Jan 2 2016

I resolve…

This year, my focuses include…

-Make the most of the time that I’ve been given, whether it’s going out with friends, making love with a partner, engaging fully in my work, or taking care of myself by relaxing and listening to music. Every moment is precious – nothing is a waste if it’s about enhancing the quality of my life.

-Tell my partners the things that I’m afraid to say. Whether it’s that I love them, or that I want to do something different, or that I don’t agree with them, it’s important that I tell them. Opening ourselves up (as scary as that might be, especially for those of us that have a history of folks being un-trustworthy in our lives) is one of the greatest keys to creating the intimacy with our partners that so many of us want.

-Love my body more fully. The moments of self-criticism will come, but I can move past them and re-embrace my body. I don’t have to live in a space where I am cataloging the ways that it’s not ideal; instead, I can live in a space where I acknowledge the joy my body brings me, I can feel the strength of the strong parts and be compassionate and loving with the weaker parts. I can let myself off the hook for the things that I can’t do, and embrace more fully the things that I can.

-Lean towards others. The loneliest feelings come when we feel that we’re the only person that feels the way that we feel, or that we feel more broken, more ill, more wrong than other folks. Yet, we are all human, and we all experience doubt, fear, sadness, depression, uncertainty…just as we all have moments of joy, of peace, of happiness, of love, of tranquility. When we are willing to lean towards our friends (or another trusted person), we often are reminded that not only are we not alone, but that we will survive this moment, because they see us and they have felt it and they, too, have survived.

-Practice compassion. This seems to be a recurring lesson – or perhaps, it’s a lesson whose perspective has changed every year. Practicing compassion towards myself means that I treat myself with the love, the understanding, the grace, and the kindness that I treat my most beloved friends with. It means that I look for the core of humanity in others, and I do what I can to encourage and support them in their own love of themselves. And it means that, on the days where everything is awful, I remember that it is not a statement of worth, but an experience and a set of feelings that will both pass, in time.

I find that , often, resolutions dry up and drift away like dust, or they become weapons that we wield in order to further beat ourselves up. Instead, I’d like to think of these as themes for the coming year – lessons that I look to learn, experiences that I want to have, and ideals for how I make decisions for myself. And so, in that theme, I hope that each of you have a few ideas of things that you’d like to attend to in the coming year – things that you want to grow, to nurture, to adjust, and to reap, to bring you even more love, joy, and wisdom.

Happy new year!


Dec 28 2015

The Lies and Truths of Orgasm Inequality.

One of the biggest topics I come across when talking to folks about sex and orgasm is the perceived “problem” that all people with vulvas have in reaching orgasm with their (usually) male partners. While mainstream answers to this usually focus on foreplay, there are a number of underlying reasons for the perception (and reality) of unequal orgasms between mixed-gender partners. This morning, I came across this excellent article by Suzannah Weiss, in which she points out some of the many ways that our relationship with our bodies, our culture, and our partners contribute to women of all kinds holding (or being held) back from experiencing pleasure authentically. It’s worth a read. Hell, it’s worth a couple of reads. And then some follow up thinking. And sharing. And as always, leave a comment here if you want to add to the conversation!


Dec 19 2015

How To Not Suck at Online Dating

So, I’ve been doing the online dating thing for over a year and a half now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s pretty awesome. I’ve met some awesome folks (some of whom have become friends, some of whom I’ve had some (redacted) fun with, and some of whom I had some (redacted) fun with and have moved forward to having relationships with). However, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are a bunch of things that folks can do to be more successful at it, and so, in the interests of making your online dating better (and saving myself from having to read more cringe-worthy profiles and emails than I have to), here is my list of Shit That You Can Do To Make It Better:

1. Your profile photos should not include the following things: a photo of your chest, belly, and hips devoid of facial features; photos of you and groups of friends that don’t point out which person you are; photos of gorgeous scenery in some foreign place but do not include you (or a great story about that photo in the comments); photos of your cats, dogs, or kids. It should also go without saying that, unless your profile is on a site that is specifically made for sex hookups, definitely don’t include a photo of your genitalia.

2. Make the first move, but don’t be dumb about it. Read the entire profile. If it says “don’t send me a message that just says hi”, don’t do that. If it says “tell me why you want to connect with me”, do that. Avoid calling the recipient anything like “honey”, “baby”, “sweetheart”, “handsome”, “ladie”, “miss” or “mister”. Put your best foot forward. If you do not have a best foot, then figure out the best way to frame your not so good foot.

3. Repeat after me: you do not need to engage people who are not worth your time. Now repeat it again. Every time you get a message from someone who breaks one of your cardinal rules (see number two, above, for example), you do not owe them a reply. You don’t owe a reply to the person whose profile says that they’re cheating on their spouse if you aren’t up for that. You don’t owe a reply to anyone. It’s your damn profile, and it’s your damn time. Use it wisely.

4. If you are looking for casual sex, say so. If you’re looking for relationships only, say so. If you are monogamous, say so. If you’re a poly person, say so. Do not hesitate to ask for what you want. It makes life a lot easier.

5. Use grammar and spell check on your profile (and on your messages, if you have difficulty getting your point across). The more important intelligence is in a potential hook-up, the more important your profile and messages are. As an example, the person who said I was a “beutiful ladie” did not get a reply from me. Nor should they. You are allowed to not know how to write poetry, but you can at least take the extra two minutes to make sure that you’re not offending someone.

6. The thing that you think of as a limiting factor may be the thing that someone else sees as a quality feature. Let your freak flag fly a little. Total dork for video games? Don’t write three paragraphs about it, but do say that you’re proud to have the high score on Gyruss at that video arcade across town (uh, cuz I do, and my sweetie thinks it’s hot to watch me get my gamer groove on). Love going to Ren Faire? Put a photo up of yourself in garb (along with the other pics) and talk about how tasty any food is when it’s served on a stick and costs four times the gross national product of many small countries. Trust me, someone(s) out there are going to see that, and voila! A kindred soul connection can happen.

7. Use the improv concept of “yes, and!” as your guide with online conversations. Don’t just regurgitate information and answer questions. Ask questions of your own. Volunteer a piece of info about yourself. Be curious about the other person. Ask why they got a particular tattoo, or what they loved about the book that they said they read last, or whatever. Conversations fizzle when they’re one-directional, and they fizzle even faster when the conversation is solely about “what are you into”. Everyone wants to know that the other person is curious about them. Be curious, and expect curiosity.

8. It’s not the end of the world if you hear “no”. It’s not a referendum on your value as a person, a potential partner, a lover, or a friend. It’s just a “no”. And yeah, it feels super personal and can drain the air out of your balloon faster than most anything else, but it’s just a “no”. Shake it off, move on, and look for the “yes”. Because there are a lot of options for “yes” when we’re not hung up on the “no”.

I wish you luck in your online dating exploration. If you have great tips to pass along, drop ’em into the comments section!


Jan 11 2015

Ain’t I a Woman? Yes, but not like I thought.

“I am a woman’s rights. I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that? I have heard much about the sexes being equal. I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am as strong as any man that is now. As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart – why can’t she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, – for we can’t take more than our pint’ll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won’t be so much trouble. I can’t read, but I can hear. I have heard the bible and have learned that Eve caused man to sin. Well, if woman upset the world, do give her a chance to set it right side up again. The Lady has spoken about Jesus, how he never spurned woman from him, and she was right. When Lazarus died, Mary and Martha came to him with faith and love and besought him to raise their brother. And Jesus wept and Lazarus came forth. And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part? But the women are coming up blessed be God and a few of the men are coming up with them. But man is in a tight place, the poor slave is on him, woman is coming on him, he is surely between a hawk and a buzzard.” – Sojourner Truth, as recorded by Marius Robinson*

As a young woman, I reveled in the reported versions of Sojourner Truth’s speech that was colloquially known as “Ain’t I a Woman?”; I woke up this morning intending to write a blog post about how her words set the tone at the dawning of the women’s movement in the United States, and how her words resonated with me as I came to find my identity as a woman.

However, as I was doing a little digging in order to get the right version of her words, I found that what I had learned was the version made popular by a white abolitionist named Frances Diana Barker Gage, who printed it with Sojourner’s words twisted to be more southern sounding (which was patently incorrect, as Truth was born & raised in New York, where she lived in slavery until escaping in her 20’s); Sojourner, however, spoke only Dutch until the age of nine, and reportedly was quite proud of her ability to speak English relatively correctly (as would anyone that learns a second language in their childhood, I would guess).

Throwing the phrase “Ain’t I a woman?” out of the compendium of my feminist inspirations is going to be a difficult thing. The words resonate with me – but they are likely not what Sojourner Truth actually said (the quote above is from the first transcribed version of her speech, printed less than a month after it was delivered; the more well-known version did not see the light of day until twelve years later). It’s important to me to know the strength with which she spoke, and about what – a former slave who had escaped slavery with her infant daughter, who won her son from a white man’s custody in the courts, who worked tirelessly as an abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and especially discussed the rights of Black women as Black men were beginning to gain rights, after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Instead, I’m going to remember the words that were most likely what she actually said, at a time in the US when she had barely any rights (as a former slave, and as a Black woman). She reminded everyone that she was strong , that women were strong – she had worked in the fields, had lifted and carried as much as a man. She pointed out that giving a woman her rights would not take away from the rights of men, but would help by creating less burden for men in general. She spoke of how the basis of the Christian faith included the willingness of Jesus to treat women as equals, and how it was the body of a woman, not a man, that brought Jesus to our world.

The power of her words is not at all diminished by the correction; it is, in fact, enhanced by bringing to bear a more accurate vision of who she was, and what she believed. It may not have the catchiness of “Ain’t I a Woman”, but it certainly has a more authentic record of her voice, and in the end, that is what makes her such an abiding symbol of the strength of womanhood.

“I am as strong as any many that is now.” Yes.


Dec 28 2014

Resilience

After a bout of winter depression two years ago, I decided that what I really wanted to improve, as far as my living skills, was resilience. Like an old, weakened oak, the winds had buffeted my overly-inflexible limbs until they almost broke. My goal was to become more like a willow tree, whose branches floated through the air with the wind, but whose roots held the tree upright and whose branches could settle back down as the wind died.

And what I’ve found is that resilience is not a thing – it’s a practice. It’s not a state of being – it’s a set of actions that must be continually focused on. Resilience is a path, not a destination. It’s an outlook on life.

Talking with friends about how we pick up and move forward after loss or heartbreak, it keeps coming back to the same thing: we must break out of the way that we look at the event as failure or as an ending, and see what lies beyond it. There is a part of the process that requires us to look at where we have been, in order to grow from it, but it is the turning our faces towards the sun – even if we cannot see it – that leads us towards better stability and growth.

I can make a choice to look at pain as a touchstone of growth. If I feel pain, then I can surely feel joy in the same proportions. If I ache over a loss, it means that I was invested in the thing that has ended, and that it was important enough for me to grieve it – to feel nothing would mean that it wasn’t actually something that I took seriously.

I can look at fear as a presence in my life that is there to remind me to be mindful and to judiciously choose my path and set my boundaries, instead of a danger sign that should send me scurrying away from the action that is provoking the fear. I can see it for what it is – an emotion that may very well have no basis in logic, but is still part of my internal reality – and choose to move through it.

I can use the moments of sheer pleasure and joy in my life as the ingredient that helps keep me supple and resilient. I can remember the feeling of love in my heart when I look at a partner, or the quiet moments of being safe and secure in my home, or even the warm heaviness of my muscles post-exercise, and remind myself that those feelings have happened before, and will happen again – and gain strength from that idea.

I can extend myself rather than staying in one spot. A willow tree’s limbs drape in beautiful cascades downward from the top of the tree, but they also extend in the breeze, covering a space that the tree would not otherwise be able to fill. When I feel uncertain or locked in, I can stretch. I can reach out to someone new, try a new idea out, test the waters in a different way, take a step in a direction I haven’t tried yet.

It’s all about being able to not just bounce back, but to grow. To let the world improve me, rather than leave me feeling struck down. To boldly own my self and to claim my direction and my path. And that must be a daily practice, just as compassion and gratitude are. Because life is too short already; simply surviving is not enough. We must thrive.


Dec 20 2014

Sex education, privilege, and race

*note: this is the rambling of one cis-female, white, middle-class, straight-passing sex educator, and should be taken as just that – one person’s thoughts. Not the most important or right opinion – simply mine, and still an opinion in the process of being developed. My language may not be the perfect language, and if there is something that I’ve stated incorrectly, please let me know, and please know that my intentions are good and I want to learn to make my actions better.

 

With the recent focus on how racial and class equality are Pretty Fucked Up in our culture, we’ve had a chance, as a culture, to engage in discussions of how People of Color (or POC, for those of you that aren’t familiar with that abbreviation) are marginalized in hundreds of ways – from police profiling, to our legal and prison systems, to access to adequate representation and equality in sentencing, and on and on. And we know that it doesn’t stop at just the legal systems; we can all acknowledge, I think, that POC in the US are not given the same basic rights and privileges that white folks are given. I’m grateful that some of this conversation has extended into the greater discussions within the sex education & sex industries.

Recently, the brilliant Aida Manduley wrote an in-depth article discussing the whitewashing of sex education, as exemplified by the release of a book of collected writings of sex educators that did not appear to include a diverse range of people (and I say appear, because many mixed-race people, as well as people from some races and ethnic backgrounds, may “look” white when in reality they identify otherwise). I’m really, really glad that she wrote this piece, and that it’s been picked up and commented on by so many other folks in the sex education movement. If you have not read it, please, please go do so?

I’m grateful to have been educated by my friends who have histories and experiences that are different from me, and one of the first lessons that I learned was that, despite what my experiences are, I cannot possibly fully understand what other folks are experiencing and the effect that those experiences have on their understanding of their own sexuality, and sex positivity in general. Aida’s writing, and that of other folks who can speak to that, have been affirming for me in my own beliefs, and in the direction that my work takes. And for me, at least, I’ve come up with some factors that I need to ensure that I include in my own education and community building efforts.

First, my job as an educator and as someone who occasionally mentors other educators is to back the hell off the “center stage” and ensure that people who don’t look, act, sound, move, or think like I do are replacing me. The fact of the matter is that we don’t make it easy for folks who are non-white (and non-cisgender women, and non-middle-to-upper-class, and people who are dealing with physical and emotional difficulties, and on and on) to become sex educators on the national-attention level. While I may know all of the facts as I see them, I can’t share those facts with people in the same ways that someone from a relatable heritage, economic background,physical presence, educational level, and gender history can do so. In order for sex positivity to be a powerful force for personal change, it needs to reach all people – and that means that we need to see all kinds of people providing those classes, articles, blog posts, tumblr feeds, interviews, and media appearances.

Second, it’s important for me to avoid the assumption that there is a certain language level or education level required in order to teach. A four-year degree or post-grad work is not required to be a sex educator. Frankly, I don’t think a high school diploma is, either. You are a sex educator if you are passionate about encouraging other people to learn about their own bodies, claim their own boundaries, communicate their needs and desires to their partner (if they choose to have one), and feel good about who they are in their sexual expression. There should be no barriers to entry to the use of that identity. Someone who talks to their friends and helps their friends figure out how to have the orgasm that they’ve been trying to, someone who reminds their buddy that he has a right to not be “in the mood” every time his partner asks for sex, someone who teaches the younger folk in their families that having a period or a wet dream is a healthy thing…those are all people who are doing the real work of sex education, not just the “in front of the room” stuff that we culturally tend to think of. It’s time that I quit treating sex education as an exclusive club, instead of the wide open culture that it can (and perhaps should be).

Third, I can put my energy into ensuring that the bandwidth for the amazing educators that we have that have that are outside of the “traditional” mold is raised, and those folks are heard as often (if not more so) than the traditional educators we have. I can do that by not restating other people’s thoughts, and instead linking to them directly in social media. I can do that by sharing who I have learned from, and referring folks to their work as foundational. I can do that by purchasing books and visiting websites that include a diversity of voices (as an example, The Ultimate Guide to Kink includes a wide range of voices, including POC, non-gender conforming, queer, straight, and diverse ages and backgrounds). I can do that by donating money to POC-run organizations that seek to build peer educational opportunities. I can look for new ways to do that, and check myself by asking my peers that identify as POC (and other less-privileged groups) if I am doing things that get in the way of progress.

I think this is important for me. I believe that it’s important for our culture, because until every person has access to solid, health-and-pleasure based information about their sexual well being and intimate relationships, we can’t really say that we’re doing the most effective work as sex educators. It’s a tall order. But it starts by each person critically thinking about how they are either adding to that access of education, or what they can do to stop detracting from it.


Dec 14 2014

Beyond The Love Keynote

As some of you know, I recently was asked to deliver the Friday night opening keynote for Beyond the Love, an amazing poly-centered event in Columbus, OH. This is an event that delights me, both heart and soul, and I was really honored to be asked to participate. If you’d like to watch it, just click the video below!

Again, my deepest gratitude to Dan, Dawn, and Karen, whose energy is devoted to creating the special, sacred place called Beyond The Love. If you’re poly, or poly-curious, the next BTL will be in late 2015; come out & join us!

 


Dec 7 2014

Hey, Sexy Smartypants! Learn How to Kiss, Whydoncha?

Everything you need to know about how sex will go with your amour de jour, you can tell from your first kissing session.

Not the first kiss. The first session.

Kissing is intimacy in miniature. The first brush of lips together, how fast the tongues come into play, how to move your bodies and faces to further accomodate and change up the kiss, what you do with your teeth, your nose, your jaw, your glasses, how you use your hands – they all give clues.

I’ve found that folks that dive into a kiss like a drunken Shriner into a wintery Lake Michigan are often focused exclusively on getting to a goal. The kiss is the expected first step to get to the hookup, and should thereby be rushed and moved past as quickly as possible in the pursuit of the almighty orgasm. They often shove a tongue between their potential partner’s lips and teeth, often chasing the other’s tongue into a fast retreat to avoid being trampled or tied in knots. Their teeth bruise lips, their lips apply too much suction, and they proceed willy-nilly, believing that what they’re doing is what All The Folks Like, AmIRight? ™

Then we have the kissing equivalent of the dead fish handshake – a mouth that opens, hinge-like, and simply allows itself to be plundered (or often, briefly explored but then ignored). The lips have no muscle tone, and whether because they’re inexperienced, nervous, or uncaring (usually it’s one of the first two), they don’t actually “kiss back”. Like an ostrich sticking it’s head into the sand, their tongue (and psyche) scurry away to hide until the potential lover moves on to something else that they’re more comfortable with.

Of course, rarely do we find a lover like one of the two above (but yes, they do exist, and I’m not naming names). Most people are somewhere in between. And nobody knows what the perfect kissing style is for the object of their (at least temporary) affection. The thing is – nobody knows how, exactly, the other person wants to have sex, either. And the skill of the lover – and of the kisser – is in their ability to read cues, follow direction, and co-create an experience.

This requires that we be fully in the moment with the person of our osculatory attention. The world needs to go away for a while. Ditto our expectations. Start out gently – even if you are both into savagery – and let it escalate as the other person fully engages in the kiss. Take your time with it. You don’t need to go from lips touching to tonsil flicking in two seconds flat; in fact, start out by kissing their neck, or just brushing their lips with your own. When you like what they’re doing – move into that same style. Gasps and moans can also let them know that we love how their tongue is teasing the inside of our bottom lip, or that we want them to go a little harder (and if YOU hear those gasps and moans, follow the roadmap that they just laid out for you!). Stepping closer in with our bodies is a sign that we’re really into it; stepping back a little creates some distance and can be a way of slowing it down (or, perhaps, making it stop altogether because it’s just not working). Hands can stroke cheeks, neck, and earlobes to tease the kiss a little further along.

And if the kiss is amazing – and I fervently hope that it will be! – you can take a breath and smile at each other while you negotiate what’s next!

 


Mar 2 2014

Re-thinking the FC2

What I don’t know about sex (yet!) could fill a book. And until the past few years, I knew next to nothing about the FC2 (or “female condom”) other than the fact that it was expensive and it’s bulky. What I’ve found, though, is that the FC2 can be an ideal solution to safer sex (and reduction of discomfort for some users!) for a large number of people. And because of efforts to make the FC2 more affordable and obtainable, the people who are using it are no longer limited to folks that can afford the almost $3 price.

The condom was created to give women an option to control their own safer sex, by creating a barrier protection method that could be inserted prior to intercourse at the wearer’s discretion, taking the decision to use a traditional condom out of the hands of their partner and putting it solidly in their own. However, we’ve found a number of other ways to use it…enough that many sex educators (myself included) are calling in the “receptive condom” instead of the female condom, because, well, it works great for all kinds of receptive penetration.

Anal sex? Perfect for that, especially if you like it rough. The inner ring is folded and slipped into the rectum, and then a few fingers inserted to push it further back into place are all you need. Pull the inside ring out; if it’s not being used vaginally, it’s not necessary (but it makes a spiffy bonus cock ring!). Compatible with all lubricants (it comes with silicone lube on it, but you can use water and oil based lubes as well), and made to cling to the inner walls of the body, it’s perfect for larger cocks, toys, and yes, in a pinch, small fists, too. Bonus? When you’re thrusting vigorously, or if the penis that’s doing the penetrating flags a little, you don’t have to worry about the condom rolling up and going inside the body (thereby breaking the barrier).

Vaginal sex? In addition to the marketed uses, it’s great for sex during light menstrual cycles (since it may actually contain some of the blood), as well as for having it in place if the wearer is going to be partying and might fumble a condom in the heat of the moment. A few folks that I’ve talked with have noted that there is also a benefit to having the condom cover the opening of the vagina itself, since irritation and chafing are issues that they’ve dealt with in the past with other barrier methods.

The overriding factor, though, is that it can make sex feel…condomless. There is no tight squeezing effect on the penetrating partner, and no latex chafing to the receiving partner. Smooth. Sexy. Warm. Wet. HOT.

Grab a few, and take a practice drive with them. You may find that the FC2 is something that you’ll want to add to your sexual arsenal!


Dec 7 2013

10 Signs of Healthy Sexual Self Esteem

I usually read those linkbait-y blog posts that promise ten life hacks, or twenty ways to cut down the clutter in your house…I suspect that I’m hoping that they may actually prove fruitful, but most often it’s a rehash of what I already know. But a few days ago, I started thinking about our sexual self esteem – how we feel about ourselves, sexually – and how little that we talk about the underlying structure of sexual wellness. Cosmo (and tons of other sex help resources) shout out that here, now, are five amazing ways to please your lover! and keep them faithful to you! and all sorts of other malarky – and none of that helps us to have better self esteem (though some of the tips are occasionally pretty fun to try out!). So here’s my rendition: ten signs that your sexual self esteem is healthy. None of us are going to always be perfect with these; like our emotional and physical self esteem, it is a constantly growing, changing, and evolving process. I think, though, that these are some good questions to ask ourselves as we explore how we want to grow in our intimate relationships (including the most intimate of all – the relationship with our self).

1. I feel good about my sexual identity

2. I feel that the ways that I wish to engage with myself sexually are healthy

3. I feel that the ways that I wish to engage with others sexually are healthy

4. I feel pleasure from the sexual activities that I partake in, both during and after the activity

5. I am willing to negotiate for what I want without shame or guilt

6. I am willing to hear “no” and respect it.

7. I am willing to speak up if I am uncomfortable with a direction that a sensual encounter is moving

8. If I experience betrayal, abuse, or harassment, I am able to ask for help in healing from it.

9. I accept that my partner(s) sexual desires or orientations may not fully match my own, and I do not feel that the disparity is my fault or my failure.

10. I understand the levels of risk of various sexual behavior (physical, emotional, reproductive, or spiritual) and am able to choose to engage in sexual behavior from an informed position, and am aware of ways to mitigate the risks.

I also want to acknowledge that there are many people who, because of circumstance, are unable to effectively advocate for their own sexuality or sexual well-being, so this is, in essence, a privileged concept. I still believe that these are worthy goals, even if they are temporarily unattainable for some (and really, what can we do to help them advocate for themselves better? Better access to education, support, and social service would be a great start!).

This is very much a work in progress for me – and I’d love your feedback, in the comments section. If you want me not not publish the comment, just say that and I’ll keep it between us. Otherwise, I’ll share it so others can consider your thoughts, too!