Posted by Sarah Sloane on May 25, 2011 in Articles
I love doing what I like to refer to as “subversive sex positivity”. It’s the integrating of sex, gender, and orientation-positive concepts into our daily language and actions. It’s the act of informing people about alternative gender and sexuality without preaching (or often even explicitly telling them). It’s the process of normalizing things that most of our culture does not see as normal, simply by treating them as such. And it’s a great way to carry the message of healthy sexual expression out into the world in ways that don’t target us. I’ve made a list of some of the ways that I’ve seen others do this…
1. Ask people what pronoun they prefer, what they refer to their partner as, and how they label (or choose not to label) their relationship. Even if the answers are exactly what you expect that they’ll be, by asking them you show them that you respect them and wish to use words and phrases that are appropriate and welcoming – and you may even end up with them asking you WHY you said that, which gives you a chance to talk about non-normative sexuality & relationships.
2.Separate gender and sex. “He” does not necessarily have a penis, and “She” may not have a vagina. Using terms like “girl parts”, especially around people who may be transgender or non-gender normative can leave them feeling left out and disrespected. And before you say you don’t know anyone who is trans…how do you know you don’t?
3. Use correct terms. It’s a vagina, a vulva, a penis, a clitoris, a prostate, a scrotum. There is plenty of room to use slang terms, but when we’re trying to be clear in our communication, using accurate terms helps.
4. If you’re corrected about something sex or gender related, apologize and move on. If you say “he” and are told that the person with whom you’re speaking prefers “she”, then just say “thank you for telling me” and use the pronoun or name that you’re asked to use. Most people are happy if you do your best to use their preferred names or pronouns (especially if you knew them when they were going by another name), and an apology and a renewed effort to be consistent is the most respectful thing you can do.
5. Make no assumptions. Just because someone has a penis doesn’t mean they like to use it to have sex, or even like it touched. Just because someone has a vagina doesn’t mean they want to be penetrated. Not every gay man likes to receive anal sex. Not every woman has problems with orgasms. Not every man is able to have them in the way that our culture says they should. Allow people the space and room to define their own desires, and the support they would like (if any) in speaking out about it…as well as their right to privacy, should they not feel the need to tell you.
6. Even if you don’t “get it”, don’t shame it. Many people who are happily monogamous don’t understand on a personal level why or how someone can have multiple relationships. Some people don’t understand how anyone could be attracted to someone of the same gender. And some people don’t understand how anyone could be happy having missionary position sex. You don’t have to understand it – but ideally, you will choose to respect their choice and support them in it.
Posted by Sarah Sloane on Dec 3, 2010 in communication
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is that I’m still not too old to change.
When it comes to kink, I’d been through a couple of “drought” years – well, not a drought, but in comparison, far below my previous history and my desires. I sort of knew it was happening, and had simple reasons why (and even simpler attempts to change it, which didn’t work well)…but in the end it comes down to this: I was afraid.
I tend towards having ongoing relationships with people I play with; not necessarily that of a lover (though sometimes that’s the case) but certainly a friendship with an extra dollop of respect. And when I have an ongoing relationship with someone – I make myself vulnerable. I can’t do it any other way – especially when the quality of our interactions are laced with the dynamic of power, I have to share some of the essence of who I am with someone in order to have the depth of experience that I crave.
But being vulnerable means being open to both the pleasure, and the pain, of intimacy. It means that the words “I like you” and “you could have done better” strike me more deeply. It means that I run the risk of being hurt. And I’m a Capricorn – stubborn, calculating, scheming, ever feeling the need to control my environment…so running that risk is scary as hell for me.
I have been fighting that for the past few years. I’ve had a few relationships with people (some still going) where I knew that I was holding myself back from being as present with them as I could be. I can sort of tie it into a few relationships that ended in ways that I would have chosen otherwise, but the reality is that I have pushed myself back from the world to avoid the bumps and bruises of wrestling with real life relationships.
It came to a head this spring. Read more…
Posted by Sarah Sloane on Nov 28, 2010 in introspection
I have a home. It’s warm, there are lights and appliances, and there is clean running water. I have blankets for my bed, clothing to wear, and food in the cupboards.
I have work that I value. I believe that the work that I do makes a difference, and knowing that makes me feel fulfilled.
I have friends. Some of them are very close, some of them I see or speak to only occasionally, but I do not have to hide who I am from them in order to be their friend. I am honored that some of them share all of who they are with me, and trust me with their stories.
I have the company of animals that are affectionate, trusting, and call on me to be a responsible caretaker of them on a daily basis.
I have lovers – some of whom are constantly present in my life, some of whom that I see only on occasion. They all inspire me, confound me, teach me to grow, and connect me with my body and spirit in ways that no other can.
I have a family of choice – people whose connection to me is beyond blood, beyond birth. I cry, laugh, rant, sleep, and dream with them.
I have amazing wealth; shelves of books that I can read, music that delights me, computers with which I can reach out to the world, treasures from my past, things with which I can create beauty, and art that inspires me.
I am able to walk, to dance, to move, to see, to feel, to fuck, to make art, to toil, to sleep, to dream, and to breathe.
I am not afraid of walking down my street, nor am I powerless to protect myself from harm.
I know that tomorrow will come; if I am not here to meet it, I know that the path I have walked has meaning and value, and I rejoice that I am not leaving too many words unsaid, and deeds undone.
I know that love exists. I have felt it, and I feel it each moment of every day.
I know that I am more than the synapses and neurons in my brain, more than the sum of my parts, more than the money in the bank, more than my combined assets. I am a wonderful, amazing human being, capable of so much more than I’ll ever even attempt.
And I know that you are, too.
Posted by Sarah Sloane on Nov 1, 2010 in Fundraising
(A bit of forewarning – this is a LONG post, even for me. I’ve added a cut tag to make it a bit easier for site visitors to view, but please do click through – the info about how you can help Scarleteen is at the bottom of the article, as well as links to other bloggers & writers who are participating in the Blog Carnival)
As some of you that regularly follow my writing or have been to some of my classes know, my childhood was … well, messed up. I didn’t grow up with a sense of how to relate to other people, what my body was about, and what experiences were appropriate (as well as those that were not appropriate). I had no clue about much of anything involving sexuality. I knew enough to know that the girl that rode the bus to school with me in 6th grade was not correct when she dished the info that boys had these “things called swirms” that would start a baby if you kissed said boy with your mouth open, but I didn’t know enough to correct her. I knew enough to feel bad about my dark-of-night explorations into my body’s responses – and I knew enough to never ask my mom about it. Read more…
Posted by Sarah Sloane on Jul 16, 2010 in communication
Sometimes, it gets a little old to me. I feel like I talk about so much about sex, but have so little of it, that I’m a fraud – an educator who is all talk, no action; who can’t do, so she teaches. The sad thing is that many of my friends who are long-term sex educators, sex workers, and performers all commiserate about it.
“How many of you are convinced that your customers have more sex than you do?”, I asked at a recent event held at a very sex-positive shop. Every one of the half-dozen staff present raised their hands.
“How often do you have kinky sex?”, I’ve asked my perverati friends. Some of them are getting it on, all the time; others confess (yes! confess!) in quiet voices that they have “vanilla” sex almost exclusively.
So, when I went through two years of libido coma, it didn’t occur to me that something was wrong. Really. I was teaching over 100 classes a year (which, while it looks great on the resume, is pretty craptastic on the free-time front). Of *course* I was too tired to be creatively kinky, especially from the top side of things. I was traveling too much to maintain much in the way of relationships.
And after sharing – nay, preaching – about the importance of personal boundaries when it comes to sex work of all kinds…imagine my shame and shock when I realized that I’d been screwing myself over for two. bloody. years. I let things that hurt push me back into the cavern of my sexual isolation – the loss of relationships and lovers, the stress of travel, the fear of being vulnerable, the ease with which I avoided possible entanglements involving lube or toys. And what I ended up with was feeling distanced not only from my lovers and from people who I really do like and really do want to play with…but also, feeling distanced from myself.
I started talking about kink & sex because it was such a valuable part of my life; a part that I’d shredded, examined, processed, raged at, ragged about, celebrated, denied, and reinserted into my psyche in my late 20’s. Empowering my own ability to be a sexual being, guiltlessly kinky and joyfully queer, turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. My self esteem took a ride up to the Mile-High Club when I realized that I could actually be externally who I was internally without being afraid of it. So, when this all took a back seat…I started feeling like a bit of an automaton. Like someone who talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk. And that meant…time for a serious talking to with myself, and some reprioritization.
But like many minor miracles…the one step of saying “that’s it – I’m done with this bullshit” started making the changes happen. Within weeks, I found out my libido had shaken off the scent of the mothballs that it had been packed in, and was off on its own making sexy play plans with folks. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had to push it a little. I made a decision to engage in some sort of play with someone at every event that I’ve been to this year, and so far, I’ve been quite (suprisingly, to me) successful at it. And the play has been good – really good. I feel released; I feel more in touch with my whole body and my libido than I have in a very long time.
Lesson acknowledged, Universe. Don’t become so focused on what I am that I forget about who I am. Gotcha.