December 7th, 2013 — Uncategorized
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!
December 4th, 2013 — Uncategorized
Everyone – really, everyone – is suffering from mis-information and messed up expectations around their sexuality. If there is one thing that I have really learned in the last few years of being on the retail end of sex education, it’s that we create our own reasons for failing sex lives and lack of sexual pleasure. Yes, really. We do. So…let’s talk about some of those, shall we?
1. If you have a penis, here’s the reality: there will be times that it will be too sensitive, and times where every sexy person in the world could dance in front of you and it won’t become erect. And that is REALLY OKAY. Your worth as a lover has absolutely nothing to do with the erectile capacity of your cock. Trust me, there are plenty of fun things to do without an erect penis in the picture. And it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take pleasure in the sensation of touch! Stroking a non-erect cock apparently (by the looks on previous partner’s faces) feels pretty damn good; don’t shut yourself off from that!
2. If you have a vagina, here’s the reality: if you don’t orgasm from penetration alone, you’re in the overwhelming majority. If you have “trouble” getting to your big O, you’re also not in the minority. As Sheri Winston noted in a recent in-service training that I attended, women get aroused from the inside out; it has to take time to spread through the body in order for the best possible orgasm. But if you come a little faster? That’s great, too! You can play around and see what your body does when you change up sensations and speed.
3. If you are transgender, it does not mean that you *have* to have any hormone treatment and/or surgical intervention. Many trans* folks choose not to, for a huge variety of reasons. You are not “more legitimate” if you’re on T and have had top surgery, or if you’ve had implants and your voice is higher. You get to choose what’s right for you, for your body and your spirit – nobody else does.
4. If you are a queer person, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be attracted to members of a different gender than your norm. “Gold Star” folks are fewer in number, and many people feel that having sex with someone once (or even a dozen times) doesn’t change our self identities. In other words: I can fuck men and still be a dyke. You can get a BJ from the hot guy at the bar and still be mostly straight. It’s all up to you.
5. If you are trying to have safer sex, you’ll have to do a risk assessment and decide what level is okay for you. The quick answer – put a condom on it – is not just problematic from the standpoint that all sex must involve an erect penis (hah!), but it also doesn’t take into account skin-to-skin transmitted viruses. The best way to play it safe is to know what that means for *you*, and communicate it clearly with your partner(s). Whoever has the most conservative practices wins, always. He wants oral, his partner needs there to be a barrier? Guess what – the barrier wins.
6. When is the right time to disclose a positive STI status? At least before action is imminent. Preferably far enough in advance for the folks you’re engaging in play with to have a chance to decide how that will change things. If it’s time for action and you haven’t disclosed, change up what you’re doing to stick with things that will not have the potential to transmit anything until you get a chance to. Dry humping? Yes, sir! Watch each other masturbate? Hell yeah! A gloved finger up the ass and the other hand with a glove on stroking the front? You betcha. That’s pretty close to as safe as you can get – and it’s HOT.
7. When your partner (or partner du jour) discloses their status to you, take a deep breath before you say ANYTHING. Disclosing one’s status is one of the biggest risk-takers that anyone can take; the person disclosing it is not only telling you to keep you safe and be honest with you, they’re also putting all of their hopes for fun or future love with you out there on the table. Ask them questions – what does this mean for you? Are you on meds? What are the ways that it gets transmitted? How do you normally play safe? You may be very, very surprised by their answers. Then, do a little research. There are thousands upon thousands of relationships that are vividly sexually active that have one person who is positive, and one who is negative. The presence of a virus or infection doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun; in fact, early disclosure should tell you one really big thing: your potential partner is being honest and ethical with you at great potential cost to themselves. Honor that. And even if you cannot find a way to feel comfortable continuing your interactions, be appreciative of that honesty.
8. When we get older, we don’t stop feeling sexual. Orgasms don’t have an expiration date. Your sex life can (and likely will be!) juicy as long as you want it to be; whether it’s with one partner, many partners, or solo. In the retail part of my life, seeing couples coming in who are being playful with each other in their 60′s and 70′s is not at all uncommon; in fact, one of my favorite customers is well into her 80′s and buys herself a new toy every so often because she enjoys her body. PS: If you think sex in your 20′s is great, I will tell you that your 40′s will be amazing, and I’ve had dear friends in their’ 60′s and 70′s tell me that it just keeps getting better!
9. If we have a disability, it doesn’t mean that we have to stop being sexual, either. Sex is in the mind as well as the body; tracing a finger along a partner’s palm can be as erotic as intercourse. Dirty talk has a special place in my heart, because as long as there is a way for partners to communicate using words, there is a way to be sexual. Sometimes, better sex can be as simple as asking a quality sex educator how to change things in your physical surroundings (such as using support pillows, or thigh harnesses, or ergonomically shaped vibrators, or shifting between activities). Sometimes, it’s something to discuss with our medical professionals to ensure that we’re getting the most out of our bodies. A rich sexuality is part of our birthright as human beings; it’s not something that only “able bodied” people can aspire to. It’s YOURS.
10. If you’re the parent of a younger person, they have a right to have accurate, non-judgmental information about sexuality as soon as they start asking for it. While we aren’t going to get graphic (and certainly, parents have a right to their own privacy of their intimate and sexual lives), hiding things from kids just leads to passing on a sense of shame and guilt around sex. If you don’t know how to answer their question, ask them why they want to know. They may tell you that they heard kids talking about it, or saw it on a tv show, or they may even tell you something about themselves that they’re afraid of and looking for reassurance about. Yes, kiddo, it’s okay for you to touch your genitals, but we prefer you do it in your room because everyone has a right to privacy. Yes, kiddo, it’s okay for you to think that another kid at school is pretty, even if your friends tell you that you’re weird for thinking that. Yes, kiddo, sex is what makes babies happen between folks with vaginas and folks with penises, but it doesn’t always, and it can be a lot of fun to do that sex thing even when you don’t want kids; you just have to be careful, and here’s how. Being open with your children means that you can save them some of the issues that so many of us grew up with – that we were wrong, or flawed, or dirty, or worthless. It means that your kids have a better chance at having a strong sense of self, of their own value, and are more likely to make choices as they get older that end up contributing positively to their lives.
December 1st, 2013 — Uncategorized
As a companion post to this conversation about songs that are all about non-consent, I’d love your ideas about sexy songs that talk about the pleasure of both (or all!) partners being engaged and excited about it. Same rules – put a song in the comments and tell us why you think it’s full of win!
In no particular order:
Let’s Get It On, by Marvin Gaye: He specifically says he isn’t going to push, and “if the spirit moves you, let me groove you”.
December 1st, 2013 — Uncategorized
It’s been sort of a running joke with some of my sex positive friends that we should make a warning list of the top songs that are….well, instead of using really rough language, let’s just say that they’re inappropriate in their objectification of and non-consensual power over others (almost always women, but not exclusively). So, inspired by friends on my Facebook page, I decided to start a post to collect your contributions. And yes, I’ll have another post to highlight the songs that we think talk about love and sex in empowering ways, too!
Leave a comment below with the song title, and why it’s problematic; I moderate them all, but will approve ‘em (unless you’re just trolling) and add them to the body of this post from time to time, as well.
In no particular order:
Baby, It’s Cold Outside (he counters her objections to leave, and offers her more drinks)
November 30th, 2013 — Uncategorized
I’m a fat girl. I’ve been a fat girl all my life, even when I was skinny. I am currently somewhere between my heaviest and my lightest weights as an adult. I have a big ass, I have to wear big jeans to cover it, and I wear a bigger bra to contain the girls. And you know what? I am TOTALLY AWARE that I’m fat. I mean, hello…I touch my body and can feel what it feels like. I own a mirror and can see the image that it reflects of me. I hear it when you call me fat. Society does not let me live it down; it vomits up bile about my fat, and shames me into trying to take drastic action to change it. It tells me that I’m not healthy, it tells me that I’m not attractive, and it tells me that I am not good enough. Some of my favorite designs don’t come in my size. Because, you know, fat folks are not worth making clothing for.
And we know that now it’s not okay to refer to people as sluts because they engage in consensual sex, right? Even though people do, we’ve started a public discourse about the word “slut”, and sexual enjoyment, and sexual rights. And events like Slutwalks have been held all over North America, to bring attention to the fact that women can be sexual beings and that rapists and molesters cannot blame their psychopathic behavior on the fact that her skirt was short, or her shirt was too low cut.
But it’s okay to call me fat. It’s okay to judge me based on my size. I must be VERY unhealthy. I must have partners that don’t find me attractive. I must be miserable. I must wear misshapen clothes because I want to hide my body, or if I wear tight clothes, it’s because I’m trying to make myself believe that I’m not fat. I will obviously die about twenty years sooner than thin folks. Tsk, tsk.
So when did that change happen – the change where calling someone a “slut” is challenged as being inappropriate, but we didn’t pick up on the fact that calling someone “fat” has the same shame and guilt based judgement on another person’s appearance? Women who fear being called “slut” will alter their bodies, their attire, their demeanor, their words and actions in order to avoid it – and we don’t want that, because we want everyone to be able to be authentically who they are. But fat folks still should only eat salads in public, not wear bright colors (and DEFINITELY don’t wear anything revealing), purchase only low-fat food at the grocery store, or really just not even exist, just to avoid being called out on their body size. Double standard, much?
Let me clue you in on something: fat is pretty fabulous. Some of the hottest femmes I know are women of size. Some of the most desirable men in my world have a tummy. I know fat women who can run marathons, climb up the stairs of a skyscraper, and star in porn videos that sell thousands of copies. I know fat men who can save your ass from dying in a car crash, who can tear down oncoming offensive linesmen on the field, and who make “big and tall” into words of deep compliment. And still, they all get the same shit – “Oh, if only you’d lose weight…”.
The Fat Acceptance / Fat Activist communities are starting to take back that word. Fat is fantastic. Fat is sexy. Fat is flirtatious. And if you think fat makes someone unhealthy, how healthy are the people who are starving themselves to be “thin enough”, or the people who are slender but smoke two packs a day?
Stop telling people that they’re fat. Stop putting your own limited notions of attractiveness on them. Stop assuming that because society tells you one thing, that it’s true. Just. Stop.
November 26th, 2013 — Uncategorized
I talk about having written this in some of my poly / non-monogamy workshops, and occasionally I get asked for a copy. I review this every year or so to make sure that it’s still the framework for my relationship decision making; so far, it’s held up to that review for about 6 years. I’m posting it here primarily for folks who want to create their own mission statement (or manifesto, if you’re being very Marx-ish), so they can see what someone else has put together and hopefully take some inspiration on topics or concepts.
Sarah’s Poly Manifesto
1. I am responsible for my own life, my own happiness, and my own well being. That responsibility for myself must take precedence in my life; if I cannot take care of myself, then I have no way of taking care of or being a support for anyone else.
2. No matter how many partners I may have, I still need to be ok with being by myself. Nobody can live in a constant state of companionship, and I am the one that has to look at myself in the mirror and be happy with what and who I see reflected back at me.
3. I will generally not make agreements in relationships that do not permit me to express myself in a way that feels authentic to me. If I do, then I am prone to resentment if it continues.
4. When it comes down to it, each relationship is important and deserves to be treated with the same consideration and respect as any other relationship. Classifying relationships as more or less important is likely to lead to frustration and neglect.
5. I embrace a hierarchy of needs, as opposed to a hierarchy of people. If I’m on a date night with one partner, and another partner calls with an emergency, my decision of who to be with will be based on where the need is greatest. Likewise, I expect to give my partners the same consideration and not make their decisions more difficult by doing anything less than supporting them.
6. I embrace sexual responsibility. I make my rules about safer sex behavior in conjunction with my other partners, but I do not let them make my final determination about what is appropriate. I am clear with new partners what my rules are, and I advise current partners of any changes in either the people I am having sex with or my decisions regarding my safer-sex practices, so that they can make appropriate decisions for themselves.
7. I do not believe in a “veto” per se; I expect that if I have issues with someone that one of my partners is dating, I will be able to talk to that partner and have my concerned listened to, but I also believe that respect goes both ways and I should respect their decision unless it creates major chaos and drama.
8. I don’t want or need additional drama in my life. My main request of my ongoing partners is that they not bring anyone into my personal life that will create more drama or strife.
9. I do not automatically share my partners. Sex or play with me does not involve anyone else, necessarily, unless that has been negotiated separately.
10. I do not have long-term power exchange dynamics in place in any of my relationships, save the one I have with Daddy. I intend to keep it that way, at least for the foreseeable future. However, should that change, no relationship that involves a power dynamic with me should be interpreted as having any power dynamic in any other direction with any of my other partners.
10. The things that will win my heart are the same things that I anticipate offering a partner – patience, honesty, generosity of spirit, humor, candidness, trust, and honor. The things that will lose my heart are abuse of trust, dishonesty, selfishness, irresponsible sexual practices, and lack of consideration.
November 24th, 2013 — Uncategorized
(this was originally posted about 6 months ago on another website which is not public, so I wanted to put it up here. Call it my effort to get better about producing content over here!)
The only thing that we have that is truly of value is our name.
The only way that I can make a statement about what I believe to be right or wrong is to add or remove my name from a cause or event.
None of us are perfect; that’s as true of the hyper-woo educators as it is of the absolute-beginner novices. We make mistakes. But it is in how we move to correct those mistakes that is the true telling of our integrity. Integrity is not being flawless; it is acknowledging the flaws, the errors, and the failings, and working to acknowledge, apologize, and grow from it.
And when we see ourselves as people of integrity, we are required to do things to effect change or to safeguard our parts of the community that we may not wish to do. And it’s painful to be in that position, to feel that one has no other option than to take action against a person or people because it’s important and it’s become our responsibility to speak out.
Many of us have had to do just those things. A lot, recently, it seems. And in reading the open letter that many people that I love and respect have signed, regarding an event that they have all put their own hearts & souls (as well as blood, sweat, and tears) into, my heart goes out to them. It is never comfortable to step forward and insist upon change. It is never comfortable to hold someone accountable for their actions, especially when we have previously believed that the other person(s) had the best interests of the community as a whole in mind.
But they, and I, and you, are using the only currency that they can – the only currency that is truly of value.
They are using their name.
July 4th, 2013 — Uncategorized
…about returning to my blog is the actual return. It’s investing my first post back with so much meaning that it makes up for the almost year since the last time I posted. And you know what? Screw that. This is what I’ve got.
I’ve been busy since last I was here. Mostly doing a lot of internal work on re-discovering my identity and re-evaluating my coping mechanisms for dealing with chronic depression & PTSD. Additional work has occurred to help me become a better professional, and then toss in some work on relationships and some additional creative work around what I teach, and you have for a very busy year.
So much of the big stuff that I’ve been working on has reinforced some things that I’ve known for a long time – that I am truly called to the work that I do, that I still have much to offer, and that the work I’ve done in previous years has borne delicious fruit. And some has caused me to question some of my old assumptions. The old saying that life is like peeling an onion is very true – there are multiple layers to everything, and often there are tears when we peel back each layer.
I have great respect for our heart’s inherent ability to time our growth. We often grow in starts and stops; we have lots of life lessons that point the way towards places for us to grow, and we spend a lot of time processing / thinking / experiencing that growth, followed up with the time where we can sit on the foundation that we’ve repaired (or even rebuilt from scratch) and appreciate the journey and the destination. Our hearts and souls know when it’s time, when we’re ready to tackle the next growth experience. And in retrospect, the stability of my surroundings, my work, and my relationships was what allowed me the space to take these steps.
Do me a favor, won’t you? Next time I bitch about how tough this personal growth stuff is, would you remind me that it’s always hard when we’re going through it, and always worth it once that phase is over?
September 2nd, 2012 — Uncategorized
I’m out. About most everything. I use my legal name (first and middle names, since my last name is very unique and I’d like to have some semblance of privacy for the people in my life). I work professionally using that name. My only living relative, my mother, knows that I’m a sex educator and that I am involved in multiple consensually non-monogamous relationships (I would tell her I am queer, if I decide I want to bring a non-male identified partner home to meet her, but given her age and my reticence to introduce anyone to her in her current state, that’s unlikely to happen). My boss & coworkers know about me – in fact, my managers read my website before hiring me.
Do I think everyone should be out? Absolutely. Do I think that’s in any way realistic? Not a chance in hell.
The reality is that it’s painful to be out about a lot of who we are. Stating that we’re kinky, queer, trans, or any other sexual or gender minority could potentially cause the loss of a job, a lover, a family, or one’s own life. Some of my trans female friends are (very rightfully) scared of being outed, as many transwomen have been killed by people who were threatened by their presence and their embodiment of self gender determination. Some of my kinky friends are very cautious about who they talk to and how they share their information, as their activity in the BDSM & Leather communities could cost them custody of their children or their job security. These are real issues – and sadly, the rest of the world has not caught up to the concepts of self-determination in one’s sexuality or gender identity.
Unfortunately, until we reach a tipping point of people who are out about all of these things, we won’t see any change. The groundswell of gay men & lesbians “coming out” in the 1970′s and 1980′s was, first and foremost, a radical social act. By forcing those around them to acknowledge the reality and authenticity of their lives, these men and women presented a public face of queerness; no longer could society say “Oh, those gays, you know they’re all pedophiles” without putting forth an image of your awesome Uncle Mike who taught his niece how to ride a bike, or Ms Jones down the street, who always brings food to shut ins in the neighborhood. They put names and faces on the terms “gay” and “lesbian”, at the cost of their own safety and security, and made it increasingly impossible for a minority of human beings to live in a state of marginalization. The rights that we have today were fought for, tooth and nail, by all of these people and their friends, families, and allies, standing up for their right to be treated equally.
My fear is that, until society sees enough normal-looking people who acknowledge their sexual or gender minority status, we won’t see any changes. When kinky people are constantly demonized as freaks who care little about themselves (and even less about their sexual partners), we can’t expect that society will see us as compassionate parents and competent members of that society. When the only images we have of poly folks are cult-type polygamist figures, we can’t expect that people will see relationships that involve more than two people as healthy, mutually-respectful ways of creating a family. When society’s only idea of trans bodies is that of street-based sex workers and self hatred, we cannot expect that transmen and transwomen (as well as those who do not identify as part of a gender binary) would be treated with respect and compassion by health care workers & law enforcement agencies.
We have to stop passing as hetero-normative. We all have to decide how we can, in some small way, come out. It may be just telling our friends, or disclosing our truth to a potentially sympathetic family member. It may be talking to our doctors about what we do, and demanding accurate healthcare based on medical fact, not social fear. It may be walking down the street, hand in hand with all of our lovers. It may be emblazoning our truth on tee-shirts and flying a flag announcing our reality. And if we cannot do those things, our only way of “coming out” may be talking with our dollars, by supporting organizations that help to end discrimination against sexual & gender minorities. But regardless – if we care about whether the next generation of people have the ability to insist on their rights, we have to start fighting for them.
Because, in the end, we owe it to them to create a world where they can be who they are, no questions asked and no apology necessary.
July 8th, 2012 — Uncategorized
I’ve spent some time this week feeling real sadness that the concept of family & love that I was raised with is not my current reality. Mind you, I would not trade what I have for those old concepts – a nuclear family based on a monogamous heterosexual marriage with 2.3 children – but I still mourn it’s loss.
I met my future ex-husband when I was 21. We wed when I was in my mid-20′s – I was certain that what I needed to do with my life was to be a good wife & mother, and I had put all my energy into just that role. But after a few years, I realized that the cost was far too high; I had given up the core of who I was as an emotional, spiritual, and sexual woman in order to become what I was told that I should become. I made the very difficult choice to step out on my own, and eventually chose to end my marriage. My foray into the BDSM community started in earnest after my separation began, and it was there that I finally found some sense of sexual self esteem…followed by a sense of who I am as a complete, whole human being.
I cannot say that I would ever go back to what I had, or what I was supposed to have. But there are times that I look around and realize that the old training is still there, buried under the surface. The “what if’s” are like subtle echoes of ghosts walking through my home. What if I end up alone and unloved, because I never married or had children? What if I become gravely ill, and have no support? What if I never have another companion that shares my bed? What am I missing out on? The questions are dusty and dry; they blow through my mind like a dry wind across the desert, pulling the richness out of my experience of that moment.
I honestly do not know what will happen, or what I might have missed. I can only begin to imagine what my life as a married parent might have been like. I do not know what it is like to have a decades-long relationship with a life partner. But I do know that my life, right now, as it stands today, stands out in stark contrast to what I had before – I occasionally say that it’s like walking out of Dorothy’s black-and-white filmed house into a vibrantly technicolor Oz, full of lushness and brilliance. And I look around at the people in my life, and I know that while my family may not look like what it was “supposed to” look like, it is a group of people, both lovers and friends, that I am honored and astounded have chosen to be part of my life. And in my case, that’s the crux of it – my family is my family, and it is enough.
No, wait, it is more than enough – it is everything.