Tuesday, November 17, 2015

7 Reasons Why Breakups Suck So Damn Bad

Hey there, gorgeous. This just ran in Alternet and Salon, but I thought you might like it delivered here to your virtual doorstep. I learned a ton of interesting stuff on this one, mainly that I have the emotional maturity/coping skills of a traumatized baby lab monkey.

There are plenty of good reasons why the death of a relationship is so unbearable. There's shame, failure, guilt, anger/incredulousness at the other person's inability to see how incredible you are and sadness over that very same thing, plus the personal rejection of your Very Being.

The Czechs have a lovely word for it: litost. "Litost is a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one's own misery," writes Milan Kundera in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

But this torment is more than just the nature of breakups, the need to experience darkness to appreciate the light, blah blah blah. Breakups also activate all kinds of neurochemical, physical and psychological fuckery that makes the whole business even more painful. Stupid biology.
To wit:
--Breakups turn you into a jonesing addict.
If the beginning of a love affair is a kind of chemical-fueled madness, so is the ending, but in reverse. In one of the crueler aspects of neurochemistry, just when you're hitting the personal low of a breakup is also when dopamine—the reward chemical that made you feel so damn good in the beginning-- decides to flee the scene, making you desperate for another hit. Dopamine acts in the same way as any drug of abuse, according to Helen Fisher in Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love: “If the beloved breaks off the relationship, the lover shows all the common signs of withdrawal, including depression, crying spells, anxiety,insomnia, loss of appetite (or binge eating), irritability, and chronic loneliness. Like all addicts, the lover then goes to unhealthy, humiliating, even physically dangerous lengths to procure their narcotic.” (Note: Having tried the “unhealthy, humiliating” Plan of Action, I can advise with some authority that it's not gonna go well for you.)

--Breakups actually hurt, physically.
In one study researchers had subjects “who recently experienced an unwanted breakup view a photograph of their ex-partner as they think about being rejected.” This was pretty cruel and probably not worth the 50 bucks or whatever the subjects got, but we learned that psychic trauma activates the same parts of the brain that process physical pain. Meaning, your brain experiences emotional pain as it would if you spilled hot coffee on yourself. Or, more accurately, kept spilling coffee on yourself every time you heard that one song on the radio, went on Instagram, etc...

--Breakups are depressing, officially.
In a study of poor sods who'd been rejected by a partner within the past 8 weeks, 40% experienced clinically measurable depression, with 12% of those having moderate to severe depression. All breakups involve an amount of grief (and indeed, in another of those “think about how much your break up sucked while we look at your brain with an MRI” studies, the parts of the brain associated with grief lit up.) but sometimes the grief becomes “complicated grief.” Complicated grief is an unwieldy beast of grief lasting 6 months or more (or, way too much virtual hot coffee spilling), featuring unpleasantries like over-rumination and mooning, bad dreams, and the excessive playing of Elliot Smith songs.

--Your stupid brain can actually start to get off on your suffering.
Anyone who has looked in the mirror to examine their tragic selves mid-cry knows there is a certain joy in one's own deep suffering. But sometimes that sort of self-schadenfreude can become addictive in itself. In some people, enduring grief triggers the reward center in their brains, making them seek the dark feelings so they can get a little happy chemical hit.

--You lose your sense of self.
Without the identity created within the relationship (i.e.“We like paddleboarding”), some emerge bleary-eyed from a breakup with a hazy sense of who they are. The sort of psychic rootlessness is compounded by the loss of the sense of having a secure base within the relationship and with that partner. “Wherever that person is, that's your emotional home,” writes Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. in Come As You Are. Without that, you're kind of homeless, emotionally.

--It's even worse for people with “anxious attachment styles.”
Only half of people in U.S. have a “secure attachment style,” that is, they have relationships easily and trust others like normal healthy people, while the rest of us flounder about, either clinging too much (attachment anxious) or preemptively cutting and running (attachment avoidant). Those with attachment anxious styles show “greater preoccupation with the lost partner, greater perseveration over the loss, more extreme physical and emotional distress, exaggerated attempts to reestablish the relationship, partner-related sexual motivation, angry and vengeful behavior, interference with exploratory activities, dysfunctional coping strategies, and disordered resolution.” Meanwhile, for the attachment avoidant—you know who you are—there was little such emotional fallout. Bastards.

--Breakups kick in our survival biology.
Attachment is a survival mechanism. A baby needs secure attachment or it will die. “When (our relationships) are threatened, we do whatever it takes to hold on to them, because there are no higher stakes than our connection with our attachment objects,” writes Nagoski, citing Harry Harlow's “monster mother” studies. Harlow bonded infant monkeys with mechanical “mothers,” then rigged the mothers to shake the babies, spike them or jet cold air on them to force them away. The babies responded to this rather shabby treatment by running right back into the arms of those unpredictably cruel, rejecting mothers. Not only that, they became desperate to fix the relationship and tried to win back the mother by flirting with her, grooming and stroking her. That is, behavior some among us may recognize quite well.

So yeah, it's bad. With the combination of biological, chemical and emotional havoc a breakup causes, it's a wonder any of us ever get over it. But we do. If you can just accept you're going to be fucked for a while--and not in the way you'd like—the appeal of spending car rides furtively weeping to Joni Mitchell's “All I Want” will eventually fade and you will indeed get over it. At some point. You might have to listen to a whole lot of “All I Want.”

In the meantime, take solace in the words of Nietzche and Louis CK, two dudes not exactly known for being consoling. “Ultimately, it is the desire, not the desired, that we love,” wrote Nietzche. That is, that passion is still in you regardless of who its recipient is. And hell, the next person might be even better at appreciating it. And said Louis CK, in a typically genius statement that could apply to any relationship: “No good marriage has ever ended in divorce. It's really that simple.”

In other words, you're probably better off without 'em. Sorta. 


Also, here's a piece I wrote for Cosmo on 11 Positions That Are Better With A Vibrator. Thank you to those of you who helped out with suggestions, especially Cagey, Adam and T who earnestly explained it to me from the penis-having side of things. The piece has been shared over 20K times so far so you've influenced at least that many people's fucking styles. Possibly an honor, possibly creepy--you decide! Also thank you to reader Marla who noticed the mysteriously emanating groinal rays in the accompanying illustrations. I'm pretty sure they are the International Sign for Vibrators, or possibly just an indication of where you should put your phone to get the best WiFi reception. 

Move your balls to the left. I'm only getting 2 bars.
And finally, here is a link to a secret blog from one among you--one of my readers actually (besides you, of course)-- and her post called I Want Your Sex:  In which we discuss the connections between music and my sexuality. Go have a look and, fuck, maybe start a secret blog of your own.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Balls (Both Scenic and Educational), Public Masturbation and Florida Woman Does Some Dumb Shit

Breathe deeply. It's all gonna be okay.

Yes, I know, you were promised balls. Here you go, friend.

--Scenic balls!
"Men are taking photos of their balls in front of beautiful landscapes" is the alluring headline that led me to Nutscapes, a Tumblr featuring just that--beautiful landscapes with just a touch 'o balls hanging gently above the frame like...well, actually like nothing familiar. Rarely, I think, do any of us view nature from that particular under-ball vantage.

Ah, fresh balls in the morning.
If you're really into balls, this site probably won't do it for you because the balls are pretty blurry, and the scenery and the balls sort of cancel each other out, but I do appreciate that there are a bunch of dudes out there doing something so pointless and vaguely subversive. My only suggestion, and I can't believe I'm saying this: needs more balls.

 --Educational balls!
Meanwhile, Senhor Testicle (aka Mr. Balls) is a scrotum-shaped mascot who travels to classrooms, and other places where there is no escape, to bring awareness to testicular cancer. It also brings awareness to the issue of what you're supposed to say to big ol' hairy Spokesballs, especially one wearing an especially sad toupee/merkin thing, eerily smiling at you and silently making the "hug me" gesture.

The day at the fair takes a sudden turn.

Public Masturbation!
If all this talk of balls becomes too sexually arousing for you, for fuck's sake, please be smart about it doing something about it. Don't be like the Louisiana woman who was caught "inappropriately pleasing with a package of Jimmy Dean sausages in a Walmart bathroom. Believe me, I so get being overcome by passion, but this is not good. Not only does the sign clearly state that merchandise should not be brought into the bathroom, but it's a waste of perfectly good(ish) food. Because, once you actually fuck the sausage, they can't put it back on the shelf, at least not without a real good rinse.

Meanwhile, in a marginally more upscale incident, a Kansas City woman was caught in a Target bathroom singing "Let It Go" and involved in some sort of highly emotional threesome with a carrot and an Olaf puppet.

I think the point here is that public restrooms are overwhelming sexy, so if you're going to a big box store, make sure you masturbate at home first. And please pay for all meat products before sticking them into your vagina.

(If you cruelly enjoy the charming foibles of the clearly mentally ill, as I seem to, I suggest you check out the Florida Woman Twitter account featuring important news like "Florida Woman strips naked in restaurant, sticks chair leg in ass, slathers herself in ketchup" or, to return to the previous theme, "Florida Woman won't let go of security guard's testicles, even while being tasered." If you imagine that it's all just one woman doing all of it, it makes if even better. And better still if while imagining that, you concurrently make love to a pack of Jimmy Dean sausages--but not the spicy hot ones, learned my lesson.)

Superhero Blogging!
IBWMW made Kinkly's 2015 list of 100 Sex Blogging Superheros.  We're #13, which is good, since I try to strive for upper mediocrity in all I do. Not sure what this year's superpower is but I'm kinda hoping it's something like this, sent in by my friend Quentin who has spent his life "avoiding VaJayJay" and now will be even more vigilant in his efforts.

Not sure how I'm gonna use this power yet, but I'm thinking at the very least, it might get me a bit more space at the communal tables at Starbucks.

Or maybe I'll smite somebody. I have just the person in mind right now. Hope it's not you...


p.s. for you Esperanto readers, here is a complete translation of today's missive:

En lieu de fakta enhavo, mi decidis mi simple tuj uzi multajn ekstrajn ekkrion punktoj por ke ĉio ŝajnas pli amuza. Ni provu !!!!! Ĉu ni? Yay !!!!

--Scenic Pilkoj!
"Viroj prenas fotojn de siaj pilkoj antaŭ belaj pejzaĝoj" estas la alluring subtitolo kiu kondukis min al Nutscapes, Tumblr featuring ĝuste tion - belaj pejzaĝoj kun nur tuŝo 'o pilkoj pendas milde super la kadro kiel ... nu , fakte ŝatas nenion familiara. Malofte, mi pensas, do ajna de ni vidas naturon de tiu aparta sub-pilko panoramejo.
Buloj vidanta la vidindaĵojn.
--Educational Pilkoj!
Dume, Senhor testiko (aka Mr. Buloj) estas scrotum-forma maskoto kiu vojaĝas al klasĉambroj kaj aliaj lokoj kie ekzistas neniu fuĝo, por alporti konscion al testika kancero. Mi konjektas ankaŭ alportas konscion al la antaŭe neesplorita demando de kion vi supozis diri al granda ol 'paro de Spokeballs.
La tago ĉe la foiro prenas subitan turnon.
Publika masturbo!
Se ĉiuj ĉi tiu parolado pri pilkoj iĝas tro sekse concitando por vi, por fiki, kalkaj, bonvolu esti inteligenta pri ĝi. Kaj ne estu kiel ĉi Luiziano virino kiun kaptis "malkonvene placxas sin" kun pako de Jimmy Dean kolbasoj en Walmart banĉambro. Kredu min, mi do restu venkite de pasio, sed tio ne estas bona. Ne nur faras la signon klare deklari ke komercado oni ne enportadis en la banĉambro, Sed unufoje vi vere fuck la kolbaso, ili ne povas remetis ĝin sur la breton, almenaŭ ne sen bona Rinse. Tio estas nur malŝparo de perfekte bona (ish) manĝaĵo.
Dume, en marĝene pli luksa incidento, virino estis kaptita en Cel banĉambro kantante "Let It Go" kaj implikita en iu speco de trio kun karoto kaj Olaf marioneto.
Mi kredas ke la punkto estas, ke la publikaj necesejoj estas abrumadora sexy, do se vi tuj granda skatolo vendejo, certigi vin masturbado hejme unue.(Se vi kruele ĝui la ĉarmajn asteniojn de la klare mense malsana, kiel mi ŝajnas, mi sugestas ke vi kontrolu la Florida Virino Twitter konton featuring gravaj novaĵoj kiel "Florida Virino strioj nuda en restoracio, bastonoj seĝo kruro en azenon slathers sin keĉupo "aŭ, por reveni al la antaŭa temo," Florido virino ne lasi iras de sekureco korpogardistoj testikoj, eĉ dum estado tasered. "Se vi imagas, ke ĝi estas ĉio nur unu virino fari ĉiujn de ĝi, ĝi faras se eĉ pli bona. Kaj pli bona ankoraŭ se samtempe amindumu pack de Jimmy Dean kolbasoj - sed ne la pika varma, ili lernis mian lecionon.)

Superhero Blogging!
Tiu estas la klaso de aĵoj kiuj helpis IBWMW farita Kinkly la 2015 listo de 100 sekso Blogging Superheros. Ni estas # 13, kiu estas bona, se mi provos strebi por supra mezkvalito en ĉiuj mi fari. Ne certas kion ĉijara superpotenco estas sed mi kinda esperante ĝi estas io tiamaniere, per mia amiko Quentin.
Ne certe kiel mi estas gonna uzo ĉi povon ankoraŭ, sed mi pensas, almenaŭ, ĝi povus atingi min iom pli spaco je la komunuma tablojn ĉe Starbucks.Aŭ eble mi frapu al iu. Mi havas nur la persono en menso nun. Esperas ĝi ne estas

(ball photo via Nutscapes.com, natch)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

On Orgasm and Beautiful Agony

The site Beautiful Agony exists in a space somewhere between art and porn. It's a collection of short films featuring close ups of people's faces as they pleasure themselves, falling into, then through orgasm. It's a celebration of la petite mort* and it's...beautiful. (It's a pay site, but there are some free samples.)

Explain the Beautiful Agonistas on the project's inspiration:

Beautiful Agony began as a multimedia experiment, to test a hypothesis that eroticism in human imagery rests not in naked flesh and sexual illustration, but engagement with the face. We wondered whether film of a genuine, unscripted, natural orgasm - showing only the face - could succeed where the most visceral mainstream pornography fails, and that is, to actually turn us on.

Considering porn has had a few thousand years to evolve, alongside other streams of culture - you'd expect it to be refined and sophisticated. Yet instead of developing in sophistication and nuance, it has become a brutal and charmless rendering of human sexuality. It's like the people who make it, don't really understand it.


What's also interesting to me about these faces contorted in orgasm is the realization that orgasm does come with a bit of agony. If you didn't know the experience yourself, to see someone moaning and grimacing in orgasm's throes would look, well, you probably would not want to "have what they're having."

The experience of going toward and riding the throbs of orgasm is so outside the realm of our other experiences. I mean, what other thing gets us to this place, this place of incoherence and liquid, sweet strokes leading to the deliciously inevitable?  It's so animal and primal and raw and very vulnerable.

Which brings me to this. Beautiful Agony will pay you $200 for an accepted submission. There are qualifications--you need a decent camera, you have to answer some questions and whatnot--but I wonder how many among us would do it. I could see doing it. The arty veneer makes it seem less porny and I like the idea of contributing real sexual experience to the well of collective sexual consciousness. Plus, hey, 200 bucks.

On the other hand, maybe 200 bucks is not nearly enough for the...gift, I guess is the right word, of something so incredibly personal. I think what makes sex so intimate is not the actual nudity but the sort of metaphorical nudity of letting someone see and hear and feel and smell and taste you as you come. When women have an orgasm, portions of their brain controlling anxiety and alertness go dark.  So to let someone be present with you and for you when you're in that space--bearing witness, as the Quakers say, though certainly regarding other things entirely--is a huge gift of trust.

In a nice twist, the primitive, earthy rutting of bodies, flesh and fluids, leads us to a state of transcendence somehow both grounded in and sublimely beyond the physical. Which is pretty fucking beautiful. (Thanks, life!)  To be able to jump into this void while grasping onto the back or ass of someone else, well, it's a bit of magic, really.


*Here's Google, waxing oddly poetic--oh Google, what do you know, really, of melancholia?--on the subject:  "La petite mort, French for "the little death"...describe(s) the post-orgasmic state of unconsciousness that some people have after having some sexual experiences. More widely, it can refer to the spiritual release that comes with orgasm or to a short period of melancholy or transcendence as a result of the expenditure of the "life force," the feeling which is caused by the release of oxytocin in the brain after the occurrence of orgasm."

(photo via Beautiful Agony)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"Women Happy Medicine"

I was Googling "sex patents" because -- well, I don't have a good reason for it --and came upon this enchanting piece of history, a 1930s Japanese sexual aids catalogue which purports to provide the "Key to the Sex Question." Whatever this "sex question" is, the answer seems to involve mysterious ointments, finger puppet-looking condoms and a variety of pointy marital aids. But I especially like it for the ad copy, which is charmingly poetic and, often, entertainingly non-illuminating as to what the product actually does.

Consider this:

The copy for the, well, whatever the hell those things are on the right, reads: "This is a blessing to men feel and get young by using this wonderful thing. We particularly recommend it to elderly men." Whatever "this wonderful thing" is (and from the sound of it, even the copywriter is unsure), it appears to come in Big Pointy style or Little Pointy style. I can't read the little booklet in the picture, but I presume it explains why a nice elderly man would want to festoon his wiener with bristles. As for me, if elderly penis is being presented to me, the addition of bristles isn't going to improve the situation. However, I welcome your hypotheses. (And, please know that if you possess elderly penis yourself, I'm of course not talking about your particular elderly penis.)

And speaking of bristles:

More spikes! Why so many spikes? Explains the copy: "If you this (on penis) and love her then she will never separate from you." Because, judging by the photo, she will be permanently impaled (on penis). Which I guess is would be the "unexplainable feeling to women" mentioned on page 6.

And, please, take a moment to enjoy the found poetry on this page:


"Age lady who has too big organ must use this then she will become condition of virgin."

"If you use this powder putting on female organ then will take off bad smell and increasing her organistic feeling very much."

It doesn't mention how you explain putting powder on your lady's female organ (note: "I'm taking off bad smell" will not go well for you) but "organistic feeling"? That sounds good, doesn't it? Yes, I know these products are overhyped, based on bad science and probably involve banned and/or highly flammable chemicals, but I find myself being lured by the bewitchingly odd prose. If I ever find myself back in 1930s Japan, I am definitely buying the Sexual Stimulants (only 2 yen!) because I am simply unable to resist this sales pitch: "A certain cream and tablets, if used, will make the whole business a real pleasure." And if the whole business can be a real pleasure and provide organistic feeling as well, then damn it, that's 2 yen well spent.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Death of Passion and What the Hell to Do About It, According to People Who Think About Such Things

They have not worked on their Love Maps
Note: this article ran first on AlterNet then on Salon. Only the (third) best for you, my friend!


There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, the other is getting it,” said Oscar Wilde.

Passion is a tricky, elusive thing. Once captured, it flounders. But why does it wither when domesticated? Why do sexy intense beginnings so often lead to boring, sexless or otherwise meh middles and ending? Why aren't we having sex with our dear, highly-available partner, like, all the time?

Our senses crave novelty. Any change alerts them, and they send a signal into the brain. If there's no change, no novelty, they doze and register little or nothing. A constant state—even of excitement—in time becomes tedious, fades in the background because our senses have evolved to report only changes,” writes Diane Ackerman in A Natural History of the Senses.*

Or, says my friend Matthew, who thinks deeply on such things: “Once you're with someone, they become your family. And you don't want to have sex with people in your family.” Which is true enough, especially that last bit.

But these Big Thinkers in the field say you can re-find passion, though they offer differing--sometimes wildly so—theories on how to do it. With the right philosophical constructs guiding your behavior, perhaps you'll soon be happily fucking your beloved family member again. Though you'll probably want to phrase that differently in your head.

Corporate lawyer turned writer and speaker on sex, relationships and porn. Co-hosts Your Brain on Porn website with husband Gary Wilson.
The Big Idea: 'Karezza” sex can help hack your neurochemicals, which thanks to the cruel cruel Coolidge Effect, make you feel less satisfied with your partner over time. Even if, actually especially if, they are really great at pleasing you.
The Fix: The neurochemicals that make us so giddy with the first flush of love only last two years, tops. After that, the buzz wears off and couples get habituated (the nicer, more sciencey term for bored). Instead of trying to jack things up with new positions or sexy clown costumes which can further numb response to pleasure, slow things down with karezza sex, a form of affectionate, sensual sex that generally doesn't result in orgasm. This sex, according to Robinson, strengthens lovers' bonds and results in more frequent and satisfying sex. “It's like learning to diet by eating smarter, rather than struggling to eat less,” writes Robinson. “As my husband says, 'My limbic brain stays enchanted because I don't attempt to fertilize you.'” (Her husband, it will not surprise you to learn, is a science professor.)
Test drive: Practice a “bonding behavior” like gazing into each other's eyes for several minutes or lying with your head on your partner's chest and listening to their heartbeat or synchronized breathing.

American Orthodox rabbi, author and TV host.
The Big Idea: Women are deep and endless sources of sexuality. Exploring that eroticism leads to richer, more profound sexual/spiritual connection.
The Fix: A woman's sexuality is “much deeper and longer lasting than a man's. In the face of such intensity, most husbands fear they can't measure up,” writes Boteach in The Kosher Sutra: 8 Sacred Secrets for Reigniting Desire and Restoring Passion for Life. But for the husband who's brave enough to jump in there and explore, there are sublime pleasures to be uncovered. “There is a part of us, a passionate part that is raw, instinctive, animal, visceral, and not attuned to social norms. It's incredibly erotic to witness this side of a person become revealed. A man who can arouse a woman to this level of abandonment witnesses something incredible,” writes Boteach, in perhaps the hottest collection of sentences you'll ever read by a rabbi. This deep sensuality flows into the rest of life, giving everything an “erotic pulse.”
To get to that place, Boteach recommends “Kosher Tantric” sex, including delayed orgasm to prolong sex, making it into “a worship of the divine spark in each other.” He's also against going to the bathroom in front of each other—ruins the mystery.
Test drive: Try the Jewish custom of abstaining from sex for two weeks when the woman starts her period. “Every month, there must be two weeks devoted to physical love, and two weeks devoted to intellectual communication and emotional intimacy," Boteach writes in Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy. It may sound a bit old school and rigid, but the forbiddenness fostered by abstinence can build lust, plus the on/off plan happens to correspond nicely with most women's monthly swings of desire.
Writer, speaker, couples and family therapist.
The Big Idea: We need safety and security in a relationship, yet we also need adventure and excitement. The problem is that satisfying either of these needs sort of negates the other. The trick is riding the wave between security and excitement, figuring out ways to introduce novelty, risk and mystery into the familiar and comfortable.
The Fix: The erotic thrives on power plays, thwarted desire, threats of rivals and other non-safe and lovey ideas. Tap into these rich sources of desire by questioning your ideas about what's “acceptable” to you—for a lot of people their greatest sources of excitement and pleasure have to do with childhood hurts. Being willing to poke around in these dark areas of your erotic brain is a potent natural fuel for pleasure.
Test drive: Embrace the “shadow of the third.” In every relationship, there are other players, whether actual infidelities, flirtations or agreed upon partners. Accepting this and working with it--whether by actually introducing others into your marital sex, negotiating monogamy or just feeling the arousal of a threat (perceived or real) of a romantic rival—beats complacency back and helps you see your mate as the desirable creature that they are.

Husband and wife psychologists who run the Gottman Institute and the Relationship Research Institute.
The Big Idea: Married people do best when they behave like good friends and handle conflicts in gentle positive ways.
The Fix: The Gottmans are known their Love Labs in which they observed couples and found that future divorcees tended to handle conflict via what the Gottmans call “The 4 Horseman of the Apocalypse”: stonewalling, contempt, defensiveness and withdrawal. So don't do those.
Good behaviors, which lack a catchy 4 Horseman-like name: Respond positively to your partner's “bids” (bids are requests for emotional connections via a question, quick hug and such). Create a love map--a mental list of your partner's preferences, dreams, and sexual proclivities. Create rituals for initiating and refusing sex to minimize miscommunication and feelings of rejection. The resulting atmosphere of kindness and communication is conducive to “personal sex” that's focused on intimacy instead of intercourse.
Test Drive: “Plan time for activities like hot baths, back rubs, touching, holding and simply making each other feel good physically and emotionally. If sex happens, that's fine. But if it doesn't, you'll still have met your expectation of enjoying time together,” advise the Gottmans.
Psychologist, sex therapist and director of the Marriage and Family Health Institute.
The Big Idea: Passion (as well as a healthy relationship) depends on “differentiation,” that is, each partner cultivating a strong sense of self, despite their partner's (very normal) efforts to thwart that growth.
The Fix: When partners work on becoming differentiated, it creates tension and gridlock. This coupled, with what Schnarch delightfully calls “normal marital sadism,” can lead to marital breakdown, but it's actually an opportunity. Gridlock and tension create a dynamic environment for growth and helps passion thrive. Anxiety is also good. Instead of working on anxiety reduction, couples should work on ways to tolerate anxiety via self-soothing. “Anxiety is often part of the best sex we ever have. It's part of growing sexually. Anxiety makes us pay attention to what's going on,” writes Schnarch.
During sex, couples should focus on the connection, working on truly feeling their partner as they touch them. Also good is “hugging til relaxed” which is pretty much what it sounds like.
Test drive: Try for “eyes-open orgasm.” Looking deep into each other's eyes adds intimacy and meaning to sex. The more you do it, the longer you can do it and the deeper the connection.

Let me know if any of this works for you.

*This, however, does not explain why there are so many strip clubs called Deja Vu. "That? Again?"

Thursday, September 17, 2015


I hadn't had a really good fuck in months. And I'd been a bit of a mess, if you must know-- agitated, unduly short-tempered and had taken drinking obscene amounts of Diet Pepsi (a vice I supposedly kicked years ago). My work suffered and I was prone to random outbursts of weeping. I was, in short, hysterical. In both the current understanding of the word and, possibly, the 19th century sense.

Yes, hysteria.

Sure, maybe it was hormones, maybe it was a chemical imbalance, maybe I needed more Vitamin B or something, but I really do think it was/is hysteria. Something related to my body and my passion and my heart.

Your pussy is your pilot light. It is your central life force energy,” says Pamela Madsen, a woman who says "pussy" a lot and someone I interviewed for an AlterNet article. “If our pilot light is lit and we're turned on--that's were we write our books from, that's where we bake from, that's where we decide to be farmers or artists. We can learn to use that power and put it out into the world."

And as Naomi Wolf writes in my well-fingered Vagina (haha, yes, I know, I am a child) "Female sexual pleasure, rightly understood, is not just about sexuality or just about pleasure. It serves also, as a medium of female knowledge, and hopefulness; female creativity and courage; female focus and initiative; female bliss and transcendence; and as medium of a sensibility that feels very much like freedom. To understand the vagina properly is to realize that it is not only coexistence with the female brain, but is also, essentially, a part of the female soul.” 

It feels like they're on to something big here (as are Anais Nin, Erica Jong, etc...)--something primal and true. In my own life, I've discovered this amazing passion which is, for better or worse, wholly connected with sex, my creativity, my body and my heart. When my passion is engaged, it is beautiful, sublime and yeah, scary as fuck. When it's not, all is meh, or worse (see above: hysteria.)

And while it pleasingly tragic to haunt your own life like a specter, or as Billy Bragg puts it "a little black cloud in a dress," after a while weeping in the car to Joni Mitchell's "All I Want" grows tiresome. So I did stuff to heal* and my humours, or whatever, seem more balanced now.

And yet.

In Madsen's fascinating book Shameless: How I Ditched the Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure...and Somehow Got Home in Time to Cook Dinner, she talks about seeking sensual touch--something similar to a "happy ending," but for women. She ends up with a gay male bodyworker named Tiger who, despite his semi-repellent name, sounds quite amazing. He tends to her body and psyche and, like a human Pandora, knows what she wants before she does. He's like the best lover ever, but also not a lover. He's somewhere in between lover, therapist, massage therapist, and magic fairy godmother.

Sexological bodyworkers give whole body massages to help you get....wherever you need to get. And I mean that in the prurient way--if you want/need to cum, you are certainly welcome to and will be aided in that way--but it's mainly about exploring issues in your life, your sexuality or general spirit. In a way, it's a more loving and aware descendant of Ye Olde hysteria treatment.

I put out the call on the IBWMW Facebook page (Now 97% less tawdry since I purged it of weirdos!) and Matthew told me he did Tantric Bodywork. I'd met Matthew years ago on my blog, which is probably a horrible place to meet anyone--not as bad as the Facebook page, but still... I knew him, but didn't know him, which seemed just about right for this kind of thing.

He gave me the password to his secret web page (email him and I'm sure he will be happy to do the same for you). Writes Matthew:

Tantric bodywork is a beautiful and brave act of care and self-care. If and when you decide to receive this type of touch and attention it is an acknowledgment of yourself as a sexual person regardless of your sexual preferences or the level of sexual activity in your life. This choice shows an openness to be present with yourself and your body in a space it may not always have a chance to inhabit. I think that's pretty fearless choice, and it's a pleasure and privilege for me to be a guide, facilitator and space holder for you or you and your partner.

I love doing this work and am moved to do it because I adore the deep humanity of it. A chance to deeply see people and be seen at their most raw and most tender and to show up the same way. I am moved by the power of sexual energy in all of its forms and wild expressions. I am captivated by the mysterious and sacred power of sexual energy to shift what longs to be moved inside us and in so doing heals and connects us.

Um...yes. When women go to spas, shop, drink too much, inject fillers into their face, etc...this is what they actually want.

So, I am going to meet with Matthew and for two hours he is going to talk to me and touch me in a present, sensual way.** I have no idea what's gonna happen. I think I will probably cry or come or maybe just be in my head and be anxious. Female desire can be scary. When you tap into it, it's such a huge overwhelming life force—intense, emotionally overpowering and not something you can manage. You're not in halfway. And the only way to work with it is to ride it and see where it takes you, accepting that it may take you places you didn't think you wanted to go.

I don't know what the fuck will happen and that's part of what's so good about it. I want to be in that space and see where it takes me. I feel completely confident that whatever does come up, Matthew can handle it.

So yeah, I'm meeting a virtual stranger, alone, and I will be completely naked. In all kinds of ways. It may be the smartest thing I've ever done or the dumbest.

And I can't fucking wait.


*Stuff I did to heal: Ate well, swam, started seeing a therapist (a delightfully masturbatory activity--I highly recommend!), took long walks with my daughters, talked to my husband, read good books (next up: Erica Jong's new book Fear of Dying!) and got down with my new toy thing (we are now going steady. If it had a varsity jacket, I'd be wearing it.) I've started looking for connection and depth in my encounters with whoever I come across in my day and I got the best fucking kitten in the world.

**The amazing thing about being a writer--you get to do whatever the fuck you want under the pretense of it being a story! It's total racket!

Jack the kitten, consulting the Oracle

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