Sunday, December 30, 2012

A puppy, and maybe-jokes.

I just got back from Christmas with Rowdy's family!  It was happy and cozy and his parents cooked like they were fattening us up to eat us.  And Rowdy gave me a 350-million-year-old fossil trilobite for a present. It was good times. I hope you all had good times in your own ways as well.

Rowdy's sister and her husband stayed with the family as well, and they brought a puppy with them!  An adorable, hyperactive, cuddlywuddly, toe-nipping little puppy!  (They were claiming it was an "Olde English Bulldogge," but it was clearly not.  We're guessing boxer-pitbull mix.  Cute, whatever it was.)  This struck Rowdy a little bit odd, because his sister never liked dogs.

So Rowdy asked his brother-in-law what was up.  He said, laughing, "Your sister said the only way we'd ever have a dog is if I'd already brought one home and she had no choice.  The next day, I brought home the puppy!"


Concerned, Rowdy asked his sister about this, and she said, "Oh, we talked for a long time about getting a dog and we agreed we'd do it around now.  I didn't use to be a dog person, but I love this puppy!"


The brother-in-law had been kidding, but the weird thing is, he was kidding in a way that made him sound like a kinda scary asshole.  He would've come off as a much better person if he'd told the truth.  So why did he make up this story about forcing an unwanted burden on his wife?  And why, on some level, does the fact that he made up the story not really bother me, but strike me as a pretty ordinary bit of humor?

There's this widely told jokey narrative that marriage is a state of passive-aggressive warfare where the wife has to be pressured into allowing fun things and the husband has to be nagged into doing responsible things.  People in relationships, good and bad, joke about getting along like the Lockhorns.  See also: every sitcom ever, every issue of Cosmo ever, every social gathering where "my husband is such a manchild/my wife is such a ball-and-chain" is a joke about as edgy as "airline food tastes bad."

The problem is, it's not a joke for everyone.  It's one of those insidious things that hits some people as "ha ha, yeah, I kid about him being a manchild, but really we talk stuff out," and hits others as "so I see, husbands are supposed to be irresponsible and you're supposed to berate them for it."  Even though Rowdy's brother-in-law wasn't really coercing his wife into a major responsibility she didn't want, he was cheerfully playing into a story created by, and validating for, men who really would.

Credit where credit's due, this is Rowdy's theory: One of the major steps toward creating a consent culture is making consent look different from coercion.  It's making a man who respects his wife's right to participate in decisions sound so different in casual conversation from a man who doesn't, that no one could confuse them.

Because our values aren't that screwed up, really.  If you ask people, point-blank and not-joking, if a man should listen to his wife when making a decision that affects her life, people are going to say yes.  Most people--even most not-at-all-feminist people--are going to say, yeah, of course that's basic respect.

So imagine a world where it was really, really obvious who respected their wife (husband, partner) and who didn't.  If people who respected their partners never told these maybe-jokes, people who didn't wouldn't have that maybe-joke plausible-deniability to hide behind.  They'd either have to tell outright lies (which some would, but it would require them to be consciously aware that they had something to lie about) or their "she didn't want it, but I did it anyway" story wouldn't be jokey, it would be a straight-up confession of evil.

Making the distinction between respectful and abusive relationships blunt wouldn't end abusive relationships.  But it sure as hell would make them a whole lot less popular at parties.

Friday, December 14, 2012

We are the 95%.

TRIGGER WARNING FOR RAPE on all that follows, including all links.

[I wasn't going to write this post today. Believe it or not, I really don't like writing about rape so much. I want to write more about good happy kinky sex. But then all that stuff with the Good Men Project kinda blew up in my face, and this is the post you got.]

There's one big lie that rapists tell.  Most of the other lies are just part of it.  "Consent is complicated and confusing and there are a lot of gray areas."  "She dressed/acted/talked like she wanted it."  "She never said no; how was I supposed to know?"  "She just regrets having sex."  "We were both drunk and the alcohol muddied things."  "He sure seemed like he was enjoying it."  "I guess I just got caught up in the heat of the moment."  "People do this all the time and only paranoid feminists call it rape."

The one big lie at the center of all these little lies is: "If you were in my place, you could have done the same."

I mean, who among us has not been confused in the process of sexual communication?  Who has not thought someone was interested in them and then found out they read the signals wrong?  Who has not had a partner enjoy sex less than they'd hoped?  Who has not felt "swept away" at some point during sex?  Who has not done something stupid while drunk?  Who has not felt that the things their ex said after the breakup were awfully unfair? The rape-apologist narrative taps into some nearly universal experiences.

And then, in that one big lie, pretends that these everyday insecurities and disappointments could lead anyone to rape.  "It could have happened to anyone," say the rapists.  Especially to men.  And to themselves.

Here's the truth, though, from some pretty major studies:
Between 6% and 13% of men have attempted or completed rape.  4-8% of men are serial offenders, and responsible for the vast majority (90-95%) of all rapes.

I realize these numbers are still uncomfortably high, especially if you have twenty male friends.  But they also mean that 94-87% of men are not rapists.  Add in women (who do rape, but at a lower rate), put in some fuzzy math and broad guesses to get a good-enough ballpark, and roughly 95% of people never attempt or commit rape.

So when you hear all the totally plausible ways it could have been you, realize: nope, probably couldn't have been.  Most people don't struggle not to commit rape.  Most people don't have trouble understanding sexual refusal.  The vast majority of people go through drunken blunders and miscommunication and bad breakups without committing or being accused of rape, just as the vast majority of people don't have trouble restraining themselves from torture or murder.

And forget the numbers for a second.  If you, personally, make a commitment to never have sex without unambiguous consent, your odds of being a not-rapist are 100%.  It can't "happen to you" if you decide not to do it.

This is part of why I talk about consent so much.  It's not just to keep well-intentioned guys from accidentally raping.  Most well-intentioned guys don't really have that problem.  It's to help well-intentioned guys (and girls, and everyone else) see how vast the gulf is between them and rapists.

If affirmative, negotiated, freely given consent is the norm, then rapists lose the ability to say "I just didn't know."  They can no longer make anyone think "but regular sex looks practically the same."  If romance doesn't work a damn thing like rape, rapists can't hide behind "I was trying to be romantic."

Clear consent does make sex better, and it does prevent legitimate-yet-horrific misunderstandings. But that's not all of what it's for.  It's also so that rapists can't say--to us or to themselves--"I thought we were just having sex."

Only 5% of people commit it, but everyone lives with the effects of rape.  Because of this small minority of predators, everyone has to live in a world where they will have a sibling, spouse, child, parent, friend who's a survivor of sexual assault.  Everyone has to live in a world where women are told to live in fear of rape.  Everyone has to know a family, social group, school, political party that's been torn apart by bitter hostility between survivors and their supporters and predators and their defenders.

Because a lot more than 5% of people have been suckered in by the rapists' big lie.  A lot more than 5% of people talking about any case of rape in the media or their social circle start saying "sounds like a grey area to me," and "she really did send some mixed signals" and "do we have to be so hard on the guy?"  A lot more than 5% of people treat rapists with sympathy and survivors with skepticism, because they're thinking "shit, in a situation that confusing, it could have been any guy; it could have been me."

But 95% of the time, it couldn't have been.

We are the non-rapists, the people who will never commit rape and who suffer from the actions of those who do.  Imagine what we could get done if we presented a united front, and the rapists had no one but other rapists to defend and enable them.  We are the 95%.  Let's fuckin' act like it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Everyone else is doing it... right?

Now someone, somewhere, thinks it's
normal to slut-shame a steak.
Rowdy and I watched porn together last night.  Because Rowdy is a gentle soul in ways I am not, I tend to watch hardcore kinky porn and he tends to watch porn of real couples having sweet lovey sex.  We were watching his porn.

The woman in the video had sex the way I do.  When she was on top, she didn't pump her whole body up and down, she just moved her hips rhythmically.  And she didn't stay on top forever going poundpoundpound like a champ; she did it for a few minutes and then switched positions.  I think that's the first time I've seen a woman in porn do that.

The part that blew my mind: the guy in the video was way into that.  And Rowdy was way into that. And it was in porn, which gave it the official stamp of People Think This Is A Sexy Thing.  I was astonished, because I always thought wiggling my hips on top meant I was incompetent at sex.  I thought you were supposed to bounce full-length on a guy until he came, and since my thigh muscles can't do that, I thought I was too weak to do me-on-top sex correctly.  It was amazing to see people accepting a less athletic method as a totally valid, hot way to have sex.  Hell, it was amazing just to find out that I wasn't the only person on Earth who has sex that way.

It was also amazing, although it probably shouldn't have been, to voice these thoughts to Rowdy and have him reply basically "you think there's a wrong way to ride my dick? and you've been doing it less because of this?" *facepalm* (He was more polite than that.)  A few minutes later, we were having delightful sex with considerably better understanding of each other.

The point of this story is not "if you see something in porn then it's good sex."  Oh god no.  The point is that it's easy-- especially in areas as private and emotionally loaded as sex--to have a totally skewed idea of what everyone else is doing, and to try to conform to that skewed idea.  (Not that conformity is a great thing.  But being able to make realistic comparisons to others, then decide whether you want to emulate them or not, is still useful.)

And I'm probably going to make a whole post about this so I won't belabor the point right now, but this is why feminists care about media and memes that normalize rape.  (Or that stigmatize the words "rape" and "rapist," but enthusiastically normalize the act of forcing sex on people, as long as you don't call it that.)  Because it tells people that rape  is normal, that it's a popular and accepted way to express romance and/or dominance, and we can't assume that everyone absorbing this culture knows "of course that's not how it really works."

It's easy to look around your little corner of the world, and the bits of patchy evidence you get from other places, and think that you know how the world is.  It's easy to conclude on the most threadbare evidence that you're hideously abnormal or that the suffering you're enduring or causing is normal.  The ultimate solution to this is to transcend "normal" and replace it with "good."  But the proximate solution is to be conscious and careful of what we normalize.

Being imperfect is normal.  Being miserable is not.  Being a predator is not.  As long as "normal" is a thing that people care about, we need to get this news out.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cosmocking: January '13!

[Wow, already? Is it just me or is this one really early?  I know Cosmo always runs a couple weeks ahead of the title date, but this seems extra soon.  Maybe they're trying to get their ads out in time for the shopping season.]

Purple cover!  Carly Rae Jepson!  "Call Me Maybe" written next to her head in case you've already forgotten who Carly Rae Jepson is!  "Epic Sex!"  Wow, so that's how long it takes a meme to trickle down from World of Warcraft to Cosmopolitan!
I joined a social bowling team--mostly for the cheap beer and the girls--and this one guy was super-competitive. He'd make fun of the girls, in a mean way, whenever their balls went in the gutter. One day while he was in the bathroom, I replaced his ball with an exact replica that was twice as heavy.  When he came back, all his shots went into the gutter.
Okay, I guess we can add "bowling balls" to the increasingly enormous list of commonplace subjects Cosmo is not good at lying about.  (Hint: Adult sizes range from 10 to 16 pounds.)
[Woman finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her using hookup websites, which for some reason he's paying for.] Luckily, I also happened to see that his credit-card number was saved in his account info on one of those sites. So, to get back at him, I upgraded his monthly membership to the most expensive plan, the Platinum Membership.  Then I dumped him.
•Bowling balls
•Identity theft law
He texted: "Hey, what are you doing?"  He means: If he doesn't follow up with an invite, he's just checking to see if you're available. This is a text guys use to keep you interested without expending time or energy. 
He texted: "Out at a party; I'll see you later."  He means: He has no real intention of seeing you later, and if he does, it'll be on his terms only.
Aaaand suddenly Cosmo is the mean girl in high school trying to break up relationships by telling both partners, "Oh my god, did you hear what Jesse is saying about you behind your back?  I'm only telling you this because I care about you and I think you ought to know..."

For shame, Cosmo.  Even if he dumps me, he'll never ask you to prom.  You're just not his type.
Cerebral dirty talk (say he's "too big to fail" and watch his "NASDAQ" skyrocket)
Oh baby.  Don't you want to diversify that big, aggressive portfolio with my liquid assets?  Tickle my small-caps, and I'll lick your FDIC.  I'll never short-sell you as long as you can handle my back-end load.
Take your love to an epic level [...] upgrade your love.
I can't do justice to it in quotes, but this is a whole article about how the hot new love is "epic love," and you are currently not having epic love and you must have epic love. The whole thing is written like a fashion piece--here's how to style your emotions like the stars, just in time for the holiday season!  (I'm not kidding, they have celebrity photographs modeling appropriately epic love.) You don't want to be the last one on the block still in regular love!

"Honey, we're loving wrong.  It's no good.  We have to love harder.  The magazine said so.  I'd say we need to love... about twenty percent harder."
Q: I am traditional and won't have sex until things are really serious. How do I handle the third (or fourth or fifth) date and let him know that even though I'm really attracted to him, I'm not there yet? 
A: Drop not-so-subtle hints, and avoid situations that'll make him think sex is imminent. [...]  Or just come out and say, "I'm pretty traditional when it comes to waiting to have sex."  Now, it's very likely that initially he'll think he'll be able to turn you into a sex fiend by date three--it's that kind of bravado that allows men to charge into battle during war and approach women in bars during happy hour--which is why you then need to back up your words with action.  Or really, a lack of action.  Cut off make-out sessions at a point when most of your clothes are still on so that things never come to a head, so to speak, and so that it doesn't seem like you're torturing him just for fun.
Okay, this shit is normalizing rape.  Quietly.  It's just gently implying that if you get in too sexy a situation, well, your wishes regarding when to have sex might not get respected.  Because guys have a lot of bravado and all.  Things might come to a head, so to speak.

Yeah, they're kinda just referring to her getting horny and agreeing to sex before she planned to, but... they're also kinda not.  They're telling her to expect guys to try to violate her boundaries, and not even in a "if you date a bad guy and don't spot the warning signs" way--in a "every guy does this, you'll just have to live with it" way.  Like it's just another wacky part of the dating game to keep your date from pushing you into sex.

In a weird way, this upsets me more than when Cosmo publishes generic "don't go outdoors without a male escort" rape-prevention advice.  Because even though that's misogynistic and victim-blamey, at least it admits that what they're preventing is rape.  Here, it's just... you know, sex you didn't plan to have.  And that's normal. Fuck, Cosmo.
Q: On a first date, I'll always do the wallet grab, even though I'd be turned off if he wanted me to pay.  Do guys know it's an act? 
A: Yes... but that doesn't mean you should stop doing it. [...] There is a trick to doing the wallet grab without giving him the wrong idea that you actually want to split the bill.  [...] Let him make the first move for his wallet. When he does, reach for yours, and silently continue going through the motions of paying until he stops you.
Every time people tell me that explicit communication between partners seems like it would be awkward or not spontaneous, I'm linking them to this quote.  I'll show you awkward and non-spontaneous.

Also, just throw in half, cheapskate.  The rule is halfsies on the first date, alternate on subsequent dates, pay proportionate to your incomes in a long-term relationship.  I'm sorry if this impedes your dinner-check-related arousal, but hey, my rule's better because it also works for gay people and people who aren't sexists.
I Fell for a Woman--While I Was Engaged to a Man
To end things on a not-completely-terrible note, hey, Cosmo published an article by a bisexual woman!  So that's progress I guess.  It's all about her cheating on her partner with a partner of the opposite gender, so not amazing progress, but I, mean, they're trying here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sex Menu.

[For those who missed it: I haven't been not-writing, I've been writing elsewhere!  Check out my post at Captain Awkward: Pretty Should Be Optional!]

So, I don't really know how to open this except to say: I made a sex menu!

Check it out here!
(if the font looks terrible, you probably need to zoom in farther.)

There's a reason, though, a reason going beyond "I liked writing all the funny captions."

It's because I'm not good at thinking of things on the spot.  There's all kinds of things I like in bed (as you can see...), but when the conversation comes down to "so, what do you want to do tonight?", I have a terrible habit of answering "Um, sex?"  Some horrible combination of shyness and choice-paralysis comes over me and I literally forget what kinks I have.  It's like holding a pen and staring at a blank page--the endlessness of the possibilities can easily slip from exciting to overwhelming.

This has led to me tragically having unadorned missionary intercourse on far too many occasions.

So I made a menu.  It's dorky--it might be reaching new theoretical limits of dorkiness--but it's also a really nice tool for communication.  It lays out the things we know work for us and it gives us a starting point to think of things that aren't on the menu.  It frees us from the daunting blank page.

I don't know if I can really end this post with "make one for yourself!", because your relationship probably has to work a very specific way for this to be awesome instead of hilariously awkward.  But I will end it with... getting away from the blank page, however you do that, is a very very good thing for keeping sex pervy.

[EDIT: Some people report trouble getting Google Docs to open.  Here's an alternate link to the same file on Dropbox.]

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cosmocking! December '12!

It's that time again!  Light blue cover!  Taylor Swift!  Wait, that's supposed to be Taylor Swift?!  I know what Taylor Swift looks like!  She doesn't look a damn thing like that!  Also they made one side of her neck longer than the other, and her left collarbone seems to reach well past the midpoint of her chest!  I never thought I'd have to critique the anatomy in a photograph!  "Late Night Sex!" If Cosmo runs headlines on "Early Morning Sex" and "Mid-Morning Sex" and "Elevensies Sex" and so forth, they could get a whole year's worth of content out of this!

(Cosmo has bizarre neck errors on almost every cover.  Apparently they always use the same person for retouching, and this person believes that human heads are set on an infinitely mobile ball-joint located on the front of a foot-long neck.  If we can't convince Cosmo to stop selling crude gender stereotypes as "science" and joyless performance as "sexy," maybe we can at least explain to them how spines work.)
(TW: ED) So You Ate a Cupcake? Fast Moves to Burn It Off!
And then there's this headline.  I just... this is really heinously irresponsible.  I know people get all argumentative about whether beauty standards promote eating disorders, but how is this headline about anything but eating-disorder behaviors?

"So you ate a cupcake?  Great!  That will contribute to the nutrients your body needs each day for healthy functioning!  Plus they're yummy!  On a totally unrelated note, moderate exercise can make you feel good and increase your physical abilities, but really shouldn't be connected to feelings of guilt for enjoying food!"
I'd just started dating this awesome girl who didn't eat meat, so I decided to take her to a sushi restaurant. She ordered a tuna roll and seemed into the place... until the chef came out with a live tuna and chopped its head off at our table. My date was horrified as the beheadings continued at tables around us."
A weirdly racist "true embarrassing story," from a writer who clearly doesn't know how big tuna are.    For reference, here's a video (warning: NOT A PRETTY SIGHT) of someone beheading a (dead) actual tuna.  That would make one hell of a tableside presentation...
Worst Date Ever! He Was Bisexual... With a Girlfriend!
Okay, so the "girlfriend" thing is legitimately terrible, since he was cheating on her.  But the biphobia here is really gross:
We headed to a wine bar, where, over a glass of merlot, my date matter-of-factly informed me that he also hooks up with men. I consider myself pretty open-minded, so that bit of info itself didn't bother me--it was his timing.  At this point in the night, we were supposed to be all flirty and into each other.  I figured he'd mistakenly thought it would impress me, so I politely laid it out for him: "I understand that a guy can picture a girl he's dating making out with one of her girlfriends and get turned on by that. But for me personally, picturing a guy I'm dating going at it with his male bud is not a turn-on." My date seemed confused.
I, too, seem confused.  A guy comes out to you, and your response is, and I'm trying to work this out here: "I'm like totally not biphobic, but this was Designated Flirting Time in my head, so clearly every sentence he said was supposed to turn me on, and men having sex with each other doesn't turn me on, so I'm totally justified in framing his sexuality as EWW MANSEX LOL AMIRIGHT LADIES."
Meanwhile, as if on cue, a man who'd been sitting near us at the bar turned toward my date to ask him a question. My date, without hesitation, flirted back.
Come ON.  What kind of fucking sitcom logic is this?

Although if you view it not as "and then he did gross bisexual stuff right in front of me, OMG" thing, but as the other man overhearing that bullshit and heroically rescuing him from his biphobic date, that's kind of sweet actually.
The High-Maintenance BFF: Even the best of friends can come with baggage. 
"We went on vacation together, and on the first morning, she broke her leg jumping on the hotel bed (don't even ask). I ended up pushing her in a wheelchair all over Paris. At times, I'd be so exhausted that I'd end up crying at night. But I didn't want to make her feel worse, so I stayed quiet."
Wow, what a jerk, inconveniencing her friend by, um, not walking on a broken leg! Talk about inconsiderate!
Does Your Coworker Want to Sleep With You?
If he writes something like the note on the right, it's 99.99999 percent likely that he's already pictured you in the nude.
Yeah, I... I don't even know anymore.
You're on a second date with a guy when he asks about your previous relationship. You say: 
A. "He deserves to be in jail. Know a good lawyer?" 
B. "You would love him. We should all go out!" 
C. "Solid guy. We just weren't good together."
If you answer A (or B), the quiz reports you aren't over your ex.  C means you're over him.  Now, I can sort of see the logic here, but... shouldn't the actual events of your previous relationship have some bearing on this?

Not every "he deserves to be in jail" is poorly sublimated grieving, destined to turn to "solid guy" once you get ahold of your tempestuous lady-emotions.  Sometimes it's because dude committed a bunch of crimes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

All in the mind.

Pic unrelated; I just wanted to show off
what an amazing pumpkin carver I am.
One of my grandmother's favorite platitudes when I was a little kid was "it's all in the mind."  Cut yourself? You shouldn't feel bad, because "pain is all in the mind."  Hunger, heat, cold, fear, social rejection, and all kinds of assorted suffering were, to my grandmother, "all in the mind."

I'm sure that processing things that way gave her great strength, and she's lived through a hell of a lot, so I don't begrudge her the fact that that's kind of a jerk thing to say to a crying six-year-old.

But here's how I process things: yeah, technically very true Grandma, suffering is all in the mind.  But the mind is where I live!

So I've been away for a while.  I've been sick.  Sick all in the mind.

Long story short, I've been mildly depressed for a long time, in the last month I had a full-on major depressive episode, I went to a doctor, now I'm on antidepressants and feeling much better.

Long story slightly longer--the horrible Catch-22 of depression is that it makes you hate yourself, but you have to have tremendous faith in yourself to seek treatment for depression.

Because what you have to do, basically, is make a doctor's appointment for "I have sad feelings." And shit, I have enough mental blocks against complaining about anything to the doctor.  I get all "probably it's nothing, why waste money and look like a hypochondriac" when I am actively bleeding.  Making an appointment for my sad widdle feelings, at the same time as the depression was filling my brain with "NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR STUPID PROBLEMS"... that was tough.*

Tough, and worth it.  Because the doctor didn't say "you called a doctor for feelings?".  He said "I'm glad you came here.  I know it's difficult."**  He wrote me a prescription for Wellbutrin*** and a referral for therapy.

It's a week later, I haven't even been to my first therapy appointment yet, and oh my God do I feel better.  Chemically better, but still with a lot of recovery to do in the getting-life-and-thinking-unscrambled department.  Which is okay.  It took the chemicals for me to even realize that these were two separate issues.  Damn those are some good chemicals.

The real take-home lesson here, besides "oh my god the Pervocracy is back, I thought Cliff had fallen into the sun or something," is that when you feel bad and you don't know quite why, it's all in your head.

And your head is very real and the most important part of you.  Take care of your head!  A feeling doesn't have to be somehow proven "real" before you're allowed to acknowledge it.  Feelings are real.   (That's not a warmfuzzy affirmation.  That's neurophysiology.)  Finding the causes and solutions for suffering that's "all in your head" is as important--as real a need--as bandaging a wound.

Cosmocking next!  Oh how I have missed the Cosmocking.

*Rowdy helped a lot.  When I needed a push to get help, he was there pushing.  Thanks, Rowdy.  I love you big.  I love you robot servant army.

**I have a pretty good doctor. I realize some are "you're just complaining, it's normal to feel down sometimes" jerks about depression.  If you get one, please remember that the problem is located in the doctor, not in you.  A good doctor might make a different prescription/diagnosis decision than you expected, but if the doctor brushes you off without seriously investigating your symptoms, try and get a second opinion.

***Sex on Wellbutrin?  DAAAMN.  (That's a good daaamn.  Or more specifically, a "oh my god, I think I just tore a hole in the mattress, or possibly in space-time itself" daaamn.)  Hell of a side effect. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cosmocking: November '12!

Pink cover!  Kate Upton!  That one facial expression that's apparently "sexy" but would read as unbearably snotty if anyone actually gave you that look in real life!  "25 Ways To Kiss A Naked Man!"  Are there really that many parts to a penis?  "8 Very Naughty New Positions!"  These feature stick figures in positions that only work if your partner has extra penises growing out of his belly button and upper thighs!  Perhaps that's why they were able to find 25 different parts!

(However, one of the positions is named "Spank Me Maybe," and I have nothing but respect for that.)

Again, my deepest respect for the name, but dear God, those spines.

6 Ways To Ace a First Date: Predate, don't reach out to confirm your plans; let him do that. [...] If a man wants to open the door for you, let him. [...] There's no reason to seem too eager. Even if you are, hide it. [...] Just be yourself.
And if your self is a person who naturally micromanages and overthinks every aspect of a date, this isn't hypocritical at all!

There's a bigger problem here, though.  And that problem is that I don't want to ace a first date.  I want to feel out if we're compatible, and that means I want it to fail if we're not.  If a guy isn't going to be okay with me calling ahead or opening doors or whatever, I want to know that sooner rather than later and cut our losses.

So... this happened.  Shirtless men with black boxes so you can imagine they're naked.  I'm about to blow your mind: SOMETIMES MEN ARE NAKED FOR REAL.  Pretty steamy, huh?

Q: My boyfriend wants me to be on my knees while giving him oral. It seems disrespectful... isn't that what porn stars do? 
A: Who says that men disrespect porn stars?  The messy truth is, sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.  The only way to really know what this means to your man is to ask him why he's into it.  Regardless of whether his answer satisfies you or not, remember it's always okay to say no if you're uncomfortable.
No, ha ha, I'm just shitting you.  The real answer was:
A: It has nothing to do with respect or disrespect. To be honest, those concepts are far too complex for the caveman level on which male brains operate during sex. [...] You can create a similar thrill by giving him oral when he's not expecting it, like when he's watching TV.
Why you would go out of your way to be sexy for a caveman who doesn't understand respect is beyond me.  I guess if you figure all men are just as bad, then any woman who's been cursed with heterosexuality has to learn to live with it or be alone forever.

Cosmo is set in a really bleak parallel universe.
I regret every single instance when I've wept at work.  If you feel the tears coming on after a tough meeting or a failed project, excuse yourself to the bathroom (or even go outside), and let the tears flow. Otherwise, you risk seeming unstable, and your boss will be hesitant to give you big responsibilities in the future.
I usually don't criticize the work advice in Cosmo, but it's also from a parallel universe--in this case, one in which every woman works a genteel, upper-middle-class paper-shuffling job.  Everyone's a middle manager or maybe a marketer; nobody's a mechanical engineer, an aesthetician, a professor, or a baker.

I've cried at work a couple times.  Usually it was because I'd just had someone die in front of me.  Once because we rolled over a dead body, and he had a tattoo of his baby daughter on his back.  A few times because I saw children who'd been really horribly abused.  Once because someone threatened to beat me.

So, y'know... let's not assume the hardest thing that happens to women at work is they have a tough meeting.

(Is the reason for the simplfication because Cosmo writers honestly don't consider that women have different jobs, or because it's too hard to write advice that actually applies to both professors and bakers?  ...And can we ask this same question about their sex advice?)
The area where the scrotum meets the perineum is ultra-sensitive. Press on this spot with your tongue.  His erectile tissue extends all the way back there, so it'll give him a jolt of pleasure.
I'll admit it, I have a grudge, because Cosmo really screwed up my early sex life with stuff like this.  Not because it's wrong, exactly--lots of guys really do like being touched there--but because it presents an individual and situational reaction as a guarantee.  It makes it sound like there's an automatic Taint Pleasure Button installed in all taints.

So the first time you go for the Taint Pleasure Button and the guy giggles, or goes "meh," or says "whoa, not there," you feel like a failure at sex.  You followed the instructions faithfully, but the results aren't what you wanted--the logical conclusion is that your taint-licking technique just sucks.  Because you suck.  Because there's something wrong with you and you can't even know what it is.

I don't know if the author just didn't consider that some men don't like taint-licking, or if they thought it would be hard or tedious to acknowledge the fact--but when you're an insecure sixteen-year-old with a mouth full of indifferent taint, that ignorance/laziness has some dark-ass consequences.

Like I said, it's a grudge.

DEAR INSECURE SIXTEEN-YEAR OLDS AND ALSO OTHER PEOPLE: Some people like this and some people like that.  Some people like taint-licking.  Some people like juggling geese.  The only ways to know for sure what sort of person you're with--and what sort of person you are--are to ask and to experiment.

That's okay, because the asking is sexy and the experimenting is awesome.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Using my vagina.

(Yes, I have a modular hacked vibrator in my bedroom.
I don't know why you'd imagine for an instant that I wouldn't.)
I can be very good at standing back and using my body instrumentally.  When I have to do something disgusting at work, I can dissociate from my hands.  I can still feel them (obviously), but I don't invest any emotion in it and I don't expect to enjoy it.  Washing out a wound or emptying a bedpan isn't about how my hands feel, and that's okay.

And I can do the same thing with my vagina.  When intercourse doesn't feel good to me, or even if it outright hurts, but my partner seems about to orgasm or he's just really emotionally invested and I can't bear to let him down, I can make that disconnect from my vagina.  I'm up here, stuff's happening down there; unless it's unbearably painful or pleasurable, I can decide not to put much of my consciousness down there.  I can stop living in my pussy, and just use it.

It'd be facile to say "so when you notice yourself doing this, it's bad and you should stop everything."  The truth is, there are times when creating a little space between your self and your body is a valuable skill.  It's a means to exercise self-control over your sexuality.  And it's okay to make the adult, uncoerced decision to use your body to please your partner and not yourself--whether because of a D/s dynamic, for sex work, to cope with genital dysfunction, or simply because that's your deal.

The problem comes when it's not your deal. I've caught myself tuning out my vagina when the sex was supposed to be all about pleasuring me.  For whatever Mysterious Vagina Reason, it wasn't going well, and instead of saying something, I just hit the off switch. In a sex act that began as "let's relax and have some fun", I quietly slid into "let's tolerate it and get through this." That's a crappy, unsexy, scary situation when you're not planning for it.

So: when you notice yourself doing this, notice it, question it, and if you decide to keep doing it, make it a conscious decision.

It's hard to say "this doesn't feel good to me" to a partner.  When you've done all your consent and communication just right--when the sex is exactly what you asked for and your partner is trying hard to do it just the way you like--it's tough to turn around and go "er... it's not working."  You feel like you're being infuriatingly fussy.

But when your body's being fussy, you're just the messenger.  I have a generally reliable orgasm machine in my pants, and even so, there are some days it's like trying to feed a cat.  "You liked this sex last week. You liked it so much that I went out and got a whole case of it.  And now you won't touch it?  You're impossible."

So my choice isn't really "be a flawless fuck" or "be a demanding fuck."  "Flawless" just isn't an option open to me.  It's down to "risk conflict but avoid discomfort" or "avoid conflict but endure discomfort."  Well, when you put it like that... it's not necessarily a foregone conclusion, but at least I know what choice I'm making.  (And if I'm willing to suffer pain to avoid conflict with a partner, it's not proof I need to leave the relationship immediately, but it's definitely information about the relationship that I need to compare with my expectations.)

All this, besides dealing with a specific vagina-issue, pretty much sums up my current take on sex-positivity.  Saying "all sex should be good happy orgasm fun sex!" doesn't work for me any more.  It sounds nice, but there are legitimate circumstances where someone can't or doesn't want to have happy orgasm fun sex, and I don't want to deny their agency with cheery platitudes and dancing vibrators.  You have the choice to have "bad" sex.  All I'd hope is that it's a freely made and fully aware choice.

What I want is not a world of good sex.  What I want is a world of chosen and considered sex.  I don't think no one should ever have pleasureless sex.  I think no one should ever have pleasureless sex unless  they've thought about it and decided they really want to.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Worst Thing In The World.

Because Nothing is Scarier.
I used to believe there was such a thing as The Worst Thing In The World.  It's a pretty nebulous thing, more a feeling than a thought, but God does it push you to irrational desperation to avoid it.

TWTITW is a yawning chasm of failure, constantly open beneath you, and there is no describing the horror at the bottom.  You just go around with the knowledge that if you make a mistake big enough, you can fall in.  If a relationship fails, if you get fired, if you get rejected... you'll fall into TWTITW, so you put everything you've goddamn got into that relationship.  You'll try anything to keep the relationship. Because it's literally unthinkable what will happen if it ends.

That unthinkability is how it traps you.  Because it's like Stephen King says in Danse Macabre--knowing that there's something horrible behind a door is terrifying.  Once you open the door, it's ruined.  Even if it's a really terrible thing behind that door, even if it's a six-foot cockroach, any horror you feel is going to be mixed with relief.  "Oh, thank God, it's just a six-foot cockroach. It could've been a sixty-foot cockroach."

I remember when my first "I love you" relationship ended.  I couldn't abide the thought.  I screamed.  I cried.  I tried to seduce him.  (While still crying. Sexxxay.)  I threatened to harm myself if he didn't come back.  I called him until he stopped taking my calls.   The ridiculous thing is, I didn't even like him that much.  It wasn't about getting the joy of the relationship back.  It was about avoiding TWTITW.

At some point I bawled myself to sleep, and the next morning I woke up and had to pee.  Because even in the wake of The Worst Thing In The World, you still have to pee.   I peed and went to work. It was the day after the end of eeeeeverything, but the bus still picked me up at 7:08 and I still got a half-hour and a chicken sandwich for lunch.  I was in pain, I was in bad pain, but I had thought it would be infinite pain, and it was finite.  It was only a six-foot cockroach.

I can't say "and then I never believed in TWTITW again," but it was the start of a journey.  Failing a class helped too, as did getting fired from a job, as did very messily breaking up with a very close friend.  Not because these things weren't bad.  All of them sucked, all of them cost me opportunities I would never get back, all of them caused real and irreparable harm, yet the morning after... I still had to pee.

Eventually I started to understand.  The next time a relationship ended, I cried and yelled plenty, but I didn't do anything inappropriate or harmful.  I didn't want to let it go, but I wasn't filled with blind animal terror of letting it go.  Breaking up was a bad thing--just not The Worst Thing.

I think belief in The Worst Thing In The World is at the heart of a lot of abusive and dysfunctional relationships.  I believe that many abusers believe that breaking up, being rejected, feeling emasculated, or losing their power in a relationship are TWTITW, and that's why they're willing to go to desperate lengths and hurt people to avoid it.

What I did to my ex-boyfriend--threatening myself and refusing to leave him alone--was abuse.  Fortunately it didn't go on very long, but it was abusive.  And I didn't do it because it felt good to scare and upset him.  I did it because I was so deeply afraid of losing him.  You get ugly when you're really afraid--anyone with a phobia can empathize with this.  If you're phobic of snakes and suddenly you fall in a snake pit, it doesn't matter what kind of nice gentle person you normally are. You'll do whatever it takes to get away--you'll step on people, you'll scream at them, you'll shove them out of your way even if it hurts them.  What I felt when I screamed "talk to me or I'll hurt myself" at my ex wasn't a power trip or an evil cackling glee. What I felt was snake-fleeing desperation.

I don't think this accounts for all forms of abuse, but I think it's a pretty common motivation.  I think cultural narratives of Perfect Love and Forever Love play into it big-time, too.  We don't teach kids "someday your Prince Charming will come, and hopefully you'll have good times together even if it doesn't work out in the end."  We teach them that people are expected to hook up permanently and seamlessly, and if they don't... we don't really address that possibility.  It's left hanging, unspoken but definitely undesirable, perfect conditions for setting something up as TWTITW.  The idea that maybe a relationship problem can't be fixed or maybe you will be single when you don't want to be, that these are painful but not infinitely painful, doesn't come up much in any media or education aimed at people under thirty.

I suspect a class on "rejection happens to the best of us, and it's painful and awkward for everyone involved, so here's how to take care of yourself during and after a rejection" would prevent more abuse than just repeating the messages of "no means no" and "hitting is bad."

Realizing that emotional pain is a cockroach, but only a six-foot cockroach, has given me comfort and self-control.  I can't say that being rejected or broken up with wouldn't hurt.  But I can say it would only hurt some.  I can face "some" if I have to.

[Obligatory awkwardly self-effacing comment about not writing an on-topic or timely post.  I'm gonna try super hard to get back on schedule and write a kink post Tuesday.]

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cosmocking: October '12!

White cover!  Zooey Deschanel!  I don't know if her "quirkiness" is a marketing strategy or is the Real Her, but frankly, not having any personal relationship to her either way, I'm not bothered by that lack of knowledge!  "Orgasm Guaranteed!" Because "this helps some people have orgasms so maybe it's worth a try for you" is just not how Cosmo rolls!  "Secrets Even a Good Boyfriend Keeps From You!"  Spoiler: they're all incredibly mundane white lies like "he thinks you do look fat in that dress," but boy, doesn't it look scandalous on the cover!  "Feel Happier In 9 Seconds!"  I did it in 2, but then I had to dig Cosmo back out of the bin so I could finish this post!
Girlfriend apartments are amazing.  They smell nice, have the most comfortable beds, and are always clean.
The instant I read this, I got up and took a picture of my bedroom.

So, uh.  Hi Internet.  I didn't realize you were coming over. I would have straightened up.

(Okay, not exactly a woman, but raise your hand if you don't know a woman whose apartment makes mine look like a Better Homes and Gardens spread.)
The C-Spot: Yep, he has one too. It's the C-shaped outer edge of his ear, and it's supersensitive. 
The N-Spot: It's the area right in the middle of the back of his neck. 
The K-Spot: The skin behind his knees is thin and full of nerve endings. 
The A-Spot: Your guy's ankles called, and they want some love too.
I hope they follow this up in the next issue with an article about "Does the N-spot really exist?  Does it contain nerves?  Or is it all a myth?  Science is still debating!"
The Random Way He Decides if You're Dateable
By your dog.  See, if you have a poodle, you're only good for a one-night stand, and if you have a chihuahua, you're "hot but flaky," but if you have a golden retriever, you're "the total package."

The article, sadly, does not go on to say that if you have a pet snake, you have hundreds of ribs and only need to eat every two weeks.

...wait, why does he need to look at your dog to know if you're hot?  Can't he see you?
"If you're in the electrical section [of a Home Depot], ask him if he feels the sparks flying too. It sounds dumb, but guys love humor."
Most guys do love humor. That's why they're cringing right now.
[If "your man" doesn't cook:] You have to teach him--start by asking him to food shop.  If he gets the wrong kind of cheese, don't make a big deal out of it, otherwise he'll curl into the fetal position and never go near the dairy aisle again (kidding... kind of). Once he finds out he can gather supplies for a meal, have him help with the food prep.
This is great advice for teaching a five- or six-year-old child to start helping out in the kitchen.  It's a little disconcerting when the man in the image illustrating this article looks roughly thirty-five.

There's three main reasons men (or anyone) don't cook: Not caring what they eat, thinking someone else should cook for them, or not knowing how to cook.  All three have different solutions and not one is "baby him along like you're trying to convince a timid puppy to go out in the snow."
Five: The number of times you should casually touch a guy you're into within 15 minutes. Men aren't always fluent in subtlety, so several pats on the arm, pecks on the cheek, and hands on the knee are necessary.
Well, touching someone who isn't your partner or close friend every three minutes is not subtle.  Sort of creepily intrusive if the attraction isn't mutual but your touches have enough "plausible deniability" that they feel weird asking you to stop... but not subtle!

Of course, overcoming all this subtlety wouldn't be necessary in the first place if Cosmo gave advice on verbal flirting any more direct than "try changing the angle of your hips slightly in his direction."

Maybe you could ask this guy if he feels sparks flying too?  And if he gets confused just ask him to go to a Home Depot electrical department with you.  That's a great first date anyway.
By the time you're 32, your clitoris is four times larger than it was at puberty.
Far be it from me to dispute such an authoritative-sounding claim, but wouldn't that make it, like, four inches long by now?  I'm pretty sure that didn't happen to me.  I would have noticed.

(I feel weird needing a citation to prove something that is already proven in my pants, but here you go.)
Most 20somethings have sex 112 times a year, according to a study.
One of these days I'm going to offer Cosmo's editorial staff a free seminar on the use of the words "average," "median," "majority," and "plurality."  I know they don't want to confuse readers with fancy math terms or whatever, but this is just embarrassing.
[On how to initiate butt-play:] Slowly massage his perineum (the tender spot between his balls and his butt). If he doesn't object, work your way back.
You know I'm going to say this is a consent fail, and it really is.  Both because "not objecting" isn't consent and because consent to having your taint tickled is not consent to a finger up your bum.

But there's another problem here.  One that ought to chill the bones even of people who think asking before buttfucking is unromantic Robot Lawyer nonsense.  If you don't give your partner an unambiguous heads-up before going for his butthole, you don't give him the chance to say "whoa, not right now, I've got a massive poop on deck."

Reflect upon this.
Hit a used bookstore and grab a few big travel books. Having these pretty tomes stacked on your coffee table screams "world traveler."
I don't want to end this post on a non-consensual poop-smearing note, so I'll just say: buy books because you want to read them, goddammit.  If you've traveled the world, you'll have more personal ways to show it off, and if you haven't, why not show off something you're actually proud of?

Life is too damn short to waste on looking cool.  Don't waste a second or a penny that you could be spending on being cool.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Models of Sex.

When I was sixteen, my boyfriend Kevin brought me a vibrator.  (His mom had bought it, which... awwwwkward, but it was her well-intentioned effort to keep me from getting pregnant by her son. It didn't stop us having intercourse, but I didn't get pregnant so it all worked out in the end.)  The first time he used it, it was mind-blowing.  I'd never used a vibrator before, it happened to be an exceptionally powerful "back massager," and it was a goddamn revelation in sensation.  I came hard, immediately, and repeatedly.  I screamed and writhed and clutched his arm.

For about a minute.  Then he stopped.  He didn't look aroused.  He looked concerned.

"That was amazing!  Do it again!" I said, very happily.

"No," he said.  "I don't want to do any more of that."

Well okay then, that's certainly his decision to make.  We put the vibrator away and had a bunch of non-mechanically-assisted sex, which went fine.  When Kevin was about to leave for the night, I asked him to leave the vibrator behind, and he refused.  He told me he was going to throw it out.  I asked him, in roughly the tone of voice of a puppy that's just been told it can't go to Disneyland, why.

"I'm afraid it can pleasure you better than I can," he said.  So I couldn't have it.

Because I was sixteen, and meek, and naive, and did not have much power in the relationship, I said "oh okay," and then I burbled out a lot of nonsense about of course you pleasure me most of anything in the whole entire world, baby.  But even at sixteen and naive, I knew this was some bullshit.

What interests me now, at twenty-six (and still a bit meek but definitely not naive), is not that it was bullshit.  Telling me I'm not allowed to masturbate in certain ways because I might enjoy it more than The Mighty Penis is clear and obvious bullshit, now.  What interests me is why my boyfriend bought into that bullshit.

I believe it comes down to models.  There are many different ways to model sex, many answers to the questions "So, what exactly is sex? What is it for?"  I believe that once you know someone's answers to those questions, you can understand why their sexual choices make sense to them.

In the economic model, sex is a consumable good, produced by women and sold to men.  (And, in the nastiest implications of the model, sex can be "stolen" without losing value.)  In Thomas Macaulay Millar's performance model of sex, sex is like a cooperative musical performance, ephemeral and existing only in the moment of cooperation between performers.

I've seen people talk about sex in a maintenance model, in which sex is a task a women has to perform fairly regularly to keep her man contented in the relationship.  There's also an achievement model, in which the goal is to do the "naughtiest" or "sexiest" thing, regardless of whether you really like it or not--Cosmo espouses this a lot, and porn tends to encourage it.  And, famously, there's the competition model of sex, in which women are the mile-markers in a race men run against each other.

Or sex can be modeled as a cooperative sport, with the participants acting as teammates encouraging and challenging each other.  There's a communication model of sex, in which sex acts are a way for partners to express and strengthen their feelings for each other.  Personally, I tend toward almost a utilitarian model of sex, in which the goal is to work together to attain the greatest net pleasure.

Kevin's problem, I think, was that he had internalized a shitty macho-culture model of sex.  Going beyond "it's wrong to tell your girlfriend not to use a vibrator," why would it even make sense to tell your girlfriend not to use a vibrator?  In a utilitarian model of sex, it makes no sense--I gain fabulous pleasure, he experiences no harm to his body or his autonomy--this obviously ought to be a win-win, or at least a win-neutral, situation.

But in a competition model of sex, I was making him come in second place to a piece of plastic.  If he believed sex was about showing off his prowess, it was an embarrassment that his prowess couldn't compare to a machine--and it was as cruel and unfair as making a runner race against a motorcycle.

Because I believed that my pleasure was my pleasure, I thought the vibrator was harmless fun.  Because he believed that my pleasure was his measure as a man, he thought the vibrator would make him the loser in a race I didn't even know he was running.  It's no wonder he took it away.  He wasn't pointlessly depriving me of pleasure.  He was depriving me of pleasure because, in his model, he had to.

If I have a Grand Unified Theory Of Everything, it's this: I believe that people always do things that make sense to them.  Hard as it is to believe with all the hurting out there, almost nobody hurts others just to be a jerk.  So if you want to change human behavior on a grand scale, you can't tell people "stop being a jerk."  You have to dissect and then recreate their models of the world until being a jerk doesn't make sense.

[So here's the deal, scheduling-wise.  I'm going to try and have a post up every Tuesday night.  (Last week didn't go so well because Comcast accidentally cut off my cable for most of the week.)  Cosmocking is "extra", not one of the Tuesday posts, and I'll do other "extra" posts as time/inspiration allow.

Also, I just got this month's Cosmo, so that's coming up sometime this week, whee!]

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Myth of the Boner Werewolf.

OpenCage photo library
I was having sex with Rowdy.  I was on my knees, and he was behind me, thrusting, slapping my ass, biting my back.  We were far into our headspace and our rhythm, powerfully slamming into each other.  And I just got overloaded.  I was bruised and couldn't take any more pain, thoroughly pounded and couldn't take any more pounding.

"Red," I squeaked out.

He stopped instantly.  He let go with his teeth, pulled out, and lay down next to me.  He still had an erection, of course.  I'm sure he still had the urge to keep fucking.  But he put his arms around me and asked if I was okay, and I was, and we cuddled and went to sleep.

There's a pernicious myth out there that the male sex drive is unstoppable and irresistible--that once a man is aroused, he literally cannot control his actions.  We tell jokes about "thinking with the other head" and "all the blood went out of his brain" that aren't entirely jokes.  We have a cultural narrative in which sexual arousal makes a man into a goddamn werewolf.

And we expect women to tiptoe around this uncontrollable male sexuality.  We tell them to watch how they dress, lest they wake the beast.  We tell them "some guys can't control themselves"--not won't, but can't.  We tell them to be careful what they start, because they'll be expected to finish it.  Hell, way too often we outright tell them that they have no right to withdraw consent once sex has started.

My response to myths like this, more and more, is "shit, if I believed that, I'd never have sex with a man again."  I wonder if the story would change if more guys realized that saying "if a woman gets me turned on, she'd better be ready to go all the way" is the same as saying "getting me turned on is dangerous, better not take the risk."

Then again, I wonder why more men aren't just insulted by the whole concept.  If someone started telling stories about how my gender was controlled by our genitalia and sexual arousal turns us into rapist automatons, I would be outraged.  I would explain in very small, very loud words that I am a person and I can goddamn control myself.  I wish more men would speak up to say "actually, even when I can't turn my erection off, I can sure as hell use the rest of my body to put it somewhere it won't bother anyone."

I wish our culture prized self-control as much as it does virility, and even more, I wish our culture didn't act like they were opposites.  Even I can't 100% shake the worry that the story at the top makes Rowdy sound desexualized or submissive, (or super nice and extra feminist, rather than "bare minimum of human decency") even though all it describes is him not raping me.

Men aren't rollercoasters. They aren't werewolves.  They aren't walking penises.  They're people.  They make decisions.  Let's stop talking about "he couldn't stop himself" and start talking about "he decided not to stop."  Men deserve that dignity, and the responsibility that comes with it. 

[I've just started clinical rotations at school!  Which is exciting, but means that I need to get my shit together, writing-wise, because WOW did all my free time just evaporate.  And my updates were already slipping.  I'm thinking of making the Pervocracy officially a weekly blog, and committing to regular Tuesday-night updates, rather than stringing everyone along with the "I'll post when I have a post, dammit" irregularity.  How does everyone feel about this?]

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cosmocking! September '12!

[Helen Gurley Brown, the editor-in-chief who transformed Cosmopolitan the general interest magazine into Cosmo the blowjob advice repository, has died.  I don't want to say much more about that.  I won't tolerate any dancing on graves, but I also don't want to fall victim to "since she's dead we need to be nice," and ultimately none of this is my place.  I just read the magazine and make fun of the blowjob advice.]

Blue cover!  Lucy Hale!  With a distressingly featureless and strangely asymmetrical lower abdomen!  I love the idea that tummy pudge and stray hairs are too hideous for human eyes, but Alien Putty Bellies are A-okay!  25 sex moves "so specific, it's shocking!"  Oh good, I hate general sex moves like "touch him in a place with a thing!"
"I was on a first date with a girl and wasn't paying attention as I was crossing the street. A car went zooming down the road, and the girl actually had to pull me back and act like the hero. It was pretty emasculating."
"My date saved my life.  How terrible for me!  I mean, now how am I going to prove I'm superior to her?"
Q: Sometimes my guy gets so intent on making me climax that it starts to hurt. How can I let him know when it's just not going to happen?
A: If he's made it his mission to bring you to climax, there's no good way to let him know that he and his soldier have failed.  Luckily, there's one thing that will almost always distract guys from your potential orgasm, and that's their potential orgasm.  So if he's been giving you oral for longer than is comfortable, grab his hair, pull him up, and tell him you want him inside you.
I know I've said this before, but: this isn't sex tips.  This is survival techniques.  This is how you handle an abuser so he'll cause the least amount of damage to your body and the ordeal will be over with as soon as possible.  Sorry to get all serious in a Cosmocking, but if you can't tell your boyfriend to stop hurting you, and if you're offering him sex in order to avoid physical pain, that's... holy fuck, Cosmo should not be presenting this as normal and healthy.
If you ask him out on a second date, he'll likely feel emasculated... and that's pretty much the worst thing you can do to a guy.
It's gotta be inconvenient having your gender role defined by what someone else does.  You're going along, being all masculine, and then your date fucks it up and breaks your masculinity so you have to be feminine!  And you don't even own a decent pair of heels so then you have to go shopping!  Talk about a pain in the neck!
[Cosmo tells its readers how to blog:] Use the same keywords in all your posts. For example, if you blog about vegan cupcakes, you want the words "vegan cupcakes" in each entry.
Well, that doesn't sound BDSM annoying at BDSM all!  I should BDSM start doing that and BDSM actually I'm going to stop before this post gets spam-filtered off everyone's feed.
During doggie-style, playfully turn around and say something like "Is that as hard as you can go?"  Game on.
Ow.  I mean, hey, hard pounding's fun sometimes, but there's no "if you want it" in here.  It's about what's Sexiest, not about something as frivolous and unreliable as your own desires!  You should be willing to endure a little vaginal pain in the service of Sexiness, ladies!

Because if you're Sexy, then you get to have more sex, and that means that you get more vaginal pain... wait, shit.  We didn't think this through.

I think the fundamental problem in this issue is that Cosmo is all about living up to abstractions.  A man shouldn't be happy (or even safe), he should be Manly.  A woman shouldn't be pleasured (or even comfortable), she should be Sexy.  They're pure, platonic ends in themselves, completely divorced from any concept of human happiness or fulfillment.  You work your ass off on becoming and staying manly/sexy, and you reward is... being manly/sexy.  I guess if you're manly you're supposedly more likely to attract sexy mates, and vice versa, so maybe that's a perk if you're into that sort of thing.

I'm not into that sort of thing, myself.  It's a weight off my shoulders like you wouldn't believe.  I'm not manly, I'm not sexy, and yet somehow I manage to feel plenty masculine and have pretty good sex.  Seeking happiness directly, instead of through the proxy of perfect gender performance, is confusing and often unglamorous and completely worth it.

And you hurt your vagina a lot less, too.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Playing light.

The Dreaded Bunny Flogger. It still counts.
Last night, Rowdy and I did BDSM play and had sex.  What mental image does that give you?  What activities do you think we did?

The truth is, he bit me a little bit and then fingered me while I rubbed his dick.  Then we went to sleep.

Even as I write this, I feel like self-justifying, like telling you about the times I've gotten my skin stapled or been locked in a dog cage or flogged on a St. Andrew's cross or triple-fisted by satyrs or whatever exactly happened at that barbecue.  I gotta keep my cred!  Can't be a prude, can't be a poser!  Gotta let you know I'm real, I have real sex and do serious BDSM!

What a load of horseshit that attitude is.  There's no objective definition of these things, no standard you need to measure up to.  Your own pleasure and your partner's should be the only things that matter.  If you don't get pleasure from being the sexiest and the naughtiest and the edgiest, that's okay.

Kinky snobbery isn't just irrational, it's dangerous.  When your guideline stops being "what will make me feel good?" and starts being "what will prove my sexuality is genuine?", you're liable to do things that don't make you feel good.  You're also vulnerable to manipulation from people who try to convince you that if you were really kinky you'd XYZ with them, or people who say you're not having "real sex" because they want to rush you into intercourse.  And there's the danger of skipping negotiation and safewords (or worse, not taking safewords seriously) because you don't think a certain type of light play is "real" enough to need them.

Here's some things that can be real sex:
• Phone sex
• Mutual masturbation (I never know if this means "wanking each other" or "wanking in front of each other," but, eh, either way)
• Dry humping
• Wet humping
• Sharing fantasies
• BDSM play without genital contact
• Particularly intense kissing
• Literally anything you and your partner agree is real sex for you

And here's some things that can be real BDSM:
• Gentle spanking during sex
• Tying up just for the tying, without hitting or fucking
• Getting someone's drinks for the evening
• Teasing with a feather, a finger, or, yes, The Dreaded Bunny Flogger
• Playing the role of a servant, puppy, Girl Scout, etc., but doing nothing physically intimate while in role
• Sending pervy emails and IMs
• Getting hit just once or twice and not wanting/needing more than that
• ...sigh... toilet paper bondage.
• Literally anything you and your partner agree is real BDSM for you

There are some distinctions within BDSM that do matter. Socially-acceptable BDSM (i.e., playing with an ice cube) is not the same as you-could-get-arrested BDSM (i.e., bloodplay), and bedroom or online BDSM are not the same as being in the meatspace BDSM community.  It's important to remember that experience and expertise don't translate well across these divisions.  But none of the divisions of Kinkland are "better," and all of them are really kinky.

I want to take back all the times I yelled at Cosmo, "That's not kinky!"  What I should have been yelling is "That's kinky, but it's really irresponsible!"

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Returning to Sexyland.

So this blog has been dark for a few weeks.  That's partly just because I'm a pathological procrastinator and I had a lot of schoolwork.  But it's also because my conflicted feelings about the sex and kink communities were coming to a critical point.

Over the last year (as some people may have noticed), I've been gradually withdrawing from public/communal sexiness.  Haven't been playing with new people, haven't been going to parties, haven't wanted to even write about my personal sex life as much.  I still have sex and play with Rowdy--my sexuality itself didn't go anywhere--but I've been less and less involved with Sexyland.

This is not something I planned or wanted.  I miss being able to have that kind of fun.  I miss the thrills and the camaraderie.  I miss the "I'm telling this one to the grandchildren" stories and the "I'm so turned on it feels like flying" highs.  I miss the M&Ms.

There's a few reasons I've been MIA.  The first is that there's been a lot of revelations of abusers and generally bad people in Sexyland, including people I've played with.  Knowing that I've played with people who've beaten their partners, who were using me to cheat, who've committed rape--it grosses me out and makes me question my ability to read people.  (It's also caused a lot of angst in the local scene that makes social events less fun.)

Coming out as genderqueer has been a factor too.  I was used to being in the role of "straight girl" in Sexyland, and I don't think I fully appreciated how much I would have to adapt to a new one.  Presenting masculine at events and having people not react the same way as when I looked femme shouldn't be a surprise, but it somehow was. (Maybe because, shit, I didn't feel any different.) For a long time, I didn't take that change in attitudes as a response to a change in my presentation, but as an " it my breath?" awkwardness.

But the biggest one has been the uncomfortable realization that I have done things for the wrong reasons.  I've let my boundaries be pushed so I could be "cool" and I've pushed my own boundaries so I could be "sexy."  Or I've done things that were entirely within my boundaries, but I've done them for validation instead of for pleasure.  Don't get me wrong--this is not my declaration that I was only kinky and poly for the attention and my true self was "normal" all along.  A lot of the validation I sought wasn't just "coolness," but validation of my kinks; I felt like I had to jump into the Sexyland deep end without a life vest to prove to myself that I really was a pervert.

At first this felt awesome--oh my god, I really am a pervert! I really can go to a party and get beaten and fucked by three guys! This is real life and it is amazing!  But then the ooky feelings started creeping up on me.  The regrets for times when I didn't say "no" and the resentment (mostly undeserved) at the people who kept going when I wish I'd said "no."  That's when I started fading out of the scene.

I've been feeling that regret and resentment for a while, but last night was the first time I worked it out in words.  (WORDS: THEY ARE FUCKING AMAZING.)  It was also the first time I started thinking about a solution.

I need to recognize that I am, in many ways, a newcomer to Sexyland.  I need to go to parties with the intent to dip my toe in the shallow end.  I need to tell partners "go slow with me, I'm still figuring out what I like."  I need to start learning what I want and what I need.  Because although I have been Officially Kinky since I was eighteen, although I have a goddamn kink blog, although I have read umpteen kink books and been to a gazillion and a half classes... in some ways, I'm kinda new here.

As a genderqueer person, as a cautious and risk-aware person, as a person still seeking her own desires and finding her own limits... I'm new here.

I'd like to start exploring.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Green flags.

There's a lot of articles out there about "red flags" to watch out for when you're dating someone.  My favorite is the discussion of "Darth Vaders" in the comments to this post by Captain Awkward. The concept can certainly be used for victim-blaming--saying "why didn't you spot all the red flags?" is a great way to kick someone when they're down--but it's a good tool for someone facing the dating world.

A couple years back, I went on a date with a guy, jokingly disagreed with him about some silly thing I don't even remember, and he hit me.  Straight-up slapped me on the arm, hard enough to hurt, not hard enough to bruise.  He wasn't my boyfriend or anything; this was our second date.  I yelled "Hey!" and he started laughing and told me it was a joke and it's not like he really hit hit me, and I was probably taking everything so seriously because I was an uptight feminist, but he was willing to forgive me for that so long as I went ahead and laughed with him at this wonderful joke he'd made.

He called me for a third date and I did not call back.  I was closer than I'd like to admit to being sucked into the "it was a joke! horseplay! are you really going to hold that against him?" thing, but then I thought in terms of red flags.  Physically striking someone on a date is one of the reddest flags there is.  Even though I couldn't quite convince myself that the hitting itself was wrong, I could understand that it was a sign of wrong things coming.  I think that understanding saved me a lot of pain.

But the mere absence of red flags doesn't really say anything good about a person, does it?  "I went on a date with the most wonderful guy!  I don't think he'll emotionally or physically abuse me!  What a catch!"

So let's talk about green flags.  (Um.  White flags?  ...Cyan flags?)  Signs that someone is mature enough for a relationship, that they have a healthy attitude toward relationships, and that they have the potential to be a caring and responsible partner.  This isn't about compatibility--maybe they're a lovely person but you like Kirk and they like Picard--but signs that they'll be a good partner to someone.

 Here are a few.  I bet there'll be better ones in the comments.
  • They communicate, early and often, about what they're thinking and feeling, and they give you chances to do the same.
  • They introduce you to their friends and want to meet your friends.
  • They have a rich life outside of you. It can be many different things--job, hobby, friends, family--but they have something that makes them engaged and energized and has nothing to do with you.
  • They're excited by the things that make you different, not just the things that make you conventionally attractive.
  • They ask you for your opinion and advice as often as they offer theirs. 
  • They're willing to do un-fun, un-sexy stuff with you; when you need someone to hold your hand in the ER or take you to the airport at rush hour, they're there for you.
  • When talking about previous relationships that didn't work out, they admit fault and regret.
  • They always ask you before making a decision that affects you, whether it's trivial like "where to sit in the theater" or major like "whether to have sex tonight."
  • They respect your decisions and emotions even when you can't "logically" explain them.
  • You feel safe disagreeing with them, calling them out when they screw up, or telling them you don't want to do something with them.
  • They set boundaries with you sometimes, and they do it in a matter-of-fact, respectful way.
Your mileage may vary, some bad people will have a few green flags, some good people will be missing a few, all opinions given are only opinions, et cetera.  But when you're considering making a new person a major part of your life, I think it's important to think not just about "are there no bad signs?" but about "are there any good signs?"

P.S. While I was in the middle of writing this post, Captain Awkward put up a post on the exact same subject!  Curse you, synchronicity!  But if you don't mind reinforcing my terrible case of Blog Envy, I highly recommend you check her post out too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cosmocking Special Edition: Fifty Shades of Cosmocking!

Light pink cover!  Light pink invisi-pants! ...Hang on here.  "Wow Your Man With These Moves Inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey"?  Oh boy.  I'm going straight there.

...Oh boy.  This is gonna be a whole post.
Thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey, everyone and their mother is buzzing about BDSM (short for this laundry list of naughty turn-ons: bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism).
Hey!  They actually got our goofy acronym right!  Maybe this article will be well-researched and created with input from actual kinksters!  Maybe it will discuss how BDSM exists as a community, how it encompasses a broad range of activities and motivations, and above all else, how crucial enthusiastic consent and explicit communication are in BDSM!
Suprise-attack him with a few of these tonight... and that's an order.
...Maybe not.
Use the back of a brush to swat his thighs when he steps out of the shower--wet skin is more sensitive.
That's not a sexy surprise, Cosmo.  That's battery.

God damn it. Consent is not some advanced detail that you can skip over because you're writing for a casual audience.  Consent is fundamental.  Whether you hit someone wet or dry--that's a fucking detail.

The ridiculous part is that it might turn out your boyfriend was secretly kinky all along. It might turn out that he is a bottom and does like hitting and does like being taken by surprise--but he hates being hit on the thighs.  Hitting him on the thighs gives him the bad pain and makes him shut down sexually.  He wanted to be hit on the butt.

Having sex without negotiating isn't a great idea, but you might be able to guess what your partner likes if you stick to the cultural standards.  When you do BDSM, you can't guess.  Kinks are too complicated for that and the stakes are way too high.
Make him watch a porno--from the pizza being delivered to the pizza boy getting his "tip"--without touching you or himself. If he tries, slap his hand away.
Careful.  There's a fine line between "oh, release me from this torturous sexual deprivation, Mistress" and "hm, I wonder if they're shooting this on a XL-2?"
Press a fork (firmly, but don't break the skin or anything) into different parts of his body--his butt cheeks, his pecs, his thighs.
My roommate and I tried this--for Science! Result: jabbing a fork at me at random just feels silly and uncomfortable.  It only got interesting because he knew how to use the fork on pressure points.

...oh yeah, and because I'm a god damn masochist.  That's kind of an important part of the equation here.
Get him to wrap your wrist and ankles in toilet paper for a lighter restraint. While you are bound, he should tease you to the point where you're so turned on, you have to rip free of your shackles.
Toilet paper bondage. Oh my god.  TOILET PAPER BONDAGE.

I love Cosmo so much.

TOILET PAPER BONDAGE. much frenzied thrashing does it take to rip toilet paper, anyway?
In your meanest schoolteacher voice, tell him to go stand in a corner facing the wall and not to move. After a few minutes, demand that he get in bed and ravage you.
It's like someone told Cosmo what roleplaying is, but didn't give any examples, so they had to kinda wing it.  "And next, maybe you could play cop and naughty party boy, and you could, um, write him a citation and then tell him to have sex with you."

It's also exponentially funnier when you remember you're supposed to be doing all this stuff as a surprise.
Let him write "Property of [his name]" on your underwear before you leave for work. It's an all-day-long reminder that he is your "master," which is awesomely kinky.
That's just going to make for confusing laundry.

It also raises questions like "What does 'master' mean for us? Does it connote real authority in our relationship?  In what ways will the 'master' exert control and in what ways can the 'slave' express her needs and problems to him?  A master/slave relationship is a very serious commitment--is this what we really want?  Or is this simply a short-term roleplay for us, and we happen to find the concept of 'master' hot?  Even then, does the roleplay extend to any activities or dynamics beyond underwear-labeling?"

Then it throws all those questions out the window, because who needs clarity when you've got a Sharpie?

As you're riding him, clamp down on his earlobes with your fingers, and pull on them to rock yourself forward and backward.
Oh Cosmo.


(Dear million billion people who've written in about it--no, I haven't read Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes, I'm going to. Yes, I'll blog about it.)