Monday, December 5, 2016

7 Reasons Why Breakups Suck So Damn Bad

Hey there, gorgeous. This 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. 

xoxo
jill

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Diagnosis: A Case of Femaleness

I look GOOD. Damn good.
In the past few days, I've hit a perfect storm of media consumption that has spun me into a feminist spiral. So if you're not into wild-eyed ranting, please avert your eyes.

It all started with a friggin' Campfire girl meeting. A high school girl showed a short film she'd made on body image, then in a halting, nervous voice told about her struggles with an eating disorder. By the end, every mother there was in tears. In tears! Because we totally got it. We all had our thing--too fat, too thin, hair too weird, butt too little, butt too big, etc...--that made us so horribly not right.

The next night, I watched a Netflix doc called "Orgasm Inc." It was about how in the past few years, pharmaceutical companies, along with willing shills in the medical community, have popularized the "disease" of Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD). (Not to be confused with FTD, which provides human females with unattractive flower arrangements).

"I think there is dissatisfaction and perhaps disinterest among a lot of women, but that doesn't mean they have a disease," said Dr. Sandra Leiblum, professor of psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in "Myth of female impotence 'created'" in the BBC News.

Word.

I'm not arguing that some women don't have sexual problems that could be improved medically, but a lot of the FDS "symptoms" are just the way women are. Yes, women can take a long time to come, yes, women can take awhile to get aroused (note: FTD flowers will not speed arousal time), and, yes, women get pissed at their mates which, yeah, fucking does affect desire.

In this study of FDS among women in Lower Egypt:  Marital disharmony, 'hate' and unfavourable socio-economic circumstances were the most common aggravating factors (28.1%) for sexual dysfunction among the participants, followed by pregnancy-related events.

I'm not a doctor, but as far as I know, there is not a pill for curing "unfavourable socio-economic circumstances" and the like. (Although if there were, I would so fucking take it.)

One middle-aged women in Orgasm, Inc., ("middle-aged" = older than me) volunteered to be a guinea pig in some freaky-ass experimental procedure in which electrodes were inserted into her back. Into her back, as in under her skin. Did I mention that this was a totally untested procedure by, for all she knew, a completely iffy doctor?

The implants did nothing for her besides causing her to kick her left leg at random times. (This new trick, while novel and exciting, did not help her sex life.) The creepy invasive procedure did nothing to cure her "problem" which was--oh, dear god--inability to come during intercourseNot inability to have an orgasm. Not inability to come if someone paid a whit of attention to her clit. No, this woman, raised on the notion that women's sexuality is just like men's--stick in it, pull it out, repeat til orgasm--believed that if she couldn't come from penetration alone, she was "ill."

I so wish she could have read an article like this from RH Reality Check which took special care to state in the very biggest and boldest of fonts:

The majority of women -- according to most studies, at least 70% -- do not and will not reach orgasm through vaginal intercourse or vagina-only stimulation (like "fingering" that's only about vaginal insertion) only.

So yeah, a little testosterone might help you out a bit (I said might--even this isn't certain), but seems to me the best way to alleviate FSD would be to spend a little time on arousal, make sure the female parts that feel pleasure are actually the parts that get stimulated (did I really just have to fucking write that sentence?)...plus a bunch of boring stuff like providing favorable economic conditions for the ladies and whatnot.

What is that? You have more sexual problems, you say? You've suddenly realized that your vag is not completely normal as you'd thought for years and years, but, in fact, hideously ugly and in need of surgical intervention. Don't worry, my ugly little freak, Vaginal Rejuvenation (i.e. plastic surgery for your vag) will fix any and all labia deemed unsightly.

What's sightly and what is not? Well, the highly lucrative Genital Mutilation Vaginal Rejuvenation centers that have popped up in the last few years (Hey....isn't that about the same time you started becoming displeased with your own vag? *shrugs* Weird.) have to find some way to keep the ladies coming in so currently they've determined that "too long" labia are "out." If you go ahead and get them shortened, I sure hope that long labia don't come into vogue because then you'll be bumming, huh?! (See also: The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss).

Check out these before and after Gential Muti Vaginal Rejuvenation photos from one place "helping" women.


Seriously!!!??? Not only did this chick not realize that she had a perfectly fine vag (I think it's a good one, actually, don't you?) but she actually thought it was so heinous that it required surgery--surgery!--to "correct". (Expensive surgery too. When I googled "vaginal rejuvenation" for you, the sponsored link offered a raffle for $1000 off. If they're offering $1000 off, you know that $%$# ain't cheap. Although I have to admit that the concept of a vag. rejuvenation raffle is sort of appealing in its utter wrongness. Coming soon...penile bleaching cake walk.)

Okay.

I would hope that we women would all come to our fucking senses and just...stop it. Realize how totally fine we are and get on with more important things (see above: taking time with and enjoying arousal). At the very least, I can think of about 6 million better ways to spend our time and money than getting friggin' surgery.

However, as it looks now, I think that the only things that's changing is that more men are buying into this crap too with their pec implants, ED drugs, and the like.

My big wish is that one day someone will be lying on an operating table, legs open wide as they watch a surgeon walking toward them eyeing their groin and wielding some sharp pointy thing and the patient ("patient" = "regular person misled by fucked up societal norms") will think, "What the fucking hell am I doing?!?"

And, O, they shall Rise Up and Spread their Enlightenment among the people, who shall toss aside their sense of shame and unworthiness, and be free to rush forth into the forest where they shall fuck freely and joyfully under the dense green canopy of the trees. (Note: future scenario includes ecological renewal, elimination of STDs, and men and women with true knowledge of each other's sexualities. Void where prohibited by law.)

xoxo
jill

P.S. Meanwhile, just yesterday, I paid $45 for a tube of cream that promises to even out skin tone. One of the ingredients "might cause mercury poisoning."

Fuck.

(photo source)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My New Dick

My new dick arrived the other day.

His given name is Buck and he was sent to me by Good Vibrations for a forthcoming story on pegging.

Buck came in a clear plastic cylinder, as though he'd been captured in the wild, mid-fuck, but only temporarily subdued. Even after his long journey through the postal service, he remained swollen and hard.

A few days later, when no one was around, I pulled him out from under my bed--where the pervy things live--and held him tentatively.

Not to brag, but he is pretty fucking glorious. Buck's not too long, but super thick--like so thick that when I tried to wrap my hand around him, only my thumb and middle finger could touch. He is firm but has a soft outside that feels preternaturally realistic. His girth makes him seems sort of brutish, like the kind of dick who would fuck while wearing a wife beater.

According to random internet articles, upon receiving a new penis, you should first get used to wearing it. I guess it's like trying on new shoes and walking around the shoe store, except not with shoes and certainly not at the shoe store because although I suppose the specific law "don't walk around a shoe store test-wearing your new dildo" is not on the books, it's probably still some sort of misdemeanor.

I was too wigged out to do the test run at home--the thought of anyone coming to my door and seeing me wearing Buck about the house was unacceptable. So I snuck him out in a bag and took him to a house where I was dog-sitting. (Um, if I happen to dog sit for you, this was totally not your house.)

I was weirdly elated as I got out all the new paraphernalia. There was Buck standing erect, as is his way, plus a black leather harness thing. (Not this one specifically, but kinda like it.) It's like a string bikiki, with a dildo hole thing on the front ("dildo hole" is not its actual name, at least I hope not) and adjustable straps on the sides. My particular harness was truly one-size-fits-all. Not only did it fit me, but it could accommodate up to a 52 inch waist. If nothing else, I could always save it as a pair of makeshift fat pants, in case nothing else fit.

After an embarrassing amount of time, though one could argue that this is the least embarrassing thing I've told you so far, I finally figured out the tangle of leather straps and saddled up. I stuck Buck out through the dildo hole, adjusted him so he was sticking up and out at a jaunty angle and walked out to the kitchen to get a feel for dick-having.

It seemed, actually, normal enough. I felt that if called upon, I could wield this cock. I knew what it was to be well-fucked and I could simply do those things from the other side of the equation. So with both of the kinds of cockiness inherent in my situation (jesus, sorry, what's wrong w/ me?),*  I wandered back to the bedroom to behold myself, be-dicked, in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors.

It was at that moment that the dog came into the room, poked his nose between my legs, and immediately started licking Buck.

As I yanked my penis away (for better or worse, Buck, sensationless, felt nothing) I caught a quick glimpse of myself in the mirror--wearing a silicone penis and being fellated by a dog.

It was, to date, the most fucked up moment of my life.

I'm not sure if it was the existential absurdity of the moment or the magnitude of wrongness going on at once, but as I drove home to wash the living hell out of Buck, I sort of pleased with myself. Like, "Yeah, I'm the kind of chick who has subversive #@%$ like this going on." It's probably not the correct way to respond, but that's what happened with me. 

xoxo
jill

*It says a lot about me, none of it horribly favorable, that I feel way more embarrassed about the bad joke than the general content of this entire post.

PS Starting August 1, I'm the Sex Blogger of the Month over at Kinkly. Yay, Tara at Kinkly!

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.
xoxo
jill

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

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Postpartum

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe
So depressing was my image of the post-election day Fuck Chair yesterday that several people were compelled to write to me asking if I was okay.  Which yes, and I am beyond grateful that so many people would be on the lookout (you never know!).  And of course, at the same time, I am also not okay with what the fuck happened on election day.

Yesterday my mother called us and on speaker phone gave my girls an incredibly moving speech about not listening to the messages they were hearing and to know that they still had value, dammit.  This is something you don't generally have to tell people. Anyway, at the end we were all weeping.

Then my 15 year old daughter went and made a Sim of Tr*mp wetting his own pants while over-Tweeting. My friend said we shoulda done the one where he was in a pool then taken away the ladder, but this felt like a cleaner, though immature, schadenfreude.


video

Oh. Yeah.

Today I am in the anger phrase which I expressed by writing a disturbingly long comment to some dude on Facebook I barely know. I recognize that that was not a good use of my time.

In other news that now sounds jarringly hollow and not nearly as fun as it did when it heard it last week, I was #8 on Kinkly's Top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes of 2016. I adore the site and turn to it for surreptitious midnight web searches on "How do you do X?" or "Wtf is Y?" But what wrecked me* the most with how they so got what I'm trying to do here:  "This blog is funny - like, hilarious - but it's also thoughtful in a way that leaves you feeling a little better about yourself after you read it. We like that.

And, yes, I do hope I leave you feeling a little better about yourself sometimes, or at least that I've reminded you to do all necessary peeing before embarking on a Tweet storm.

xoxo
jill

* I am highly motivated by extrinsic rewards.  Not good, but hey, it's not smoking crack so I'm not gonna worry about it too much.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November 9, 2106

If you need me, I'll be sitting here for a while. 

xoxox
jill
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