Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sexual Edumacation

Couple demonstrating "sexual gateway activity"
Breaking news from my time machine that travels back to one week ago...

Reports Jezebel:  
Yesterday, the Ohio House Finance Committee's Republican members voted to adopt a state budget amendment that mandates an abstinence-only approach to sexual education....The idiotic measure will "prohibit the teaching of sexual education coursework that endorses non-abstinence as an acceptable behavior or promotes sexual gateway activity." "Sexual Gateway Activity" — what's that?: 

ORC 2907.01(B) “Sexual contact” means any touching of an erogenous zone of another, including without limitation the thigh, genitals, buttock, pubic region, or, if the person is a female, a breast, for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying either person.

In addition, teachers can't distribute contraceptives at school, because nothing keeps a teen not pregnant more than not giving them condoms.

So I want to be all mad about this, but not only am I far too aroused by the erotic writing of ORC 2907.01(B) to think straight, but the part of my brain that gets mad at people for being stupid does not want to become engaged with this.  Especially the thought that spawns of these Ohioans, made sexually ignorant by their mandated sex-free sex ed, will predictably--yawn--fuck incorrectly and poorly, but not poorly enough to prevent unwanted pregnancy, thus producing even more of their kind. And so on and so on.

Nope, I'm gonna look the other way today. To good things happening in sex education, which I would define as sex ed that provides, you know, education. (This does not include my own 1970's sex ed in Georgia which was taught by the gym teacher and involved lots of talk of vas deferens. I learned nothing about real sex. The whole good part--attraction, arousal, or hell, even a basic how-to--was dismissed with a vague reference to "the sperm meeting the egg.")

So, yes, good sex ed, like:

1.  The adult sex ed classes offered in San Francisco by They feature real life people demonstrating real life sex, orgasms and whatnot for the class.  

Writes Tracy Clark-Flory in My X-Rated Sex Ed Class:

It isn’t just a live sex show, though. Before any pants were removed, [instructor Madison] Young passed around a diagram of the g-spot, reviewed the anatomy, dispelled myths about female ejaculation and goaded the audience members into talking about how they liked to be touched. Then she whipped out a speculum and brought her model Ava, or “stunt pussy,” up to the front of the room. In went the clear plastic device and then Ava began to stimulate herself with a Hitachi Magic Wand in an attempt at making her g-spot swell and become more visible.

.....My mind was blown by this sex-ed class even before the squirting began — but that was plenty mind-blowing on its own. Ava got up on the table in front of the class, spread her legs and began stimulating herself with a Hitachi and a stainless steel g-spot stimulator. Young explained what we were about to see: “It’s the release of all the juicy fluid that’s building up in the para-urethral sponge … and then it pushes forth through the urethra.” Young answered audience questions over the buzzing of the toy and Ava’s growing moans. And then there was a sudden burst of clear ejaculate that splattered inches from my feet.

After a vigorous demonstration of hand techniques on a melon, Clark-Flory leaves not only with an unsettling image of Gallagher, but the realization that there is still so much to learn about our bodies.

...Even having grown up in hippie-dippie Berkeley, Calif., having attended a feminist-minded women’s college, having read about hand-mirror-toting consciousness raising circles, having ended up reporting on sex for a living, I had never clearly seen what the vaginal walls actually look like — at least not outside of an illustrated diagram. I tell you, it was a revelation: I wanted to hightail it to the nearest Good Vibrations and buy my very own speculum — and one for each of my ladyparts-having friends. It made me angry that all those times I’ve had a gynecologist uncomfortably perched between my legs, they’ve never offered to hold up a mirror.

2. Meanwhile, the French, who continue to do, well, life, better than the rest of us, offer their postpartum women free classes in la rééducation périnéale, or reeducating the listless post-baby pelvic floor muscles so that they can actually work again. The classes include biofeedback and a coach to help teach proper Kegel techniques.

Writes Claire Lundberg in  The French Government Wants to Tone My Vagina:

Despite the occasional embarrassment, these sessions actually work. There haven’t been extensive studies done, but what studies exist show that la rééducation significantly reduces incontinence and pelvic pain at nine months after giving birth. Frankly, I’m happy there’s a medical professional paying attention to what happened down there. Rééducation périnéale gets scoffed at in American and Canadian publications as one of the most lurid examples of the indulgent French welfare state, but as far as I can tell, we do exactly nothing in the United States to help women get back into shape after giving birth.

An American woman gets her six-week postpartum checkup and, if nothing is seriously wrong, she’s cleared to have sex again and sent on her way. If she’s lucky, the doctor or midwife reminds her to do her Kegel exercises, but without much guidance. Meanwhile, at least in the experience of many of my friends, she may still be experiencing a variety of symptoms that, while not medically serious, sure are annoying, embarrassing, and strange, and not at all conducive to reinvigorating her sex life. Elective “vaginal rejuvenation” through plastic surgery is on the rise in the U.S., though this surgical reconstruction is largely aesthetic and pays little or no attention to returning sensation or control to the woman. Americans’ lack of attention to the female body after giving birth is our own version of the modesty gown or the word vajayjay; we’re covering our eyes and pretending there’s nothing there to see, until it can no longer be ignored.

So yeah, there is good stuff happening. Just not right now, or last week for that matter, in Ohio.


(photo via Lady Cheeky)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

True Wife's Tale: Nola, "I had an affair. Now what?"

This is the latest "True Wife's Tale," an IBWMW series about real people (doesn't have to be a wife despite "wife" being right there in the name) telling the truth about their sex lives. As I've tiresomely overstated, the idea is that knowledge=power, the truth will set us free and any other number of slogans I learned watching Saturday morning cartoons in the 1970s. In that spirit, don't be a Judgey Judgerson and be criticizing dear Nola's choices. You haven't walked in her moccasins (see above: life philosophy gleaned from 70s children's TV), so even if you think her moccasins are slutty, amoral moccasins, keep that $%$% to yourself.  Here then, is Miss Nola, or Ms. Nola, I suppose, since she's married:

I hadn't had sex with my husband for a year.  Which in a way was fine. Not the no sex part, which was soul-killing, but the "with my husband" part. We had been together a very very long time and sex, which had never been the focus of our relationship, had dwindled down over the years until our sex life was only definable by its absence.

When we used to have sex, it was...fine. Orgasms were had, equipment worked, words of love were exchanged. But it was never hot. Or creative. Or after a time, something that either of us seemed to want. At first this was okay--I had kids to raise, a job to do, books to read. But after I turned 40, I experienced some sort of rebirth and, for the first time in my life, felt my own sexuality. I felt free and sexual and full of life.  I tried to turn it back on with my husband. I'd ask him to have sex and though he seemed perfectly happy doing it, he'd never instigate. Whenever I tried to explore things a little further, I got the feeling I was making him uncomfortable.

Eventually I resigned myself to a sex life with my own hand. 

But still... I felt so ripe and ready. I looked at my body in the mirror and it was still good.  Maybe better than it had ever been. I wanted someone to appreciate the particular curve of my hip and the way my nipples poked out through my shirt. I wanted to be kissed well and hotly desired. I felt like my body and sexuality were going to waste.

This is the point where the old lover appears via Facebook. Mine did and he was just as hot and dangerous as ever. We exchanged insanely sexy texts, emails and pictures and had phone sex in which I came so loudly I was afraid the neighbors could hear. Back in college, Old Lover very blunt and very sexual. He would say things to me like "Your pussy is so wet" which, to me, accustomed to the earnestly fumbling boys I'd been with, felt so dirty and scandalous. I was so prissy then and the way he talked about sex and so relished it was incredibly freeing. 

Talking to him 20 or so years later, I felt the same freeing feeling about sex which--depressingly--I hadn't experienced since him. My body still reacted instantly and violently to him. To this day, he is the only person who can make me go wet just from the sound of his voice. I concocted elaborate fantasies to tell him on the phone, and as I whispered the details to him, I relished the way his breath would quicken, the way he would gasp out "You have me so turned on right now" and his moans as he came. Once I sent him a picture of my boobs while he was at work and he had to go into the backroom to jerk off. I loved how sexy and beautiful he made me feel.

So yes, not only was he making me feel hot and gorgeous and letting me see my body in a whole new light, but in talking about sex and sharing these fantasies, I was--finally!--getting to share my sex life with someone who was not me. Which I was, and for the rest of my life will be, incredibly grateful.

When we finally met in person, the sex was amazing. But not in the way I'd pictured. I thought it would be all dirty and elaborate, perhaps ending with me crawling around the floor or something. Instead it was pretty basic, some very sweet kisses, a lift of my skirt and in.

As he kissed me and slid slowly inside of me, I felt something that was beyond sex. I felt the most sublime squishy glowing pleasure I've ever felt. I don't know if he was shaped differently than my husband or was just bigger (yes), but his cock was touching me in some deep deep place, both metaphorically and literally. It was fucking profound.  Which I guess is the same thing as profound fucking, which it also was.  For me, it wasn't a tensing thing that would lead to orgasm (and in fact it didn't), but something that was beyond orgasm.  It didn't need to go anywhere because it was already there--in this amazing spot of squishy grand fuckiness and oh-god his scruffy cheek and sweet lips and floating in a sublime space that was like somehow existing inside an orgasm.

I couldn't do anything but clutch onto his big hairy shoulder and cling to him and feel just...gratitude.  Gratitude for him and for this incredible feeling he gave to me. It was the best moment of my life.

"I contain multitudes"--Song of Myself, Walt Whitman.

Of course it ended badly. (Who could've seen that coming?) And I've done a lot of furtive weeping. But I don't regret any of it. I'm glad I'm jumped into the fire and got to feel that feeling. I got to live in passion and threw myself into life, fully and with an open heart.


A few days after it ended and the weeping continued, my friend recommended I have a toss with my husband. We did and it was...decent. It did stop the weeping. And I realized that one of the things I'd been crying about was the idea of going back to a sex life alone. I saw that I could have pretty good sex, in home, with none of the emotional b.s. 

I'm still not sure if that's gonna be enough for me.

I have a little bag of sexy lingerie and some sex toys I bought when I thought I'd be going to see Old Lover again. Right now it's sitting unused under my bed. I'm thinking of it as my sexual Hope Chest.

Thank you to dear Nola and the rest of you who have been so honest and brave to share. If one of the rest of y'all has a tale to tell, rip your little heart out and send your story to:


(photo: Lady Cheeky)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bill Gates and Condoms, A Big-Ass Tub o' Lube, Monsanto, and Other Notably Unrelated Things.

Improper condom use
When I lived in Ann Arbor, I wrote for a magazine section named "Tidbits." "Tidbits" is a terrible name. Tidbits are a low-end dog food, or possibly something you have to sweep up from a rodent's cage. When talking about my work, I would use convoluted verbal arrangements--much like this sentence itself--so as never to actually have to call the little blurby things I wrote "tidbits." Because I have my dignity, you know. Fucking "tidbits." Still hate it.

However, today's blurby post proves that although I am now far, far away from Tidbits, I still have some tidbitiness about me. (Sweep those up, will you?) But hell if I'll call 'em Tidbits. Here...let me think of a Theme. Let's see, the theme today is Things That Don't Go Together. Which is lame, but at least it's not Tidbit lame.

1. Bill Gates and Condoms
Emily sent in the financially important news that Bill Gates is offering $100,000 to the person who can design a better condom. The idea is this: Although condoms have been around at least 400 years, people don't really like them. Yes, they're cheap, easy and very effective in preventing STDs and pregnancy--so calm down, no one's saying don't use them or anything. However, they do feel kind of sucky and I think we can all agree that they look a bit ridiculous. (Pssst, not talking about you. You look sexy as hell in a condom. Your condom-encased penis looks absolutely nothing at all like a burglar wearing pantyhose over their face.)

Anyway, the idea is that you develop a condom that's somehow...better. Maybe it gives more sensation, maybe it's easier to put on, maybe it just looks mighty fine. All up to you.
What walks down stairs, alone and in pairs?

This ORIGAMI male condom is an example of what the Gates people consider to be an innovative condom. Besides that fact that it looks like it might make a pleasing SPROING noise, the folding design offers the following "advantages," according to its makers:

1. Easy donning method slides the condom onto the penis in 2.8 seconds.
2. Consistent expansion/contraction of the condom provides a natural reciprocating motion of the penis inside the lubricated condom.

Still, I think they still have a way to go aesthetically, and hell, perhaps the condom you design will go on in 2.7 seconds. However, if you are timing your own condom-donning, keep it to yourself or your partner will be gone in 5.4 seconds. Deadline to enter May 7, 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time.

2. Vinegar and Douche
A question for you: Why are there vinegar douches? Vinegar smells horrible.  There is no smell anyone's got going on down there that could be improved by adding vinegar to the mix. I get that vinegar's a weak acid (or I do now after Googling it) and it might have something to do with balancing flora or something, but is there no other weak acid to do the trick? Maybe a can of Sprite, or, hell, if you're shoving stuff up there anyway, how 'bout something inherently decent smelling like a basil leaf or an Altoid? (Btw, pretty much everyone besides the makers of Summer's Eve products agrees that douching is bad, unhealthy and not advisable. Especially using stinky-ass vinegar.)

3. Lube and Bulk Buying

The crush-worthy Firehorse_on_SL alerts us to the availability of this 55 Gallon Drum of Lube"Maybe a purchase for a very open-minded shopping club?" she suggests. It comes with a pump, weights 522 pounds and costs $1,235.94, which seems a bit steep, but the shipping is free so maybe it all works out. There are only "new" tubs available, which is probably for the best.

There are some semi-funny reviews over there--not anywhere near as good as the ones for the BIC Cristal For Her Pen (if you haven't seen them, go there at once) --and I am ashamed to admit that I laughed at one recommending the lube tub as being perfect for a session of schtupping the old, and presumably vaginally arid, Helen Thomas.

In case you're wondering, I just looked up the veteran newswoman to see if she was dead and she's not (Good news, Helen!), so I don't feel quite as bad. However, I don't want to malign her. Maybe ol' Helen is a tight and slick as...well, a Helen Thomas. "Oh God, watching you slide that Origami male condom on in 2.8 seconds is making me so...fucking...wet. Helen Thomas wet."

4. Monsanto and Sex Blog

I have a new piece up at DAME magazine, Monsanto: Six Truths and a Lie.  It's about the various dickish things Monsanto has done, which, upon researching, were actually more numerous and hideous than I'd ever dreamed.  Go on over and comment and/or share via Facebook or Twitter if you're feeling Fight the Powerish.


(umbrella image)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Dopamine Withdrawal and Litost

Litost is a nearly untranslatable Czech word, a state of feeling miserable and humiliated. "Litost is a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one's own misery," writes Mulan Kundera in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

Anyone who has experienced the end of a love affair and/or unrequited passion is well aware of litost, translatable or not, because there it is, living in your head, all fucking day and night.

There are already plenty of good reasons why the death of passion is so unbearable. I mean, hmm, there's the personal rejection of everything you are, the shame ("Why the fuck did I think it was wise to text him that picture of my butt?"), the anger/incredulousness at the other's person inability/fear/general fucktardedness at not seeing how flippin' incredible you are, and the sadness over that very same thing. I mean, well, it all sucks. Hard.

But in one of the crueler aspects of neurochemistry, just when you're hitting this personal low happens to be the exact second that dopamine decides to flee the scene. Dopamine, as you will recall, from Dopamine, The Cruel Bitch Mistress is a chemical that floods your brain in the first throes of love. (Oh, god, remember how good it was? I'll pause a moment here for anyone who needs to take a sobbing break...)

A dopamine high is great--there might be nothing better--but it's a harsh, difficult-to-manage kind of high. Someone giddy on the dopamine may be very creative, in love with the world, happy and open to the many glorious wonders of the world and their fellow human beings. Dopamine just hammers on your reward system in your brain and you feel good, man. Really good. This, however, is accompanied by less delightful effects like lack of sleep, loss of appetite and a need to keep the good chemicals coming through increasing intensification of the affair. But you kinda don't care because everything else is just so...amazing.

Dopamine acts in the same way as pretty much any drug of abuse, according to Helen Fisher in my now-dog-eared copy of 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 them goes to unhealthy, humiliating, even physically dangerous lengths to procure their narcotic.
That is, litost. (a side note: As one who has well tried the whole "unhealthy, humiliating" etc... route, I can advise you with some authority that that's not gonna work out so well for you.)

So what the fuck are you supposed to do, faced with the one-two punch of psychological trauma coupled with, basically, a really harsh drug withdrawal?

Unfortunately, your options are not terribly exciting, but rest assured, they do work. After a time at least. A very unpleasant, suckfest of a time. For advice, I would steer you to my two gurus in matters of the heart, one modern, Helen Fisher, and one ancient, Roman poet Ovid (43 BC-17AD).

According to Fisher, the cure is basically--do other shit. (Fisher, a respected author and scientist, uses much more genteel language, of course.) Take a walk, go have a coffee, climb a mountain, get a dog. All non-"them" related activities that give you pleasure are fine. Meditate, don't eat sweets or hit the booze, get plenty of sunlight, and plaster a big ol' fake smile on your face to convince yourself and others that you are just fucking fine. (This actually works, according to Fisher, "The nerves of these facial muscles activate nerve pathways in the brain that can give you feelings of pleasure. Even imagining that you are happy can spur pleasurable brain activity.")

Also, you can't go around thinking of your former lover, that hideous, unappreciative, (too fucking sexy, no! wrong train of thought!) emotionally-stunted wreck of a person, because that just makes it worse. You must physically remove reminders of their wretched existence to eliminate chances of backsliding. Suggests Fisher:
You must remove all evidence of the addictive substance: the beloved. Throw out cards and letters or stuff them in a box and put it out of reach. Don't call or write under any circumstance. And depart immediately if you see your former lover in the office or the street. Why? Because as Charles Dickens said, "Love...will thrive for a considerable time on a very slight or sparing food." Even the briefest contact with "him" or "her" can fire up your brain circuits for romantic ardor. If you wish to recover, you must expunge all traces of the thief who stole your heart.
Meanwhile, back 2000 years ago in Remedia Amoris (Remedy of Love), Ovid was pretty much dishing up the same advice--do other shit.
Love is the child of idleness, as slothfulness begets sensuality. It behooves you, therefore, to be active, and you may succeed in breaking the painful shafts of Cupid and putting out his torch.
And Ovid goes further than having you burn letters and such (which he does recommend as well), he advises leaving town entirely. "I believe in drastic treatments only, for there can be no cure without pain," he writes. But the principle is the same, do anything to avoid re-fanning your ardor.
Remember that you must stay away, for it is possible that embers of the fire that consumes you are still smoldering treacherously beneath the ashes of your surface indifference. To return prematurely will undo all the efforts you have wasted on your cure. It will be fatal to come back and find that your absence has merely given you a keener appetite for what is bad for you.
If these sound too grim, there are three more methods that sound a little more fun:

1. Take on a second lover and "let your affection hover uneasily between the two," counsels Ovid. The idea is more lovers = a certain helpful detachment.
2.  Overdose on the loved one. "Throw yourself at her night and day; have your fill of her in every way and manner; and she shall prove the means of curing your ills," wrote Ovid. For some reason, our brains refuse to continue getting a dopamine fix from the same person. Eventually, your brain just stops responding to the dopamine flood (see also: "The Coolidge Effect" in "Our Genes Can Be Heartless Puppeteers") unless you....
3. Find some other incredibly bangable mate. Writes Fisher: "Of all the cures for a bad romance, by far the most effective is to find a new lover to fill your heart." And start the whole fucking thing again--Wheeee!

(photo source: Frantisek Drtikol: Nude With Circles, 1928)

*Thank you to Nicole Daedone for reminding me of the lovely word, litost.
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