Saturday, October 1, 2016

12 Things I Learned On My Sex Toy Factory Tour!

Butt plugs patiently awaiting their destiny
“It's kind of like Wonka's Chocolate Factory, but for sex toys :-),” emailed Erica Braverman, Communications and PR Manager for Doc Johnson, inviting me to tour their North Hollywood factory.

The 215,000 square ft sex toy factory, the largest in North America, once housed a novelty company until Ron Braverman, Erica's father, bought the business in 1976 and ditched everything but the sex toys. “A few of our initial product offerings included our 8” Classic Dong, Motion Lotion, and our Classic Butt Plug in three sizes,” says Erica. In a market where it's now not (that) weird to use the word “classic” when describing a butt plug, Doc Johnson is thriving, cranking out 2,500 different products, 75% of them made in America.

When I got to the factory, instead of being greeted by a chocolate river—which, for the record, would have been nice--there were gigantic cans of mystery substances labeled enigmatically, like “black jelly base, fresh breeze scent.” And, to my delight, the factory floor truly was Wonka-esque. Everywhere I looked, there were brightly colored sex toys being molded, shaped, and otherwise being handled in a way that would constitute sexual harassment were they real body parts.

After popping my eyes back into my head, I managed to learn a few things about sex toys and the industry as a whole. Namely:

--People put some big-ass stuff up their holes.
There were butt plugs half the size of traffic cones, dildos the size of a grown man's forearm, and if that wasn't gonna do the trick, dildos shaped like actual arms. There were not just a few of these supersizers to service a niche market of people with especially receptive orifices, there were a lot. Stacks everywhere.

--Flavored lubes are no longer just that one cloying strawberry flavor.
There is an insanely huge array of lubes, gels and body icings to make your partner's private parts taste less like private parts and more like marshmallow fluff, red licorice or red velvet cake. A cinnamon bun spray I tried was surprisingly good. (For a more literal interpretation of “cinnamon bun,” there's a hot cinnamon anal lube, perhaps so you can freshen your breath while licking someone's ass. #Multitasking.) Inexplicably, ye olde strawberry is still the top seller. I imagine that they're shipping most of these back to 1975, but I didn't ask.

--The person molding your next strap-on is most likely a kindly-looking Latino woman in her 40s or 50s.
Doc's line workers move diligently and efficiently, weaving pubes onto disembodied vulvas or hot ironing genitalia to get it just so. As they brusquely power sand various body parts—a sight which is extremely difficult not to anthromorphize--most wear the kind of expression of someone who could be just as easily be slapping labels on cans of peas. Long inured to the sight of a big pile of unpainted dildos awaiting their attention, their demeanor is somewhere between “Sigh, these realistic veins aren't gonna paint themselves” and a serenity akin to companionable silence of a longtime sewing circle, but with pubic hair.

--Sex cosmetics are a thing and it's a huge market.
Sex cosmetics promise all kinds of magical-sounding benefits and include everything from sprays that plump lips, prevent dry mouth and numb the throat for optimal oral sex to lubes that warm, cool and/or enhance sensitivity. There's a Sta-Erect cream, a prolonging spray and all manner of arousal gels including a new “liquid vibrator” that somehow starts vibrating after application which, if you must know, I'm too afraid to try. There's also fake cum (several types!) as well as faux pee.

--What, exactly, is the taste of faux pee?
If it's from a Piss Off cock, that would be “tropical.”

--There is a real artist behind what you're putting in your behind.
Doc's sculptor/artist's is Anjani Siddhartha, an earthy, sexy woman of indeterminate age who is currently working on a toy that looks like a finial for a curtain rod. Like that bad recurring 1993 SNL skit where the shopkeeper saw everything through the lens of “you can put your weed in it,” Siddhartha looks at everything—yes, including your finials—to see could be made fuckable. Surprisingly often, the answer is yes.

--Fake vaginas, like real ones, are full of mystery.
My three takeaways.
--Fake vaginas have no curb appeal. All the good stuff is near the entry point and inside, so the outside is just kind of a flesh colored rubbery rectangle. Thus, packaging on fake Vs is hugely important.
--There is no preference in labia shape or size. Any woman still worried about her own equipment can stop this very second.
--Porn stars regularly come in to have molds taken of their body parts. For the female porn stars molds, the labia is an accurate, spot-on re-creation, but the inside is generic, that is, pussy approximate.

--Sex toy exec really read those online user product reviews.
Even the weird ones like this Amazon review for the Belladonna's Magic Hand, black which reads “...easy to clean and don't smell too bad.”

--The Next Big Thing is anal.
"Toys for heterosexual man are a huge emerging market,” says Erica. “Straight men are discovering they have a prostrate, which basically like the female g-spot.” To facilitate these tentative explorers, Doc has several beginner anal training kits, with sets of butt plugs, a vibrator and lube, so you can “kind of work your way up,” says Erica. She likens their popularity to the appeal of well-stocked makeup kits. You might not use all those eye shadows (or...butt plugs) but it's fun to have the array of options.

--Branding has made it to the sex toy industry.
Before sex toys went mainstream, you got what you got, style-wise—generally that style statement was a combo of utilitarian and sleazy. Now it's kinda gauche to stick just any old thing between your legs. High-end stuff that's more artsy/less body part-looking is big, like the Tryst Multi-Erogenous Zone Vibrator. Branding at Doc's includes the upscale, GQ-ish OptiMALE line, a line with full of black leather and fucking machines, and WonderLand, with toys packaged like a whimsical fairy tale book. If a Tim Burton character needed to take the edge off, they would for sure reach for a WonderLand toy.

--At Doc Johnson, there is no official job of Product Tester.

--Not all factory tours end with some sort of poetic comeuppance, ala Wonka tours.
That is, I was not overfucked by an onslaught of dildos for my sin of Lust. Still unsure if that's good or bad. 

jill, home now with a huge bag of swag.

This article originally appeared on AlterNet as "11 Amazing Things I Learned at Touring a Sex Toy Factory." Meaning, yes, you got a bonus bit of knowledge.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Why I Watch Gay Porn

[note:  I wrote this post in 2011 and it's what converted me to gay porn. Wonder if I agree with anything I wrote?* Also check out my new AlterNet article on my Doc Johnson sex toy factory tour!]

Dear reader Anonymous was slogging through the dangerous back waters of the blog and stumbled across What Is Feminist Porn Anyway?, a post in which I was all hepped up on an artsy porn film, Matinee** because the actors not only seemed to be enjoying sex, but also each other. Wrote Anonymous:
What you qualify here as feminist porn seems to describe quite closely a gay male art/porn film I just saw a preview of. I just think that the thing with most straight porn is that it eroticizes a socially-established power imbalance, ie, I'm a male, I'm gonna stick it into you and you better "ohyeahfuckyeah" enjoy it. Here's the excerpt if the possibility of seeing two guys fucking doesn't turn you off.
I dutifully looked at the link Anon sent, but for the life of me, couldn't find the film. I did however see a frighteningly elongated male nipple, which kind of scared me..

However, I aim to please, so I went to another porn site and watched some gay (male) porn. The first film had two Spanish young men, frolicking about in a big white bed like two little puppies. They were smiling and completely adorable, like those two dudes in Y Tu Mama Tambien, and though they were speaking in Spanish, it was easy to get the idea. I mean, I think we can all figure out what "pene" means.  (hint: not the tubular pasta, though you are on track with the tubular idea.) The film was fun and actually kind of sweet, as porn goes.

The second film was good, too. The plot (the short version): two football players sneak away to the locker room and get it on. The plot (the long version): well....actually that's pretty much the whole story. There were all the usual sexual gymnastics, close-up shots of thrusting genitals, lengthy pene sucking scene, etc... but somehow it was just better than the usual "I'm gonna stick it into you and you better 'ohyeahfuckyeah' enjoy it" mainstream straight porn.

I tried to figure out why, and came up with this list. (Yes, I realize there's nothing like quantifying art in list form to drain it of all its magic, but I think it's interesting/possibly instructive to see how changing just a few tiny details could make porn way more accessible to women, or at least this woman.)

So what made it better was:

1.  The receiver of the pene sucking took a moment, looked down at his sucker, and said, "I've been thinking about this for a long time." "Mmmmm, me too," murmured sucker. BAM! Two lines, and you've got yourself some backstory, and you've indicated that suckee likes sucker at least kinda, and vice versa. I know it's beyond girly of me, but I want the participants to like each other. This is why, if I were a gay man (not to be confused with "If I Were a Rich Man," from Fiddler on the Roof), I would not frequent glory holes.

(Glory holes = holes in the wall of a public place, like a restroom, through which anonymous people--not necessary our dear Anonymous above--insert their genitals, hoping the person in the other stall services them sexually. Unless the person in the other stall is me, in which case I'd shout, "Gah!?!" possibly tossing one of those disposable seat liners over the organ, for sanitary purposes. And I would not want to be confronted with anonymous genitals, I need to know whose genitals they are, why there were there, ad nauseum. I'd peek through the hole and ruin the whole damn thing, possibly putting an eye out in the process.

2.  The lovers would occasionally glance nervously toward the locker room door, making sure no one was coming in. And presto, Suspense! Stakes raised! Forbidden love!

3.  At one point, the two characters looked at each other eagerly and hungrily like, "I am so going to ravish you, you delicious creature." This brief moment established that the characters wanted to be there, were enjoying themselves and had some degree of respect for each other.

I know all of this sounds horribly tedious and un-pornlike. I mean, *yawn*...respect, liking each other, a story...who cares? Get on with the boning! But those things are what make it sexy to me. Or at least something recognizable as human sexual interaction.

The whole "I'm gonna stick it into you and you better 'ohyeahfuckyeah' enjoy it" thing (which, btw, is a GENIUS description, Anonymous) is not recognizable as sex to me. I mean, yeah, they're doing it and all, but it's just so...mean, and dead-eyed and passionless. The men seem like they hate the women and the women, well, who the fuck are these women?

Margaret Cho says that growing up she searched for Asian women in the media to identify with and only came up with the "Here's your ancient Chinese secret" lady from Calgon ads. That sucks, but at least that Calgon lady seemed kind of smart and knew a thing or two about laundry. The chicks in porn, who, presumably, I as a women am supposed to identify with, are...well, some sort of sub-genre of women who are completely foreign to me. Who do you know who gets lured into a car and within 25 seconds is showing her boobs and fingering herself, while giggling inanely? Who wishes to have some hairless blank-eyed frat dude ordering them to suck his dick faster, like some sort of bulging-eyed piston?

And who actually thinks that...

Ugh, listen to me, is it getting too Feminist in here? I'd better open a window and let some air in.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if mainstream porn wants to be a touch more appealing to women (meaning, me) it wouldn't hurt to add some humanity, a smidgen of sensuality, and ditch completely the portrayal of women as dim-witted, creepy, "ohyeahfuckyeah"-ing, fully poseable sex toys. I really don't think the porn maker's give a rat's ass, but I'm putting it out there nonetheless.

Whatever the case, I'm done ranting for today. Maybe.

Tell me what you're into these days.


** When I proofread this, I realized I had misspelled the name of the art porn film "Matinee" as "Manatee," which would indeed be a new take on porn.

photo source 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Bad Sexting, Nudie Pics and the Cloud

The photo that got me temporarily banned from Facebook
A few years ago, I was Facebook chatting with a friend about a torrid affair she was having with a possibly cruel and inscrutable hot guy. It was up to us, you see, to analyze the minutiae of his behavior in order to reach some sort of Great Insight into the Male/Female Condition. Or something. We were thus far not there.

"He sent me a picture," she typed in what I like to imagine was a scandalized whisper, but was probably more likely her plain old typin' face. "Want to see it?"

But of course.

And it was just... AWFUL. It was some creepy guy--oh my god, so so creepy!-- just standing in his stupid underwear in a tiny depressing space that was clearly his bathroom. He looked, to be honest, like his picture should be accompanied by the words "a part-time children's clown by profession, he has been accused in the series of particularly gruesome deaths." He looked like a full-body mug shot. (An idea I will not be suggesting to the nation's police departments.) It was so...sordid. And not in a good way.

Surely this dude isn't the only person who beamed his depressing visage out into the cloud. No, there have to be more, way more.

I mean, photography is an art. One perfected by few. The kind of shot we're used to seeing in magazines or billboards has been through many talented hands and Photoshop sessions before it is deemed fit for our consumption. Most people we see naked in pictures are professionals, as are their body parts. You're not just seeing any old wiener, that's top of the line wiener, sister, top of the line.

Can you imagine the virtual Smithsonian of Awkward Family Photos-esque nudie pics out floating around in the cloud? Because there must be, like, a fucking cornucopia of lumpy body parts, unlovely people cowering naked in their poorly decorated homes with camera to crotch, and cooter shots that look more ham sandwich than object of lust.

That's not even counting all the back alleyways of sexuality--millions of people, each with their own personal Special Fetish. The Star Trek costumes, anal festooning, the household objects inserted into various orifices. "Here's me naked with *hushed voice quavering with passion*...the Red Balloon--squeeeeeee!"

And that's just photos. There are also the words accompanying them. Billions and billions of poorly-written missives, full of misspelled words, excessive use of the ;) emoticon and just....trite sentiments. I saw a transcript of some of Tiger Wood's illicit sexting and it was just so, well, see for yourself.

Jaimee: I drove out for the night to surprise a friend with a present for there birthday.
Tiger: what kind of present your naked body

And that's Tiger friggin' Woods--he should be getting the highest quality sexting, full of lustful scenarios, vibrant images and insanely hot language.

Since I am a writer, I would be, like, the worst person ever to sext to. I would nerdishly look upon the text as a piece of literature. It would have to not only be blisteringly hot, but grammatically correct with well-placed flourishes of humor and intelligence. The Tiger Woods thing above, with its non-interesting plot line and misuses of "there" and "your," well, it's just not good enough. There ought to be rules about this shit.

Oh wait, there are. Let's see, here's tip #10 in the article 10 Sexting Tips.

Use exclamation points! Exclamatory phrases are more intense expressions. For example, "You make me feel so good." and "You make me feel so good!!" Do you see how the first sentence is simple compared to the second one? Exclamation points should be used to express extreme emotion. 

I'm not quite sure which is worse--sending bad sexts or actually consulting internet articles to improve your sexting. (Although I'm pretty down with tip #8, despite the redundant phrasing at the end of the sentence: "Tell her things you are imagining. Sexting what you are imagining creates a mutual image for both of you.")

Whatever. All this stuff, the blurry dick shots, the talk of "pussie," the photographic evidence of our most vulnerable and freaky selves is out there in the cloud for-fucking-EVER. On Facebook, for example, you can not only NOT delete sent emails after you realize they are ill-advised and cringey (I know this For A Fact, I am sorry to report) but Mark Zuckerberg, like, saves them (see above: for-fucking-EVER). I don't know why he does it. Maybe to bring out on slow days at his mansion as entertainment for his billionaire friends ("Look at the cooter on this one! WTF, are those feathers?"). Maybe to use to blackmail us all in the future at our own personal Worst Possible Time (Worst Possible Time, as determined by a complicated Google algorithm). Who knows?

Whichever the case, when our descendants, the computer overlords, send their archeologist pods to dig up the dregs of our society, they will have a hell of a lot to think about.

(image source)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Dinosaur Erotica, Literal Ants in Literal Pants and Other Objects of Desire

It probably doesn't speak horribly well of me that not one, but three readers (thank you Eric, Leah and Amy!), saw articles about dinosaur erotica and yes...thought of me.

At first I was kind of like, eh. I mean, after already writing about snowman erotica, horny leprechaun erotica, and Santa Claus erotica, there really couldn't be that much more to cover re: people fucking weird-ass things.*

And dinosaurs? Seemed like the options ranged from clawy scratching to hideous mauling, with all in-between combos also un-good.

But everything has its own life lesson to offer and dinosaur erotica was no exemption. I learned plenty of interesting stuff like:

--Scientists haven't found any fossils (soft tissue doesn't generally fossilize well) but speculate that dinosaurs probably had huge wangs, like 6ft long. The kind of hugeness that could really change the tenor of the exhibits in the Natural History Museum.

--No one is sure how dinosaurs had sex (rear entry position on sexy spiky lady Stegosaurus = instant castration.) 

--Scientists are hard at work (er...) rigging up computer simulations of which positions dinosaurs used to fuck to avoid the castration issue.  "These prickly dinosaurs must have had sex another way," said Heinrich Mallison, who is considered an expert, despite using the term "prickly dinosaurs."

--These phrases appear in Ravished by the Triceratops, according to someone who actually read it.

--I looked into the creature's eyes and saw the rage there, but I saw lust as well.
--I decided that I probably could get all this meat in me.
--I couldn't believe this was happening — I had a ten-ton monster licking my ass!

However, for me, the salient point in all this was:  the two chicks who are churning out all this dino ass-licking erotica started making enough money to quit their day jobs in one month!

This is their career advice:

If you find a market that is underwritten or doesn't exist, populate it.

Not to be mean, but their books aren't even good--not even cheapo niche erotica good--and they're really short, like 29 pages.

So of course, I started searching for an "underwritten market." It was surprisingly difficult.

Satan erotica?  Taken. "Gingerbread man erotica"? Taken.  Clown the Republican National Convention....with spanking?  Taken.

Finally I hit upon "ant erotica"

Maybe! There are no books about it and an interest, by these three dudes at least. Here's what one guy said on an ant erotica page that was pleasingly listed under the subhead of "romance and relationships."

"For over 10 years I have loved the feeling of ants crawling over my penis and balls....It started when I rented a house that had large secluded greenhouses which were unused. In these greenhouses large black plastic sheets had been put down to stop plants growing. One day during summer I lifted one of the sheets and found the whole ground covered in a moving mass of ants and ant eggs. I couldn't resist touching the mass which instantly crawled up my arm with a tickling, biting feeling. I brushed them off but the erotic feeling I had made me go back again next day. 

I stripped off, pulled back the sheet and gently lay down in the ants up to my shoulders and head. The feeling was amazing. Like a slow creeping tickling sheet being pulled over my body. There was no biting until they reached my cock and balls when I started to get lots of nips. This made me very erect and the more my foreskin pulled back the more they seemed to bite. it was divine. I was brushing them away from my face and at the same time twisting my nipples really hard. After a few minutes I had to masturbate and came all over the ants. After I had brushed off the ants and replaced the sheet I found my scrotum and foreskin were very red with small spots of blood over them. They swelled up over the next hour or so but not too much. Probably the acid in the bites. I rubbed some antispectic cream on and in a day or so I was reasonably back to normal. 

Needless to say this became an almost daily experience and sometimes up to three times a day."

"Needless to say" (!)  Exactly. Who wouldn't be right back out there the very next day (and sometimes up to three times a day)?

Anyway, is this a book?  "Fucking the Ant Hill"? Or maybe "Ants in My Pants: Literally. I mean there are seriously ants in my pants, biting my cock and balls, and I'll be back out there tomorrow. Needless to say"? Too wordy?

At the bottom of the ant page, I saw some promising links to "Fun with crickets" and "Slug fetish" which--needless to say--I clicked on immediately.

Under "fun with crickets," some guy named Don wrote this about some photos of him fucking (getting fucked by? making love to/with?) a couple bags of crickets.

I went out to the local pet store, and picked up a bag of 36 medium crickets, and another bag of 60 small cricket. I started out with putting cooked hot dog juice on the cock to be eaten, and started out with the small crix. I wasn't to please with the amount of munching that I received. So, I pulled the old tool out, cleaned it off, and applied a nice thin coat of peanut butter. Then I added all of the crickets to the container. The feeding frenzy was in full swing, and I was receiving a good bang for the buck. 

I think I may try meal worm, next, since I have yet to use them. 

One more thing about the crickets, I tend to swell up after a good feeding frenzy, and end up looking a bit like franken cock, if you know what I mean.

I actually don't know what he means about "franken cock" and I am evenly split over whether I actually want to know. However I do love how unerotic his story is, like Don's some guy hanging around the hardware store talking which tools he used patching up the old fence. I also love that Don decided that others would want to see pictures of the crickets eating (oh God) hot dog juice off his wiener. And the best part is, others did want to see the pix!

Like commenter David who had nothing to say about the hot dog juice, the wiener or the crickets, but commented: "Great job! Nice clarity on the container. What is the container, and where did you get it?" 

Which leaves me confused. To write for a market, you must understand it and I'm not yet there. I think I would be focusing on the slow erotic slathering of hot dog juice over my swollen hard cock, or maybe the smoldering lascivious look one of the crickets gave me as it started feeding on my balls, which were pulled tight to my body, as I tried desperately not to come all over those slutty, slutty crickets (medium-sized).

But clearly, I would need to focus on...the container.  And its clarity. And the fact that it's from Target, as Don later reports.

So, for now, my day job stays.


*Not judging as much as being completely completely fascinated.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

My Day at the Orgasmic Meditation Class

Results may vary
I was lying on the floor, naked below the waist with my knees apart, next to a stranger with two fingers full of lube. The stranger was planning to stroke my clitoris for 15 minutes, no more, no less. I was in a room full of other women, similarly splayed open like Thanksgiving turkeys next to their lubed-up, fully-dressed partners

Strangely, this was not my most uncomfortable moment last weekend at the One Taste's How to OM class in Los Angeles. 

That would be earlier in the day when our teachers Maya and Eli bounded into the room as Bon Jovi was cranked. They were dancing, doing that thing were you point to the ceiling, signifying that the song, indeed, rocks. We were to stand up and do the same thing, including the pointing part. I was mortified. Not only am I petrified of public dancing and forced group merriment (“I can't heeeear you...!”) but... Bon Jovi. I stood stiffly, not able to bring myself to point, not even just a little. It was a really long song.

So to sum up my personal boundaries thus far, Bon Jovi = no, clit stroking by stranger= totally onboard. You might see the situation differently.

Sometimes a lifetime of societal conditioning can fall away in a matter of hours. It happened to me that day at the OM class. And not in a I-drank-the-Kool-Aid way, but in the kind of way where your ideas are flipped but at the same time enhanced, it blows your fucking mind and you emerge better for it.

OMing, or Orgasmic Meditation, is a practice taught at OneTaste, a company founded by Nicole Daedone, author of Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm. OM is a practice in which clarity, mindfulness, and general in-touchedness with the universe is reached through extremely focused touch. Specifically, the touch of a partner's hand slowly and rhythmically stroking a woman's clitoris in a particular way. Sessions last 15 minutes and the goal is not orgasm, but rather heightened sexual awareness. And, as it turns out, having someone lavish attention on this particular body part for 15 minutes is extremely effective at heightening sexual awareness.  OM practitioners supposedly develop a heightened sensuality that extends into the rest of their lives, and can experience intense, deeper, fuckier fucks.

That sounded pretty good. I was in.

The class was filled with a balance of men and women, most from late 20 to 40s, I'd guess. The practice was all about experiencing sensation, whatever it turned out to be, explained preternaturally upbeat instructors Maya and Eli. Instead of the goal-oriented, orgasm-chasing sexual experience that we generally go for, we were to focus on the ride, letting things go wherever they were going to go. It was about surrender to the experience. According to the OneTaste philosophy, making focused contact with the incredibly nerve-rich clitoris can generate all kinds of electric sexual energy that can take both parties to amazing places. Additionally, the female gets to feel safe, accepted and non-pressured enough to dive into the depths of wherever her desire's gonna take her. The male gets to explore and enjoy the more (traditionally) “feminine” sexuality of goalless sensuality, plus, quite frankly, he can learn his way around a woman's genitalia.

There are rules. The practice is to be distinct from sex. Practitioners set up a “nest,” with pillows, a soft cushion and towels. The stroking can't go on longer than 15 minutes, even if one or more parties are begging for more. There is to be no exchanging of favors, i.e. “I stroked you, now you finish me off.” An OM is not something a man does to a woman, but something they do together. Gloves are worn. Lube is a must. Orgasm is not defined as the few seconds of contractions that we generally think of as orgasm, but rather the entire experience, starting with the first feelings of desire. The contraction part we generally refer to as an orgasm is called climax and may or may not happen.

By mid-morning we were ready to see a live demonstration. A table was wheeled out and a woman named Rachelle hopped up, lifted her dress and spread her legs. As Marcus, a serious looking computer guy-type with large black framed glasses, put his fingers to her pussy (that's what they call it there-- pussy.), my classmates craned their bodies to see. I looked at Rachelle's completely hairless nether regions and regretted my morning grooming decision to go with a landing strip.

In some sort of weirdly personal hierarchy of discomfort, I didn't mind that there was a half-naked woman groaning evocatively as Marcus (apparently quite masterfully!) stroked her through what seemed to be three climaxes. My problem again was with the whole group participation aspect. As a class, we were to participate by calling out the physical--not emotional--sensations we were having as we watched the OM. “I feel a heat in my face,” someone called out. “I feel a heaviness in my arm,” said another. “I feel wetness in my pussy,” several women said. “I feel completely icked out by the rest of you,” I would have said, especially as someone notified us of how their anus was responding, but I wasn't sure how to describe it as a "physical sensation."

At this point, we were sent to lunch after which we would try the practice ourselves. Because we all knew this and most of us had not come with a partner, there was a strange pick-up bar vibe to the day. Instead of just talking with your seatmate, you'd be assessing them, wondering if they should be the one who'd be touching you. For me, there was also a tremendous anxiety. What if it was like that one 7th grade dance in Atlanta, Georgia, 1977, where all my friends got asked to dance and I didn't? Would I have to get one of the teachers have to OM with me? Would I just sit in my chair trying to act like it was ok while everyone got down to business?

It was all too much for me and when I got back from lunch, instead of mingling, I studied the commerce tables the OneTasters had set up. There were lots of higher level classes, semi-Scientology-style, that people could sign up for. One was a week-long intensive with Daedone. It was $36,000. Holy fuck. There was also a t-shirt that said “Powered by Pussy.” Even among this group, I couldn't imagine that being a big seller.

Finally I went up to Eli, hoping he might let me OM with a teacher. I was wishing that it could it be Marcus, because that dude really looked like he knew what he was doing. He looked like a master playing a rare instrument as he strummed Rachelle. But to my horror, when Eli nixed my idea about OMing with a teacher, I burst into tears.

“Just go ask that guy,” he said pointing to some guy, after comforting my sorry-ass unresolved-issues self. So I asked him. Oddly, the idea of doing so intimate with a complete stranger was way more okay than I thought it would be. When you OM with someone, it doesn't mean you are dating or that you will see them again or that you are even attracted to them. It just exists in this “container” as they call it and is nothing beyond the OM itself. Eli described a woman he had OMed with in Colorado. She was a super-butch, biker-chick lesbian, not someone he was attracted to at all or vice versa, but the electricity they generated together was, well, electric. “It's insane--I go blind from it!” he enthused.  I found this idea to be incredibly freeing.

Thus I found myself pantless and splayed open next to the lubed-up Peter*. I knew his name was Peter because his name tag said so. I found it somewhat amusing that we were like this and wearing name tags, but I didn't say anything.

Peter was to make a C shape with his left hand, lifting the hood of my clitoris with his thumb while stroking the upper left hand quadrant with his index finger. His right-hand thumb was to rest on my introitus, the opening to the vagina. (You can watch a how-to video at the OneTaste web site.) As we got down to it, Peter wasn't actually that close to where he was supposed to be, but instructors came around the room and guided his hand to the proper spots. I felt happy that, if nothing else, Peter was getting an education in finding a woman's clit.

As he rubbed, I could feel myself begin to throb and contract. It wasn't a orgasmic, I mean, climax-reaching kind of thing, but more an aliveness. It felt like maybe Peter's finger wasn't moving over my body, but rather that I was moving his finger. “Behold the glory of the pussy!” I thought to myself, thinking that Peter was—possibly for the first time—seeing the subtlety and great beauty of a woman's body when it is alive, open and free. I felt a bit beneficent about it, if you must know. Like I was schooling him on something really Big and Important.

However about midpoint, I started feeling a shooting pain in my left butt cheek. Sciatica. Crap! I shifted my legs and re-shifted, but every way still hurt. I finished out the session experiencing the sensation of “Ow.”

When it's all over, you're supposed to give each other a “frame,” that is, describe one moment of physical sensation that you had experienced. I was expecting to Peter to say something about how he had been schooled on pussy power but he said, “I didn't think anything was happening for you until the end part when you started moving your legs around.”

So. Yeah.

However, we both experienced something big, I think. It turned out it wasn't the same thing the other had felt, but maybe that doesn't even really matter. It seemed like Peter and I had ended up with a connection, of sorts, and I felt kindly toward him afterward. After, when he was told he had to pay $15 for the lube a OneTaste teacher had handed him, I felt kind of bad I didn't have any cash to pitch in.

In the end, I'm glad I went. It's heartening that there are so many people who want to connect on a deeper level sexually and were willing to explore. And, oddly, I feel empowered that I let a stranger stroke me and that it meant nothing beyond that.

As I drove through the hideous LA evening traffic on the way home, instead of blaring the radio and getting angry as is my usual way, I sat in silence, feeling chill and enjoying the quiet. And I didn't feel like crying anyone.


*Not his real name. Which was Ben.

An edited version of this first appeared on Alternet and Salon. I like this one a little better, but maybe I'm like a home seller with the purple walls who refuses to paint over them for the Open House. 

Photo: Rudolf Koppitz

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

On the Mystifying Continued Existence of "Love is..."

I was shocked to learn--shocked, I tell you!--that "love is...", the heinously bad 70s cartoon, still runs every day. And not in some Shopper's Weekly in Huntville, Alabama, but in the freakin' Los Angeles Times! I discovered this the other morning and went on a little rant at the breakfast table while my daughters, aged 10 and 11, looked on.

Because I am their parent and, thus, the person they trust to provide them with authoritative information about the world around them, my girls nodded solemnly, taking mental notes on the Important Life Wisdom I was sharing with them. "Love is....," they recorded in their sweet little impressionable brains, "Worst comic ever, someone gets paid for this=totally unfair, running for 41 years=insanity!, continued appeal=completely mystifying."

Actually, "love is..." is completely mystifying in many, many ways. This is why, if you must know, the three of us have become kind of obsessed with it. Sort of in an ironic way, but also sort of not. (My husband, quite reasonably, thinks our "love is..." love is wack and will have nothing to do with it.)

I mean, it's just so fucking weird. There is a male and female, and they sort of look like kids, but maybe they're adults. It is not clear if they are married, or dating, or just neighbors. And they are always naked. Always. The whole always naked thing gives the comic exactly the right surrealistic touch that adds an extra dimension of fuckupedness to each panel.

The other day, the panel read, "love is... when he invites you to come to his place." It was illustrated with the naked guy opening the door of his apartment to the naked girl who was standing in the hall. That a man would eagerly let a naked girl come into his apartment seemed self-explanatory enough, but why was this chick just wandering the halls of the apartment building with no clothes on? She looked clear-headed enough and didn't appear, at least on initial inspection, to be in the midst of a fugue state. And why did this dude think he should answer the door all naked? Did he peek out, see she was naked, then strip? Or does he just greet all visitors in his nude glory? (I use the word "nude" here because it's just so so 70s. Maybe, if you're lucky, I'll use the word "unisex" for you as well.)

And yesterday, the strip read "love is...gazing longingly at each other across a crowded room." The illustration was the guy and girl gazing longingly at each other across a crowded room full of other naked kid/adult people. "There are MORE of them," my 10 year old intoned ominously. Everyone in the drawing looked happy, as I guess people tend to look when they are at a naked party. I, tragically, am never invited to naked parties, so I wouldn't know. Just what kind of free love, public nudity, mushroom-decorated world do these kid/adults live in?

Maybe he'd have better luck if he wore clothes to the Job Center

Oh, so many questions!  And the "love is..." Wikipedia entry just fuels the mystique. Whoever wrote the entry seemed to have closely studied the strip, searching desperately for clues.

The main characters are a male and a female. Their names may be Roberto and Kim, respectively, since in a 1974 episode which says "Love is... your name pronounced by him while sleeping" the male pronounces the name "Kim", the strip's creator's name, and in a 1971 panel the female writes the letter 'R' in the beach sand (the creator's husband's name is Roberto). The male has dark black, short hair while the female has light, waist-length hair. The characters have been featured in various stages of romance: just meeting, boyfriend/girlfriend and husband/wife. They appear to be quite young, looking like toddlers, however, they are apparently supposed to represent adults

Sometimes, the male is seen to be part of the Army, Marines, etc.

When featured as husband and wife, at times a child/children will appear who are much smaller than them, but never more than two children, a boy and a girl. The boy and girl have the hair coloring of their opposite gender parent (i.e., the girl has her father's black hair, while the boy has his mother's light hair). The children have been featured both as infants and as elementary school age; they have not been featured as teenagers.

I love it, it's so... tentative and unsure. I mean, searching for clues in a letter scratched into the beach sand? It's madness! "They appear to be quite young, looking like toddlers, however, they are apparently supposed to represent adults," the entry's writer notes, flummoxed and completely losing the usual authoritative Wikipedia tone.

However, I can judge all I want, but that fact is, at the height of the strip's popularity in the 70s, creator Kim Casali made between £4-5 million a year. I don't know the exact exchange rate into U.S. dollars, but I'm pretty sure it's a fuck of a lot of money. By contrast, this month, on Amazon referrals alone, I have made...let's see here....carry the one...exactly 52¢. Right. So I'll just shut my damn trap now.


(note 8/16): this is a re-run.  this would explain why an oddly high amount of commenters mentioning cock rings. I was having a contest--now edited out--partially so that anyone who decided to search for "Love is..." and "cock ring" would find somewhere to land.

Also, Love is... is still going strong.
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