Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How To Have Sex On Purpose.

Captain Awkward. Or Sue.  I might have gotten my notes switched.

I had an amazing time in Chicago this weekend.   Everyone at the University of Chicago was absolutely wonderful to me, and the talk went great; the room was packed, the audience was great, and besides my little monologue, we had a really good discussion about negotiating sex and relationships.  And then I got to go to the Field Museum and meet Captain Awkward (the blogger) and Sue (the dinosaur).  It was so ridiculously awesome that I'm all out of eloquence and just going "so ridiculously awesome, you guys!"

This is a (rough) transcript of the talk I gave.  It's on a separate page because it's quite a bit longer than my usual posts.  And that's saying something.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cosmocking: March '13!

[Content notes (and how fucked up is it that a fluffy fashion magazine needs them?): fat-hatred, transmisogyny.]

Pink cover!  Miley Cyrus!  ...wait, what?!  That's Miley Cyrus?!  HANNAH MONTANA?!  Whoa.

...You know what, good for her.
Finally Stop Living Paycheck To Paycheck
Hey broke ladies, it turns out it's super easy to save money!  All you have to do is limit yourself to spending only $1100 on rent and $900 a month on entertainment, and you'll work your way out of poverty in no time!  Don't you feel silly now?

They also describe paying more than 30% of your income in rent as a "faux pas," as if it's a Fashion Don't to want a roof over your head while being poor.
Have a pizza picnic party in bed.  No TV allowed--put on a sexy playlist, and sit across from each other like you would at a restaurant. Serve the pizza on plates, pour some wine, and don't be afraid to get messy with that margherita. 
I've been accused of just not understanding romance in my Cosmocking.  I dunno.  Maybe there's some truth in that.  Because I see this cute little idea for Manic Pixie Dream Girl antics, and all I can think is "oh jeez, that is never washing out."
Orgasms are tension busters, so after a hard day at work, pull your guy close and whisper, "All I want is for you to make me come."  Hello.  When there's a problem, men like to fix it, so you're making him feel like a total stud while getting yours at the same time.
This would be sexy if they didn't give all these fake-ass "reasons."  Let's edit, shall we?
Orgasms feel awesome, so when you want one, pull your partner close and whisper, "All I want is for you to make me come."  Hello.  A lover who knows what they want is hot as hell.
See, just as fun, but doesn't make my vagina sound like a cracked fan belt he needs to replace.
On nights when you want to let your freak flag fly, assume an alter ego. [...]  It's easier to get into character when you don't look like you, so meet him at the door wearing a wig.  Tell him that "Erin is working late tonight.  I'm her evil twin."  His night just got a lot more interesting.
I kind of want to do this, but not with a wig.


...actually that's kind of how we have sex anyway.
[on where to hide a video of you having sex]  Bury the flick in a folder within a folder within a folder on your computer, with a boring name that would never intrigue anyone, like Thank You Card List.
My porn folder, age 15: C:\ windows \ desktop \ stuff \ boring stuff \ old boring stuff
My porn folder, age 20: C:\  program files \ utility \ xp64 \ config \ temp \ 0334 [encrypted] 
My porn folder, age 25: C:\ porn
The 3 Words He Never Wants to Hear You Say 
Imagine the worst thing a guy could say to your (thought joggers: "I'm in love with your sister," "I killed a man..."), multiply it by 10, add a full weekend of nothing but golf on TV--and you'll start to understand how awful it is for us to hear "I look fat" coming out of a girl's mouth.
Oh God.  This is that awful game where you have to obsess over your weight to be sexy, but if you ever let it be known that you're obsessing over your weight, that's terrible.  Sometimes it goes by "order a steak on dates so he knows you're laid-back" followed by five pages of diet tips.  This time it goes by "hearing your insecurities is so hard for me."
Your guy knows you're not fat.  He can see you're not fat.  But the more you say you're fat, the more he'll start to question the evidence.
But I am fat.  I'm not being self-deprecating or whatever, I'm just being... roundish.  And I don't think any combination of words would cause a person who sees me naked to question the "evidence" that my body is the size and shape that it appears to be.

Of course, this sentence makes perfect sense if you understand "fat" to be a word with absolutely no relation to a person's weight or size, but simply an insult of their worth and sexual appeal.  Which seems to be the thing these days.  Kind of painful if you also happen to be roundish, but I don't think "not being painful" was a priority in this process.
[Q: My boyfriend's roommate ogles me and puppydogs me and it's weird.] 
A: Although the roommate should be more subtle about it, checking you out doesn't mean anything.  Men ogle attractive women all the time, even when those women are dating their buddies.  Other than that, it sounds like the roommate's only crime is being exceedingly polite.  If you say something to your guy, it'll create at best an awkward situation and at worst a volatile one.
Yeah, I should have warned you.  This is the point where Cosmo goes completely off the rails.  Where it crosses from "mostly goofy, kinda problematic" to "oh FUCK this was printed THIS YEAR?"  Beyond here I can't even be funny.
"He Didn't Want to Date Me -- He Wanted to Be Me!"
Cosmo's new "Worst Date Ever" column (which is 100% fictional) seems to be a continual fountain of bigotry--it was biphobia last time--but this is a new low.  I don't even want to quote this one.  Basically, the author meets up with an OkCupid date who turns out to be a trans woman.  And her (the date's) behavior is of course hilariously weird and flaky and she reverses in ten seconds from advertising herself as a sexy man to demanding the author do her makeup and go shopping with her.  It's all just the sloppiest, meanest caricature of trans women imaginable. And it plays right into the disgusting "trans people aren't people, they're plot devices to comically/terrifyingly trick you into being gay!" narrative.  It's illustrated with a picture of a big hairy leg in a high-heel shoe.  Once again, I don't think I can be funny about this.

Dammit, Cosmo.  You're supposed to be silly-terrible.  This is no fun when you're straight-up-hatred terrible.

P.S.: In case you missed it last time, I'm talking in Chicago this Saturday!  It's gonna be awesome!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Getting negotiation going.

First, some big news:

I am going to be speaking at the University of Chicago Sex Week!
More details available here, but the short version:
  • 5:30 to 7:00pm on February 16th
  • The eighth floor of Logan Center (directions on linked page) at the University of Chicago
  • It's free and open to the public, and you can register here.
I’m going to be speaking about “How To Have Sex On Purpose”—about creating an intentional and conscious sexuality, informed by kink and poly ethics. Or, less pretentiously: how to go from “sex just happens between us” to “we do sex.” (Doing is better. Not just on, like, an ethical philosophical relational whatever level. Better on the “OH FUCK YEAH” level too.)

We now return you to your incredibly irregularly scheduled Pervocracy.

I never can find pictures that represent these abstract topics.
Here's the cuddly enema that hangs out next to my lab bench at school.
A question I got on Tumblr:

So, I've reread your blog posts on relationship negotiation several times each, because they're so awesome, so I was wondering if you might have some advice. Relationship negotiation meetings is something I'd really like to do. My partner likes the idea too. However, we're both worried that we'll just end up sitting there with neither of us having any idea what to say. Do you have any advice/resources for beginning/structuring such a meeting? Possible discussion questions/categories, etc?

The way these things begin is: awkwardly.  Sitting down and talking frankly about what you're doing in a relationship is awkward as fuck and I can't really sugarcoat that.  It's awkward because it's an activity that completely lacks a cultural script.  It's not something you're "supposed" to do, it's not something you get to watch others do in real life or in media, and the only version of it that does get talked about is one where "can we talk?" means "you're in trouble."  So this isn't going to go super smoothly the first time, and that's okay.  Being real and vulnerable enough to be awkward with each other is great for a relationship.

But how do you get it to go at all?

It starts before you meet, with both of you asking yourselves what you want to get out of the discussion.  What needs work in your relationship?  What's causing you difficulty right now?  If you could have the perfect relationship, how would it be different from this one?  It doesn't have to be all big-deal serious things.  "I need you to stop stealing the blanket" is every bit as legitimate to bring out here as "I need to know how you really feel about my body."  Plus, seeing how able you are to come to an amicable agreement on a simple thing like "we should have two twin-size blankets" is good motivation and practice for working on touchier issues.

I've said this before, in a different context, but any time you catch yourself thinking "well, of course what I would say if I could is XYZ, but I can't possibly," that's your brain telling you exactly what you need to say.  Also, any time something makes you think "I'm unhappy about XYZ, but obviously my partner knows that and has decided to do it anyway," definitely bring it up, because like 75% of the time the answer will be "oh shit, I had no idea that was a problem."

Come to the table with requests, not complaints.  Try to turn every statement about what's wrong into a statement about what you need instead.  (It's okay to not always have solutions in mind.  Just say "I need [thing] to stop/start/change" or "I want us to find a solution to [thing]," rather than "[thing] is bad.")  Even though it's almost the same statement, "I want to have more sex" is a lot easier and less upsetting to address than "I feel like we never have sex anymore."  It makes "we can totally have more sex, I'd like that too" into an agreeable response instead of a defensive one.

Make a date for your first discussion (we call ours the State Of The Relationship Address, because giving it a silly name makes it feel more like "our thing" and less like getting called to the principal's office) somewhere quiet that doesn't mind people camping out for a while--a park bench, a coffeeshop, or a particularly boring bar.

(Actually, it got updated to State Of Our Union, and then corrected to State Of Our Intersection, but anyway.)

Bring notes, and take notes.  It may be dorky--it may even help to acknowledge it's dorky and laugh at it--but nothing says "the serious part of this conversation has started now" like getting out a notepad with "need more attention paid to my clitoris" on it.

As for things to actually discuss, if "stuff that you want to be more better" feels like a hopelessly broad field:

  • Sex! Are you happy with the amount you're having?  The type?  Who initiates?  Is there something you'd love to try but couldn't possibly bring up?  Is there something you secretly hate but have been politely not complaining about?
  • How much time you spend together.  Too much, too little, too often spent fiddling around the house being bored?
  • The path your relationship is on.  Is it something that's going to escalate along the traditional dating -> moving in -> marriage -> kids pathway, follow a less traditional path, or simply stay where it's at?  Obviously your partner can't promise you what the future will bring, but at least saying "I'm hoping if we stay together we can..." versus "I'm really not ever looking for..." can seriously clear the air.
  • Fun things you'd like to do together.  Like I said, this doesn't have to all be Heavy Processing.  "We should plan a trip to Maine!" is worth bringing up too.
  • Are you monogamous?  If so, what does that mean to you--just no sleeping with other people, or no expressing any kind of attraction, or something in between?  I know this one can be pretty easy to shove under the rug of "but I don't want anyone but you anyway," but it's good to clarify how you feel about flirting/kissing/dinner dates/etc. before you're debating about a specific incident.
  • Are you open or poly?  If so, there's a whole bunch of issues that open up, but some relevant ones are: scheduling, how you can express it and what will comfort you if you feel jealous, how much you want them to tell you about what they do with other people, when/whether you want to meet their other partner(s), how you're handling safe sex issues.
  • Their friends, your friends, mutual friends--is there anyone who's a major problem for you?  It's hard to ask a partner to drop a friend (although... depends what they've done), but they should at least know what you're feeling.  Or, conversely, do you want to spend more time with your/their/plural-your friends and feel more like you're partnered socially as well as romantically?
  • If you live together, all the roommate issues that brings up--chores, budgeting, standards of cleanliness, making your sleep schedules work together, making your "I want to be totally undisturbed while I do this" versus your "I want to interact with you" needs work together.
  • How you argue.  "We never argue" isn't good; it means at least one of you is suppressing their disagreement.  But obviously fighting rather than arguing is really, really bad.  Make it explicit between you that dissent is always okay and personal attacks never are, and that you will make every effort to remember the difference.
  • That you love each other, and feel your love is worth working on.  Because the end result of all the above shouldn't just be a workable arrangement; it should be a workable arrangement with someone you find incredibly awesome.  Affirming that before, during, and after the meeting makes a big difference.

So that's kind of a lot!  I hope it helps.  I'm sure smart people will add things in the comments that I didn't even think of.

Cosmocking is next!