and some canoodling scenes before cutting back to the plot (yes, there is some plot in those things), and which authors featured all-out X-rated passages, with the whole deed spelled out in lurid detail. The thing was, as a young reader, it wasn't quite explicit enough. I say that because while the scenes were invariably exciting, the flowery language used phrases like “he thrust his man-meat into her pulsing velvet cavity”. While this is undeniably specific and leaves no room for doubt about what is happening, as I reached an age where I was starting to wonder how I would one day fit into this scenario, it left me more and more terrified. Did I want man meat shoved at me? Did I want to pulse like that? Could I? I looked at the boys in my band class and in the hallways of my school who I had known for years and on whom I'd developed crushes, fleetingly and somewhat regularly since puberty, but I couldn't link liking them to what I was reading in those novels. Man-meat indeed.

Beyond the somewhat skeptical education they endeared, romance novels had left me with another, less tangible yearning: the idea that I wanted to be part of a relationship like the ones I was reading about. Apparently, relationships that were blissful, romantic and ended happily also included man-meat and pulsing velvet cavities. Therefore, if I wanted to be happy, I'd better figure it all out. Since no one in band class was offering to help me, I had only my own ingenuity on which to rely. As a time-tested nerd, I turned to the resources that had never failed me in the past.

Which brings us back to Dr. Ruth.

I don't recall where I found the copy of it; I know I would have been too mousy to have checked it out from the library. It is far more likely that it was wedged on the shelves in our musty basement collection of rag-tag books for some reason. Wherever I acquired it, I squirreled it away under my Laura Ashley pillow sham for further inspection when I was sure not to be disturbed. Reading romance novels is one thing; you can always claim that you like the story. People may or may not believe you, but there it is. There is only one reason you'd be reading a guide to good sex, and it isn't for the plot. My underage cheeks burned at the notion that anyone would guess I was even interested. I cracked the cover and dived in, waiting to be overcome with tips to make me a sex goddess.

Suffice it to say that the book was a major disappointment. It was a somewhat dry medical text that was directed, predictably, at people who needed practical advice about something that they had been doing for a long time and, presumably, no longer found even the word “sex” titillating the way a teenage girl did. It was sex advice in print form as if your eighty-year old no-nonsense German grandma sat you down and told you the best way to bake a kuchen. Which is pretty much exactly what it was. At an age where the power of rampant hormones hijacked me into raging arousal for Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (God, why?), I got nothing out of it. It was a disaster.

The next and last book in the my misadventures of my sexual awakening came not long after the Dr. Ruth incident. I had gone back to the solace of my romance novels, and I had recently found one at a bargain bookstore for a good deal. It wasn't the kind I normally read—I preferred wild time-travel fantasies or romps through the middle ages—as this one didn't have any swoon-worthy cover art featuring Fabio and some half-naked lady. It was a woman's face, clearly from present times, which was kind of a bummer. In its favor, however, it did feature glittery purple letters for the title, which read “Working”. At the price of only a quarter, how could I refuse? As an avid reader, I knew I'd be through it in a matter of a few hours. I bought it.

The book that lives in infamy is “Working” and in tiny letters, had I read more closely, says: “My Life as a Prostitute” by Dolores French with Linda Lee. I did not notice the subtitle until I had it home, wherein my eyes practically popped out of my head. As I mentioned earlier, though, I was an avid reader and curiosity got the better of me, so I began to read.

“Holy shit”, I would have said, had I not been a goody-two-shoes. Then “Holy shit” again and some more for good measure throughout the memoir, which was an extremely frank (and funny) recounting of this woman's years in the business of prostitution (not a surprise, since it clearly stated that on the damn cover). As a side note, she later goes on to become the president of HIRE (Hooking is Real Employment), campaigning for women's rights and becoming a real activist for the cause, but to be fair I was not interested in the empowering part of her story at the time. I was interested/horrified by the descriptions of sex, which were plentiful and detailed. In a way the romance novels were not, I might add. No man-meat to be found here.

Instead, my naiveté fled during the course of 200-some pages as I read about people doing things to each other that, in my brief and inadequate reading of Dr. Ruth and Danielle Steele, I had no idea was even an option for people to do each other. I read about people peeing on each other in bathtubs while being dressed up as cats and eating tins of cats food (why? why?), sex on canola-oiled up sheets, men who liked to smell farts, men who could only come if they were being spit on ... my brain rebelled. What if Adam from band class wanted me to smell his fart? Oh my God! But I was also undeniably turned on by all of the things I was reading. What was happening? Why was I so turned on by the clearly disturbing things I was reading? Was I a weirdo? Was I going to grow up to be a hooker, too? Cue: existential crisis in suburbia, big time.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Bikini Condom, We Hardly Knew Ye

Pity the poor Bikini Condom. Launched in the early 1990's, it was overshadowed by its more popular cousin, the female condom. Both were part of the contraceptive group the FDA gave the perfectly hideous label "vaginal pouches." ("Hon, I need some quarters for the meter. Can you check your vaginal pouch?") 

And when you're playing second fiddle to the female condom--a device most Americans have never actually seen, let alone used--let's just say you're not gonna be sitting at the popular table. Not that there is a popular table for contraceptives. Or if there is, I was, sadly not invited to sit there.

Bikini Condoms look "like a g-string panty with a condom pouch" wrote an unnamed author in a 1991 issue of Contraceptive Technologya magazine which I get only for the crossword puzzle. 

The condom "is automatically introduced into the vagina with coitus," the writer continues, masterfully making a sentence about sex totally void of eroticism. The odd language continues to the last sentence: "They are so novel they appeal to people with an 'open mind.'" "Open mind" is inexplicably in quotes, signifying, to my mind, that the author is does not particularly care for people with open minds. Or perhaps "coitus."

So why aren't we all sportin' vaginal pouches this very second? I mean, they empowered women and junk, right? Well, offhand, I can venture several guesses:

1. The term "vaginal pouch" could be entirely to blame.

2. Its look and feel and pretty much everything about it. "Manufactured all in one piece from thin, cream-colored latex," according to the Powerhouse Museum in Australia, "It consists of a belt, which fits around the hips, attached to a pouch-like tube." In summation, it combines a pouch-like tube (oh yeah), a belt reminiscent of grandma's old-timey maxi pads, and cream-colored latex, which we all know is the very sexiest latex color.

3. It is thicker than a regular condom, for those who like their sensation reduced as much as possible.

4. The whole clothing-as-contraceptive idea. (However, other clothing/contraceptive combos such as pleated khakis, holiday sweaters and men's jeans shorts, are still in widespread use.) 

5. Reusability. It can be reused 5 to 10 times. I'm as green as the next girl,** but even I would be hesitant to drag out some raggedy-ass cream-colored condom for the 9th time.

6. General confusion/inherent paradox: "Bikini" = sexy. "Condom" = not that sexy, but sex-related, at least. And yet, "bikini condom" = so not sexy. This, my friend is your Zen koan for the day, bikini condom-style.


* (if you'd like to read more about "vaginal pouches"--and who the hell wouldn't?--see also: Female Condom, Where Art Thou?How to Behave in the Presence of a Female Condom and  Someone Who Actually Used The Female Condom.)

** I have been known to force only-marginally-interested children to behold my compost pile, which in several states is legally considered eco-terrorism.

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