Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dopamine, The Cruel Bitch Mistress

If you'll open your books to where we left off the other day...we talking about the exquisite agony of The Crush. The crush, as you recall, is where we basically become dreamy fucktards, walking ids powered by the hideous/delicious combo of single-mindedness, spaciness, magnanimity to your fellow humans ("Everyone is so awesome!"), hateable neediness, and general giddiness alternating with sudden despair--all set to the constant backdrop of the throb of unquenched sexual desire.

As reader can't keep anything to myself put it:
Crushes are torture, but the most delicious kind of torture. They make you realize what a masochist you really are. It's such a fun feeling though when your insides are squirming and you're smiling at random people like an idiot because you're thinking about them again and your jaw hurts from smiling so hard/much.
If you are suffering thusly right now, please know that you're not acting like such a pitiful lovesick idiot because you're inherently weak or out of your fucking head, but because cruel, cruel dopamine is totally screwing with you. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, "a kind of natural drug associated with the expectation of a reward that brings us pleasure," writes Sheril Kirshenbaum in The Science of Kissing. Dopamine can start fucking you up even during a first kiss. Writes Kirshenbaum,
Spiking during a passionate kiss, dopamine is responsible for the rush of elation and craving, and can also result in obsessive thoughts that many of us experience in association with a new romance--almost like an addiction.
I'm sorry, did she say "almost like"? Because dopamine is involved with stimulating the mesolimbic reward system (Mmmm, you like it when I talk to you all scientifically, don't you?), the part of the brain involved with virtually all of the addictive drugs. Wheee!
It primes us to make us want more, making us feel energized. Some people pumping lots of dopamine even lose their appetites, or feel that they cannot fall asleep--not surprisingly, the same 'symptoms' commonly described when "falling in love."
So maybe you're not in love, maybe you're just high on dopamine, you friggin' junkie. Which can go either way, depending if your ardor is returned. Writes the delightful Helen Fisher in Why We Love:
Because romantic love is such a euphoric "high," because this passion is exceedingly difficult to control, and because it produces craving, obsession, compulsion, distortion of reality, emotional and physical dependence, personality change, and loss of self-control, many psychologists regard love as an addiction--a positive addiction when your love is returned, a horribly negative fixation when your love is spurned and you can't let go.
If you don't get your love fix, well, it's not good. The suffering includes all kinds of sucky withdrawal symptoms like "depression, crying, spells, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite (or binge eating), irritability and chronic loneliness," reports Fisher.

Fisher continues, and I suspect she based her research solely on my diary entries from 1987: "Like all addicts, the lover then goes to unhealthy, humiliating, even physically dangerous lengths to procure their narcotic."

Which is not good, either. (Well, it's sorta good.)

Our takeaways from all this?  Hmmmmm, I guess, if you're going to get all hepped up on dopamine over someone, at least try to make sure that they might be someone who'll like you back. Which, you know, is totally easy. (Helpful hint: After years of painstaking research--ahem, Nobel committee--I can say with a fair degree of certainty that emotionally unavailable, meanish, and your basic garden-variety insane dudes are not, to my great surprise, good choices. You're welcome.)

Anyway, after awhile nature finally gives us a break. Because even a good dopamine ride can be, well, a bit much. I mean there's only so much time you can spend in a state of constant arousal, contemplating such uber-focused matters as the insanely lickable curve of a loved one's particularly enchanting body part. "Our biology places a limit on how long the 'high' conferred by dopamine can last," writes Kirshenbaum. "Studies have shown that levels of this intoxicating neurotransmitter decrease as we become more accustomed to a romantic partner, which might be why sexual desire tends to wane with the same person over time." (See also: the Coolidge Effect in "Our Genes Can Be Heartless Puppeteers").

On the other hand, it also doesn't seem reasonable, or at all fun, to avoid excessive, stupid, sexy, out-of-your-fucking-mind passion, for fear of getting the dopamine monkey on our backs. As "Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of The Female Orgasm" author Nicole Daedone's current, possibly grammatically problematic, Facebook status says, "Desire is there to be lived inside of."

I will await your tales from the front....

[addendum: As the unrelentingly brilliant and hilarious Betty Fokker points out below in the comments, the sweeter, more mellow high of attachment and bonding chemicals conveniently kick in just as the harsher high of the dopamine fades.]


(photo: Marlo Broekmans, Photo extraite de la serie "Autoportraits")

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Reader Mail--Japanese Editon! "This is art, dude!"

The sadness of unfavorable penis-to-bowtie size ratio.
I'm been on a bit of an extended Japanese jag, so let's finish this tangent off with some reader mail, shall we?

--Christina sent an email with the subject line--but of course--"Sooo...this made me think of you."

"I abhor parades," she wrote. "But this? Definitely a must see. Japan's Annual Penis Festival Is As Phallic As You'd Expect."

Yes, April 6 was Kanamara Matsuri, the "Festival of the Steel Phallus," which features phallic-centric activities such as the wearing of penis hats and the sucking of penis lollipops. (April 7, I think, marks the "The Day Penis Lollipops Are 50% Off.")

The celebration, the continuation of an ancient tradition, is a jolly street festival with penis seesaws, much crossdressing and giant penises being hoisted down the street. The woman hoisting that giant penis down there (below) doesn't look especially jolly about her role in the day, but in truth, I'm not certain what the appropriate expression is, really, for heavy penis hauling. I assume she is pondering the series of life choices that led to this exact moment in her life. But perhaps I am projecting.

Woman questioning life choices.
The penis, by contrast, looks quite happy, despite its lack of accompanying body. Everyone likes to be acknowledged, I guess. Or perhaps it's the penis' still unrealized hope that this will be the year they finally run into the Hime-no-miya Masuri, or Grand Vagina Festival.

--Next, this from Trista, who through international efforts, solved the mystery of what the talking onahole is saying:

"Hi! My friend [ed: let's call him Anonymous] is partway through a JET career in Okinawa. Though raised in the US, his father and extended family hail from that southern archepelago of Japan. Anonymous-san is currently engaged teaching the wonders of English to middle school Japanese students, the bravest of whom might possess their very own 'onahole'.

Anyway, I sent him your posting, and this was his response. :) I was hoping he'd send it in, but apparently he's shy:


What the Onahole is saying is (roughly): "Read the attached warning!"
 

The other stuff is just notes on various features of the product. e.g., the grey bubble on the top right reads: "THIS IS ART, DUDE! The start of the sinewy shaft is a perfect reproduction!" (I'm taking license with the translation. Direct translation sounds weird as hell.)

He also notes that the "ona" is for onanism (see also: How Wanking It Created The Universe and Other Theories on Masturbation). Thank you, Trista and Anonymous-san! It's oddly pleasing to me to think of dear, shy Anonynous-san way over there in Japan poring over tiny Onahole kanji so we all may Learn.

--And finally James alerted us to the existence of the Furu Furi Ona Shaker, which is an Onahole cleaner, somewhat like a cocktail shaker but with really awesome graphics on the outside. Look!

I like that guy there at the bottom with the big ol' afro shaking his Onahole clean. He does a nice job on Glee too.

Shown here forcing Sue Sylvester to behold his freshly cleansed Onahole.
But mostly I love the cheery expression on the little white shaker character. Like there's nothing he likes more the sight of someone's ravaged splooge-filled Onahole headed his way.

My series of life choices? A-OK!
Ads for the shaker feature a somewhat confusing series of diagrams which seem to be instructions on cleaning one's well-fucked and now languid, post-coital Onahole, like this:
Step #4
...and this....?

....Huh?

...but could just as easily be instructions on making the world's ickiest knickknack.

"World's Greatest Lover"

xoxo
jill

(source for photo of sad clown man)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Little Love Note for You Today, from Lady Chatterley's Lover

I am off doing tedious things but I haven't forgotten about you. I give you this in your day, a passage from Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence. It came out in 1928 but in a heavily censored version because it was considered to be so smutty.

In 1930, the comically-named Senator Reed Smoot, opposing an amendment to lift a ban on imported smoot, er, smut, threatened to publicly read indecent passages of imported books in front of the Senate. Which sound less of a threat and more of an awesome promise. (Sadly, in the end, an unrealized promise.)

Said Smoot, before he later presumably retreated to the Senate bathroom to jerk off, "I've not taken ten minutes on Lady Chatterley's Lover, outside of looking at its opening pages. It is most damnable! It is written by a man with a diseased mind and a soul so black that he would obscure even the darkness of hell!"

Anyway to me, Lady Chatterley's Lover is not obscene at all, but rather beautiful really, and smart about what goes down with women during really really good sex. Says the oddly poetic Wikipedia entry on the matter, "The novel is about Constance's realisation that she cannot live with the mind alone; she must also be alive physically." Which...well, yes.

Here 'tis. Try not to think of Senator Smoot during.

She would have thought a woman would have died of shame. Instead of which, the old shame died. Shame, which is fear: the deep organic shame, the old, old physical fear which crouches in the bodily roots of us, and can only be chased away by the sensual fire, at last it was roused up and routed by the phallic hunt of the man, and she came to the very heart of the jungle of herself. She felt, now, she had come to the real bedrock of her nature, and was essentially shameless. She was her sensual self, naked and unashamed. She felt a triumph, almost a vainglory. So! That was how it was! This was life! That was how oneself really was. There was nothing left to disguise or be ashamed of. She shared her ultimate nakedness with a man, another being.

Back soon...

xoxox
jill

ps if you and the bedrock of your nature are feeling a lack of routing by "the phallic hunt of the man" and need some vicarious love, you can read the whole book free on pdf here.

(photo via the lovely Lady Cheeky)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"I saw this and thought of you."

Whenever someone tells me, "I saw this and thought of you," it's never about helping orphans or something--I don't know--reputable. No, it's always about some weird-ass horse fetish gear or a big honking dildo or something. Or, like this letter today, a big honking wooden dildo.

Writes dear reader Tara, who cheekly titled her email "Family Wood":

So, I saw a story on "Paul Merton in Europe" last night on Discovery World HD & thought of you. [editor's note: SEE!!!] The story was about the Trury family in Germany & they make wooden sex toys. As a family. The mother & daughter literally sit across the table from each other sanding, staining & varnishing dildos. It was fascinating & I had to share! Hopefully you can snag a clip somewhere on the internets. I didn't have any luck. Below is an excerpt from the episode description:

"For his last German experience, Paul journeys south to the picturesque woods that inspired the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Here he meets the Trury family. While making ornamental mushrooms in his woodwork shop, father Elmar noticed he had created what looked more like a dildo. Thus began a unique family business making wooden sex toys. While Elmar looks after production, eldest son Stefan runs the website and matriarch Maria handles the varnishing."
 

Here is an article http://www.thelocal.de/society/20080305-10507.html and their website http://www.waldmichlsholdi.de/index.php/
 

Love your blog!
Tara, who will never look at a spruce the same way again.


I didn't find any video, but I quite enjoyed their web site, if only for this picture of the mom, Maria. She doesn't look horribly pleased about Elmar's mushroom/dildo epiphany, although perhaps I'm reading too much into it.

I like to picture that moment when Elmar picked up the carved ornamental mushroom and announced to Maria, "Hey...you know what this looks like?" (Credit where credit is due: Pretty much everyone in the entire history of time who's seen a mushroom thinks, "Hmmm, looks like a penis," but Elmar is the rare person who actually Did Something About It.)

Maria, who knows how Elmar is, frantically searches her brain looking for some sort of non-penis answer, but comes up with nothing. Maria briefly wonders if she, Elmar, and the ornamental mushroom have an intimate encounter in their future and is undecided whether she is pleased or not at the prospect.

I'm guessing something went down with the couple and that particularly fetching mushroom, because you don't just unleash a sex toy on the public without some product testing. And in light of that, I am re-looking at the picture of Maria and have just decided that she's not, in fact, making the face of a long-suffering spouse, but rather has a little bit of a sly smirk happening. Like, "I am going to fuck the shit out of this bad boy once you photographers are gone." The excessively long wooden dildo (damn, girl!) she is polishing so carefully is, I'm guessing, Just For Mama.

Anyway, besides the worries you're probably having about such a big-ass dildo and Maria's delicate internal organs, you're also probably wondering about splinters. Fear not, the family uses a special non-toxic coating and non-splintering spruce wood. (There is no truth to the rumor, which I am starting right now, about Elmar's first wife Inga and a horrible accident with an unstable knotty pine prototype.)

Actually, I love this whole thing. The DIY-ness, the groovy Euro-family living in their rustic cottage (which I am picturing being inside a hollow tree like the Keebler Elves or Berenstain Bears), and the German product names like Barenzunge "tongue of a bear" or Einhorn "unicorn." I even love the delightfully translated web page with such proclamations as, "Wooden toy are feeling warm and lovely."  

I grew up in an open-minded liberal family in the 1970s. I can't imagine a more appropriate homage to that era than expressing my sexually open, eco-friendly, handcrafted, shop local, one planet-lovin' values than making love to a beautiful wooden dildo named after a fucking...UNICORN.  It could only be more perfect if I were also wearing homemade macrame panties while simultaneously reciting Love Is... comics. In Esperanto

And if you're still back on the splinter idea, remember than no sex toy is 100% safe. Or at least not according to this totally gross article, Women Sues Over Wild Vibrator Ride That Sent Her to Hospital, sent in by reader Wendy, who saw it, and *sigh* thought of me.

xoxox
jill

p.s. re-running this because the last post had weird floating text about a "non-descipt entry hole" hovering eerily over the post. Although if I were to be haunted, I suppose that's how it would go down.

Also,
--Let me know if you're having trouble (or not) with IBWMW Kindle subscriptions.
--My newest Cosmo piece The 5 Most Mind-Boggling DIY Sex Toys is up. It spent some time in the Top 10 of Cosmo's most-read articles but has since been cruelly edged out by "Why You Need a 2-Piece Dress."

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Mysterious Case of the Talking Onahole

Nothing to do with the post but kinda hot.
I am bitterly disappointed to report that the mystery of what the Onahole says remains:

UNSOLVED. 

This, despite entrants coming in via e-mail, comments, Facebook, and Twitter, including one entry from a dude who calls himself an Onahole reviewer.

There were plenty of guesses, not one of them remotely plausible. Although since I remain sadly ignorant of the true sentiments of the Onahole, maybe they were exactly right.  My favorites were:

"Now more orifice-like!" from Bill.
"Otaku? Easy to hide from mom!" from Spiffy.
"Now in original and extra-crispy!" from...actually I just made that one up.

But not one among you bothered to learn how to read enough Japanese to tell me what--dear god, what?--this Onahole wants me to know.

I have secrets I shall not share
That this plasticized Essence of Womanhood remains essentially unknowable seems metaphoric and this would certainly be the spot for something deep but thoughtful, but we'll need to plunge ahead without art and meaning and make our rudderless, unexamined way to the next thing, that is:
The winners of the "What Does The Onahole Say?" Contest!

The very prompt Christina wins the delightfully throbby vibrator the MiMi Rechargeable courtesy of Good Vibrations, the very first sex-positive sex toy store in the country. Which is why we love 'em. Also because the MiMi costs $89 bucks and I love to give away FABULOUS PRIZES. Note: whenever I write "fabulous prizes," I am typing it to be read as "FABulous Prizes!" like an old game show host, so read it like that, if you will.

Looks kind of like Eva from WALL-E, but you mustn't think of that.
And the enjoyably persistent and brave Fitzlurker wins the Fleshlight Flight. (Thanks again, Good Vibes!)

That?  That is, uh, my clarinet
Fitz and Christina, send in your addresses and your fuckable mail will soon be at your door.

Ok then.

xoxo
jill

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Crush, Explained by Science

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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