AlterNet.org: Tracy Clark-Flory http://www.alternet.org/authors/tracy-clark-flory en Here Are the Real Reasons People Cheat http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/here-are-real-reasons-people-cheat <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A few extra pounds doesn&#039;t cause infidelity; the real reasons are much more complex.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-05-25_at_3.23.46_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Men cheat because their wives are fat. That’s one odious bit of conventional wisdom that gained airtime recently courtesy of Noel Biderman, CEO of Ashley Madison, during <a href="http://www.salon.com/2015/04/29/amy_schumer%E2%80%99s_chat_with_ashley_madison_ceo_encourage_men_to_cheat_when_women_gain_weight_then_profit/">his appearance</a> on an episode of “Inside Amy Schumer.” It isn’t news that the wildly successful extramarital “dating site” views overweight women as a cause for cheating: The company once ran a controversial ad explicitly suggesting as much. Is it true, though? Do men cheat simply because of a couple extra pounds?</p><p>I mean, obviously not. What a douche-nozzle. David Ley, a a clinical psychologist and author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Insatiable-Wives-Women-Stray-Love/dp/1442200316">“Insatiable Wives: Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them,”</a> agrees.</p><p>“That’s a ridiculously simplistic assertion,” says Ley. ”People cheat for many reasons and the attractiveness of their partner has little to do with it. Look at Christie Brinkley’s husband, and any number of men who are married to beautiful women, who engage in infidelity.” Biderman may be the CEO of an incredibly popular infidelity website, but it doesn’t mean that he understands why people cheat. So, then, why <em>do</em> people cheat?</p><p>Ley says the motivations tend to be different between the sexes. “For men, cheating is more often an adventure, an affirmation of their virility and their manhood,” he says. “Men most often cheat with one-night stand type flings.” Ladies, on the other hand, tend to really commit to their infidelities. “Women cheat more often in longer-term extramarital relationships, where they develop more intimacy,” Ley explains. “For women it’s also about feeling attractive, but also about developing a connection.” Some theorize that “women’s infidelity is sometimes about looking for a backup plan man, in case their mate leaves them,” he adds.</p><p>Naturally, there are also some evolutionary theories about why people cheat, granted these have less scientific evidence. As anthropologist Helen Fisher <a href="http://ideas.ted.com/10-facts-about-infidelity-helen-fisher/">has written</a>, “[D]uring prehistory, philandering males disproportionately reproduced, selecting for the biological underpinnings of the roving eye in contemporary men. Unfaithful females reaped economic resources from their extra-dyadic partnerships, as well as additional males to help with parenting duties if their primary partner died or deserted them.”</p><p>It’s always so comforting to think of ourselves as stuck in the behaviors of our cave-dwelling ancestors, isn’t it?</p><p>So, look, take your pick of explanations. No matter which of these you choose, infidelity, which impacts an estimated <a href="http://www.salon.com/2011/06/12/infidelity_3/">40 to 76 percent of marriages</a>, is not explained away by a couple extra pounds.</p> Mon, 25 May 2015 12:17:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1036842 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships cheat The Hookup Generation Got Outdone By the Boomers: Why Do Millennials Have Fewer Sex Partners Than Their Parents? http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/hookup-generation-got-outdone-boomers-why-do-millennials-have-fewer-sex <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">No one wants to feel less wild than their parents, especially when it comes to sex. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/girls_sexscene9.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>When a study came out this week finding that millennials have fewer sexual partners than their parents’ generation, I should have felt redeemed. For several years now, I’ve criticized hysteria over hookup culture. I’ve mocked alarmist headlines about rainbow parties and boozy one-night stands. The kids are all right — more than all right, we’re great! — I’ve said. And besides, what are we doing that our parents’ generation didn’t do? We may be known as the “hookup generation,” but we hardly invented the one-night stand.</p><p>This study suggests that not only are millennials doing what their parents already did before them, they’re doing less of it. Specifically, boomers had an average of 11 sexual partners as adults, whereas those born in the ’80s and ’90s had eight. Gen-Xers, who came in-between, had an average of 10 lays. Prior to my parents’ generation, there was the Silent Generation with an average of five and the Greatest Generation with just two (<em>dawww</em>). All of which is to say that the young people that have followed the free love generation have not become more promiscuous, despite what all the think pieces about Tinder and sexting would have you believe.</p><p>At the same time, my contemporaries are more accepting than any other generation of premarital sex (62 percent said it was A-OK). They also are more accepting of same-sex relationships (56 percent gave the thumbs-up). No real surprise there, given the rising age of first marriage and the changing tide on same-sex marriage. But this, together with the finding about numbers of sex partners, paints a fascinatingly nuanced picture: Millennials are members of a uniquely sexually progressive generation that is nevertheless more restrained when it comes to sleeping around.</p><p>There are so many reasons here for someone like myself to celebrate — not only are attitudes about premarital sex and same-sex relationships heading in the right direction, but it turns out I was right to minimize the threat of hookup culture all along! And yet my primary emotional response to this news was disappointment. No one wants to feel less wild than their parents, especially when it comes to sex. Being a member of the storied “hookup generation” had allowed me to respond to my parents’ stories of their generation’s naked hot-tubbing and partner swapping with a curled lip or an eye roll. <em>They thought they were sooo crazy with their free-loving ways — if only they knew what it was like now!</em></p><p>But now, I have to think, maybe they were more hardcore. I can’t decide which is worse: Having your generation routinely attacked for its slutty sluttiness or being told that your forebears were the real sexual revolutionaries?</p><p>I’m not alone in my ambivalence about this news, either: The tone of the media coverage of the study has been bemused and sometimes outright apologetic to millennials. Consider this Refinery29 headline: <a href="http://www.refinery29.com/2015/05/86902/millennials-less-premarital-sex-partners">“Sorry, Millennials — Your Parents Probably Had More Sex Than You.”</a> The utter insult of it! Excuse us while we lick our wounds and plot Miley Cyrus’ next panic-inducing sexual stunt. There is one defining sexual brag for this generation to hold onto, though. Researchers found that millennials are more likely to have reported having casual sex. This might seem a complete and utter contradiction, but try to wrap your head around this: Millennials are both more inclined toward no-strings — or at least few-strings — hookups and sleeping with fewer people than previous generations.</p><p>As for why this generation is less promiscuous, the study’s lead author, Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, tells me that it’s hard to know for sure. “It could be that they are more cautious overall, as the first generation to be put in carseats and told they couldn’t walk to school,” she said, which also raises the potential influence of growing up with a greater awareness of STIs and HIV in particular. “Perhaps millennials are having more ‘friends with benefits’ relationships with a smaller circle of people — the survey does show a big jump recently in the percentage of people reporting sex with an acquaintance.” That just might explain why millennials are having fewer partners while also being more inclined toward casual sex.</p><p>The great news here is that this generation’s offspring will have an easy time outdoing their parents in the sex department. I can see it now: “Back in <em>my</em> day, we had the ‘free love’ generation to compete with!” I suspect we’ll never let them forget it.</p> Tue, 12 May 2015 08:46:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1036233 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships sex millennials baby boomers Gen-Xers partners From Beach Sex to Public Urination: 9 Insane Things That Will Get You Labeled a Sex Offender http://www.alternet.org/beach-sex-public-urination-9-insane-things-will-get-uou-labeled-sex-offender <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A couple is being forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on the beach -- and they are not alone</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/beach_sex.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>There’s no question that Elissa Alvarez and Jose Caballero made a poor decision. They had sex on a beach in broad daylight. A witness captured a video of their shenanigans and a 3-year-old allegedly witnessed the act. But is it a poor decision worthy of the sex offender registry? Not only do the couple, who were <a href="http://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article20191164.html" target="_blank">found guilty</a> on Monday, face a maximum of 15 years in prison, but they will be forced to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.</p><p>Alvarez and Caballero are not alone. We like to think of the sex offender registry as a list of the worst kind of deviants and criminals, but one need not be a child predator to show up in the Megan’s Law database. It’s possible to land on the list just for engaging in normal teenage behavior or having a drunken night out. There are all sorts of relatively innocuous acts that can get you permanently labeled as a monster. What do I mean? Allow me to list the ways.</p><p><strong>Peeing in public</strong></p><p>That’s right. Thirteen states require registration as a sex offender simply for a conviction for urinating in public.</p><p><strong>Sexting as a minor</strong></p><p>A teenager can wind up a sex offender <a href="http://www.salon.com/2009/02/20/sexting_teens/" target="_blank">simply for taking naked selfies.</a></p><p><strong>Taking photos of your kid in the bath</strong></p><p>Yup. Lisa and A.J. Demaree were <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Weekend/parents-sue-wal-mart-children-bath-time-photos/story?id=8622696" target="_blank">registered as sex offenders</a> for taking naked photos of their kids during bath-time.</p><p><strong>Paying for sex</strong></p><p>A conviction for soliciting an adult sex worker can mean registration in Alabama, Michigan, Oregon, Tennessee and West Virginia.</p><p><strong>Teenage sex</strong></p><p>A whopping 29 states require registration for consensual sex between minors, according to Human Rights Watch.</p><p><strong>Breast-flashing</strong></p><p>Clearly, this doesn’t apply in New Orleans. In some states, though, a boob flash can mean registration. According to the legal group <a href="http://www.salon.com/2015/05/06/from_beach_sex_to_public_urination_9_insane_things_that_will_get_you_labeled_a_sex_offender/%E2%80%9Chttp://www.denvercriminallawyers.com/types-of-cases/sex-crimes/sex-offender-cases/%E2%80%9C">Johnson-Sauer</a>, “A woman who flashes her breasts at a nightclub could become a registered sex offender if convicted of lewd conduct or indecent exposure.”</p><p><strong>Incest</strong></p>Football player Tony Washington <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?page=Mag15unforgiven">found this out</a> after having consensual sex as a 16-year-old with his 15-year-old sister. The 29-year-old is still on the registry today.<p><strong>Streaking</strong></p><p>I’m not talking about subway creepers who are getting off on aggressively showing their private bits to strangers, but rather running across a football field in your birthday suit. As a man who was forced to register for streaking <a href="http://www.hrw.org/node/10685/section/6">told</a> Human Rights Watch, “The only reason I am considered a sex offender is because I committed an offense that triggers registration. In any other context, my crime would never be considered a sex offense, and I would not be considered a threat to society.”</p><p><strong>Childhood curiosity</strong></p><p>When <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/11/11/man_who_went_to_prison_as_a_juvenile_sex_offender_lena_dunham_is_lucky/">Josh Gravens</a> was 12, he touched his 8-year-old sister’s genitals. It not only landed him on the registry, he also served three-and-a-half years behind bars. He was only recently, at the age of 25, removed from the public registry.</p><p> </p> Sun, 10 May 2015 17:24:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1036143 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics sex offender Secrets of the Female Pickup Artist: There’s an Art to Asking Strange Men for Sex — and Not Getting Shot Down http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/asecrets-female-pickup-artist-theres-art-asking-strange-men-sex-and-not <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A prank video reveals that not all men are rearing to go with people they don&#039;t know. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2015-04-28_at_1.05.23_am.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>There’s <a href="http://whatever.com/asking-100-guys-for-sex-social-experiment/">a viral video</a> making the rounds with a very simple, if unusual premise: An attractive woman walks up to men on the street and asks them if they want to have sex with her. It’s a candid camera gag by the prank-happy YouTube comedy channel <a href="http://whatever.com/">whatever</a>, and it’s the second time they’ve done this shtick: Two years ago, they had a man proposition 100 women for sex (he was rejected 100 percent of the time) and then had a woman proposition 14 men for sex (she was rejected 50 percent of the time). This go round, they had the same woman proposition 100 different men and her success rate — if it can be called that, given the circumstances — was a low 30 percent. Despite our cultural bias that men will sleep with anything with a pulse (or, hell, even without), it’s not too surprising that she was rejected by the majority of the guys. Her cuteness and belly-shirt aside, there is something odd about approaching a stranger in the middle of the day to say: “Hi, my name’s Andrea. Would you maybe want to have sex with me?”</p><p>Watch:</p><p style="margin: 15px 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 16px; vertical-align: baseline; list-style: none; line-height: 20px; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="315" id="QBtF3I7fDfU" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/QBtF3I7fDfU?origin=http://www.salon.com&amp;enablejsapi=1" style="margin: auto; padding: 0px; border-width: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; list-style: none; max-width: 580px; background: transparent;" width="560"></iframe></p><p>The rejections were largely delivered without hesitation, as if by reflex — so much so, you might actually be misled to believe that it’s a common experience for men to be propositioned by strange women on the street. Their quick no’s were decisive, too: “No, I’m fine” and ”Absolutely not,” for example. She gets a few who are outwardly disapproving: “Why would you subject yourself to something like that?” asks one guy (to which she responds in a whisper, “My parents didn’t love me”). An older man simply says, “What’s wrong with you?” Another man chastises her, “That’s a very weird proposition. Plus, I think it’s stepping outside regular social conventions.” You think? A couple of men assume that she’s a prostitute and ask how much. There are lots of vague excuses like, “I have class in a few minutes” — and then there’s the young guy who gestures vaguely into the distance and says, “Uh, that’s a great offer, but I gotta get my bike … ” My favorite is the guy who is maybe possibly avoiding it, but maybe possibly into it and just seriously dehydrated: “Let me get some Gatorade first.” The yeses ranged from “Sure, let’s go” to “You’re really sexy. I’m down” to “Fuck yeah.” Some barely let her finish her sentence before effectively pumping their fists in excitement.</p> Mon, 27 Apr 2015 09:12:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1035462 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships big data google facebook privacy How People Plot Their Escapes from Sexless Marriages http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/how-people-plot-their-escapes-sexless-marriages <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">“I feel like I die more every day.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_171252503.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>“The mistake was getting married.” That’s how the post begins. Under the handle <a href="http://www.reddit.com/user/forevermonkey">forever monkey</a>, the 40-year-old woman continues, “It took almost a month to consummate the marriage,” she writes. “We went from twice a month, to once a month, to twice a year, to once a year.” Eventually, she resorted to an affair. “We’ve had sex maybe 4 times since then, over a year and a half ago,” she says. “Here’s the thing: we are close. He holds my hand, he loves me, he does nice things for me. We have the same interests, we talk all the time. But i’m just sad, there’s this huge part that’s missing. The kids are almost grown. What do I do?”</p><p>All over the Internet, there are thousands of posts just like this from men and women in sexless marriages. Generally, a sexless marriage is defined as one in which sex happens 10 or fewer times a year, which applies to a whopping 15 to 20 percent of married couples, according to a Newsweek estimate. Despite the popular mythology around “lesbian bed death,” it’s predominantly heterosexual couples that are flocking online to count the days, months and years since they last had sex.</p><p>The social networking site Yuku has a popular sexless marriage community. There’s a section to rant, to talk divorce, to get advice on finding romance outside of marriage (that particular board comes with the caveat, “REMINDER: THIS IS NOT A DATING SERVICE SITE”) and to share fantasies. There’s even a forum for users to arrange to meet in person to talk about their sexless marriages. Reddit, of course, has a thriving community, <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/DeadBedrooms">DeadBedrooms</a>, with more than 24,000 subscribers. As with most Reddit communities, it has its own language and shorthand. There’s “DB,” short for dead bedroom, “LL” for low libido and HL for high libido. Even general relationship forums, like LoveShack.org, are filled with threads on sexless marriages. Subject lines are fraught with desperation and resignation: “Sexless marriage driving me crazy!!!,” “So sad – sexless marriage” and “Yet another guy stuck in a sexless marriage,” for example.</p><p>That’s to say nothing of the angst found in the posts themselves. Consider <a href="http://sexlessmarriage.yuku.com/topic/4302/yet-another-lonely-wife#.VS1YVJTF-Qw" target="_blank">this one</a> from a Yuku community board: “”I feel … like I die more everyday. I have so much love and real passion to give and it’s not wanted, appreciated, or returned. …The man that loved me is dead. He is like a zombie. … I know my husband is a porn addict and is on sex hook up sites yet doesn’t want me. I have men flirt with me everywhere. He makes me feel like an ugly old woman just sitting out in the country waiting to die.” Rejection is a common theme: “But even when I think the mood is right and I try to initiate, she just brushes me off like I’m a dog trying to hump her leg,” writes one man. So too is low self-esteem as a result of the rejection: “I guess since I have gained a few stretch marks and dimples along with my pudginess, I am no longer attractive to him.” Some admit to turning to infidelity: “I have sought the physical and emotional intimacy I require outside of my marriage. Please do not condemn me for this.”</p><p>Most posters describe a relationship that started out with a healthy sex life.  ”In the start, sex was ok,” writes one woman. “After two years or so, things dwindled and died away.” Often, things take a turn after the relationship reaches a cozier stage: “Once the honeymoon phase ended (basically right after she moved in) sex went from a couple times a week to once every other month,” writes a 27-year-old man. Often, it seems to come out of the blue: “Early in our relationship the sex was passionate and amazing so I really didn’t see this coming.”</p><p>Typically, there’s a desire differential in these relationships and it’s the partner who wants more sex who is posting about it. That’s generally the case with the sexless couples that New York therapist Ian Kerner sees. “If they’re both content with not having sex, they’re less likely to see a therapist to deal with it,” he points out. That’s true for sexless message boards too: If someone’s content with having sex 10 times or less a year, they’re not going to be posting to the Internet about it. Kerner says it’s not uncommon for him to see couples in truly sexless marriages, but more common are general issues around desire. “As a sex therapist, desire is certainly the number one issue that I deal with.” So where do these desire differentials come from, anyway? It’s notoriously hard to diagnose, because there are so many potential factors — environmental, relational, medical, you name it. But Kerner has identified some common causes. “When couples get together, there is that infatuation phase where there’s a neuro-chemical cocktail stoking feelings of desire. As couples move into a long-term relationship and into the attachment phase, the neurochemistry starts to change,” he explains. “A lot of couples no longer know how to manufacture desire, because they’ve been relying on infatuation hormones.”</p><p>A major cause of bed death is simply too much stress. “Whether it’s parenting issues, work issues, family obligations, financial stressors, most couples that I work with that aren’t having sex are not in theory against the idea of having sex,” he said. “They’re too tired to have sex. They don’t have the time to have sex.” Indeed, in a post titled, “<a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/DeadBedrooms/comments/32hwje/not_sure_if_my_relationship_is_slowly_descending/" tabindex="1">Not sure if my relationship is slowly descending into DB. How can I tell? How can I fix it?</a>,” a woman writes, “I feel like my SO has been rejecting me more and more, the classic I’m too tired or not in the mood. We both have busy and stressful schedules but not more or less than the start of the relationship.”</p><p>Another factor is the responsiveness of female desire, meaning the tendency for women’s desire to arise in response to sexual activity rather than to precipitate it. “Male desire tends to be more spontaneous and female desire tends to be more responsive,” he says. “Very often in a relationship there isn’t a context for female sexual responsiveness. Men will tend to respond to a single sexual cue. For women, there needs to be a context of multiple sexual cues.” Sometimes, he’ll see “a guy who at one time was always experiencing spontaneous desire, but his desire has begun to change and wane and now you have a couple where both experience responsive desire.” Again, if neither partner knows how to deal with responsive desire, the bed death begins.</p><p>All that said, one cool thing about these online communities is that they quickly disabuse you of the stereotype that it’s only women who are withholding sex. They do, to be sure, but so too do men. Bed death simply isn’t the gendered phenomenon that our culture would have you think. Indeed, there are women who, after soliciting advice from the community, post an update with subject lines like “Mental high-fives” to announce, “I totally got laid.” That woman in particular is struggling with a husband who has withdrawn from sex following the devastation of a miscarriage. There are ladies lamenting that their husbands frequently beg out of sex because of a “headache.” Role reversals like whoa! There are the predictable bits, though: Plenty of women lament that the hubs watches porn but shows no interest in having sex.</p><p>Kerner says it’s “absolutely a toss of the coin as to who’s going to have the lower libido” in a heterosexual relationship. “I meet many, many men with low desire, whether they are bored in their relationships or not attracted to their partners or stressed out at work or insecure about their position in the world.” Research is increasingly showing that men who have low desire in their relationships don’t necessarily have low desire outside of the context of their relationship, he says. “They still have desire that leads to masturbation or that may lead to sex with other people, but many men actually have low desire for their partners,” he says.</p><p>Many message board posters are already to the point of considering divorce. “Do I end 5 year marriage with a person who really is my best friend, or do I accept that I may live my life only having sex a couple of times a year,” writes a 32-year-old woman. Kerner sees lots of couples move beyond sex ruts with the help of therapy and what he calls “behavioral homework,” but these message board conversations tend to encourage posters to get out of their sexless marriages. As a Yulu poster writes, “Other than those members who have moved on and out of their marriages, there are very few success stories.”  Another poster, who recently filed for divorce, writes, “I’ve browsed this subreddit for a while … by and large, it seems the answer is to, ‘Get out.’”</p><p>But there is the occasional happy ending. After posting to DeadBedrooms, a woman with the handle <a href="http://www.reddit.com/user/whinebitchwhine">whinebitchwhine</a> decided to try something simple: Explicitly asking her husband for sex, rather than waiting for him to catch on to her attempts at seduction. “Each time has gotten better,” she writes. “It was rigid, mechanical, but slowly we’re cuddling again. It’s been a long time since I could just melt in a man’s arms, in his arms, and lose myself in a moment of kissing.” She continues, “The solution was communicating verbally and directly. Maybe one day we’ll sync up again. Maybe one day I’ll have more self confidence and not have to psyche myself out to get into it. That’d be nice.”</p>  Fri, 17 Apr 2015 15:33:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1034999 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships why did i get married Helen Mirren Says What Many Women and Men Know: Sex After 60 Is Hotter Than Ever http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/helen-mirren-says-what-many-women-and-men-know-sex-after-60-hotter-ever <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The actress says sex was &quot;empty&quot; in her youth, but at 69, it&#039;s sizzling -- and experts say she isn’t alone.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_123542539.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>In a recent interview, Helen Mirren announced that sex in her youth was “paranoid and empty.” Now, at the age of 69, the Oscar winner said sex is “great, just wonderful.” Already, headlines are trumpeting, “<a href="http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/helen-mirren-says-her-sex-life-is-better-than-ever/story-fnb64oi6-1227284329216">Helen Mirren says her sex life is better than ever</a>” and “<a href="http://perezhilton.com/2015-03-30-helen-mirren-sex-life-best-ever-69">The Dame Says She’s Currently Having the Best Sex of Her Life!</a>” It’s not so clear if that’s what she was actually saying, but it’s clearly a compelling idea: that despite every message to the contrary in our youth-obsessed culture, sex might actually get <em>better</em> and <em>hotter</em> with age.</p><p>It isn’t the first time I’ve encountered the idea. My grandma Esther once casually told me, “Sex only gets better into your 80s.” After the death of my grandpa Chester — yes, they had rhyming names — she once remarked tearfully, “He was the most amazing lover.” It was nothing short of mind-blowing: People still have sex at that age? By now, I’ve fully accepted that — I look forward to it, in fact. But does it really get <em>better</em>? One study has suggested it’s true, at least for women: Researchers <a href="http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343%2811%2900655-3/fulltext">surveyed</a> more than 1,000 older ladies and found  that “sexual satisfaction increased with age.” <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/8992519/Sex-gets-better-with-age-say-scientists.html">Other research</a> has found that many seniors still enjoy sex and have regular orgasms.</p><p>“It goes two ways: Sex can be the best ever or it can be really challenging,” says Joan Price, author of three books on the topic of senior sex, including most recently, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Guide-Sex-After-Fifty/dp/1627780963/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8">“The Ultimate Guide to Sex After Fifty: How to Maintain – or Regain – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life.”</a> What determines the outcome are people’s attitudes and their ability to look at sex in a new way, she says. “If we realize that sex changes as we age, it gets better and better emotionally and relationship-wise, because we know what we want now, we know how to communicate. We’ve hit our groove, sexually,” says Price. “On the other hand, if we’re looking for instant arousal and fast orgasms and rock-hard erections, well, we’re just looking at it wrong. We’re stuck in what young sex was.”</p><p>Part of thinking about it <em>right</em> is redefining sex as not just about penetration — because, yes, there can be erectile difficulties. “The whole journey is the main event,” she says. “It’s just a step-by-step, slow, wonderful, languid, sexy, sometimes funny, sex act that may last an hour. I don’t mean that we’re having intercourse for an hour, no, but from start to finish — with the cuddling and the kidding and the touching, or maybe even before that with the dancing in the living room or taking a shower together.”</p><p>Walker Thorton, a single 60-year-old woman who <a href="http://walkerthornton.com">blogs about</a> middle-age sex, recently had a partner with erectile issues, but, she says, “We worked around it, expanded our definition of ‘sex.’” She added, “Which we all should do.” It isn’t all hurdles to jump over, though. Thorton says things started to get better for her sexually a few years ago. Part of that was just the confidence that comes with age. “I feel a higher level of desire and the ability to ask for what I want,” she says. “I have fewer issues achieving orgasm now because I feel more confident and I’ve tapped into my desire.” She also communicates more with her partners about “what I want, what works and what doesn’t.”</p><p>According to Melanie Davis, co-president of the Sexuality and Aging Consortium at Widener University, Thorton’s experience isn’t at all unusual. “With age comes an acceptance of our bodies and other people’s bodies,” she says. “We can be freer to focus on sensuality than speed — more on eroticism than athleticism. We know what we like, and we may be more comfortable communicating that than we were in earlier years.”</p><p>It’s possible to look at the physical challenges that come with age from a glass-half-full point of view. “For heterosexual couples, we find for the first time in our lives, I think, that men and women have the same pace, suddenly. Instead of young men feeling that ‘oh, gotta slow down, gotta wait for her, I just wish I could get to where <em>I</em> want to go,’ the older man is saying, ‘<em>I</em> need a lot more kissing and touching too.’” And the woman, says Price, is saying, “Oh my gosh, <em>finally</em>!”</p><p>In an email, “Eric,” 60, told me, “I must say sex is not what it was when I was 20,” he wrote. “The mystery is not what it once was before making love thousands of times. My penis is not as sensitive as it once was. I can only come once in an evening now, where it was once possible to come four times in a night. Orgasms are not nearly as strong as they once were.”</p><p>Again, though, many of those things are also good things: Some mystery may be lost, but sex with a new woman isn’t as intimidating as it once was. For him, a less sensitive penis means he can last longer. Orgasms, now muted, feel less important, but he says there’s a benefit to that: “I can be relatively happy lazily engaged in vaginal sex for an hour.” Also, friendships with women are easier, he says, “because I am not focused on getting into a woman’s pants” and women are “not wary of me as I am now longer a sexual threat in their eyes.”</p><p>Weighing all this, though, he concludes, “I would say that I prefer sex at 30 to sex at 60.”</p><p>Indeed, I heard from a couple of men who lamented the way sex changes as you age. A 60-something-year-old wrote to me on Facebook, “No, it doesn’t get better. Neither does eyesight, hearing or field goal percentage.”</p><p>A 68-year-old man emailed me to say, “If the urologist does not interfere too much, it can remain awfully good.” I asked him if he was referring to trouble getting it up. “Not erectile problems at all, but prostate,” he said. “At least one prostate med put a damper on things.” Unhappy with the drug’s side-effects — which included “growing one breast,” he said — he quit that drug. “After that drug wore off, a 15-year-old would have been proud of the restored function,” he wrote.</p><p>Then his email turned to a topic that is just about the exact opposite of sex, that subject you just can’t ignore as you get older: mortality. “Many men will have prostate problems, many will die of it, many will die with it,” he said. “I’m waiting for the cancer with a family history and Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. In the meantime … while we wait …” That’s how the email ended.</p><p>Some people look back to sex in their 20s with nostalgia. Others only find their sexual groove after their 60th birthday. More still find their bodies sometimes failing them, but enjoy the more creative sex that it requires. It makes the question of whether sex gets better with age a difficult one. The only definitive answer is simply, as Price said, “It <em>can</em>.”</p><p> </p> Thu, 02 Apr 2015 14:09:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1034247 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Culture Sex & Relationships Helen Mirren sex age middle-age A Vibrator Is Not a Substitute for a Partner, But How Do You Tell That to Men? http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/vibrator-not-substitute-partner-how-do-you-tell-men <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Sometimes you need a little something extra in the bedroom. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_258506417.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>A recent novel by dude-lit king Chuck Palahniuk <a data-component="in-body-link" data-link-="" href="http://www.salon.com/2014/10/27/a_billion_husbands_are_about_to_be_replaced_imagining_the_wildly_effective_vibrators_of_the_future/" name="in body link" id="in body link">imagined a dystopian future</a> in which “a billion husbands” are replaced by a wildly effective vibrator. Ian Kerner, a sex therapist in New York, told me that, based on what he sees in his practice, it’s “fairly common for men to be threatened” by vibrators. My husband even once looked at my Hitachi and said, “How can I even compete with that thing?”</p><p>But whatever men think, women don’t use vibrators as a substitute for intercourse with men; many women actually want to use them <em>with</em> their partners but aren’t quite sure how to bring it up without triggering their insecurities.</p><p>Vibrators themselves have gone mainstream and upmarket: once stocked exclusively by seedy adult stores and mall novelty shops like Spencer’s Gifts, vibrators can now be found in well-lit feminist sex shops and drugstore chains like Walgreens. Condom-makers Trojan and Durex sell vibrating gizmos (both traditional vibrators and vibrating cock rings), and there’s been a boom in sleek (and occasionally diamond-encrusted) high-end dildos.</p><p>And yet sex toys remain a taboo subject within many heterosexual relationships. Research shows that barely more than a third of women have ever used a vibrator during intercourse — although only 10% report having done so recently — and only 43% of heterosexual men have used one at some point, most with a partner. These numbers are bigger than they ever have been, but they are still strikingly small.</p><p>There is one main reason for this: men are taught not only that the penis (and its size, shape and ability to get and stay erect) is the symbol of their worth as men, but also that the phallus is the be-all, end-all of sex. If mainstream porn is to be believed, for instance, just the sight of a man’s erect penis should send a woman into an operatic display of ecstasy and penetration should be more than enough to bring about a female orgasm. So it only stands to reason that many men believe that if their dicks don’t bring individual women to climax, they must be inadequate to the task (and so too must be the man attached to it).</p><p><a data-component="auto-linked-tag" data-link-="" href="http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/women" name="auto-linked-tag" id="auto-linked-tag">Women</a> are equally vulnerable to the wrongheaded idea that climaxing from penetration alone is what’s normal. When a little bit of thrusting doesn’t do the trick, many women assume that there’s something wrong with them. But despite the cultural expectation that women orgasm during and as a result of penetrative sex, plenty of research shows that most women simply do not climax from penetration alone. The emphasis on penetration-related orgasms keeps men <em>and</em>women feeling insecure – which makes for really terrible sex.</p><p>And even if a woman – by some miracle – knows just how normal it is to require some extra stimulation to get off, she still faces the challenge of how to broach the topic of using a vibrator without wounding her partner’s ego. Debby Herbenick of the Kinsey Institute tells me that her research indicates that plenty of men have actually gotten over vibrator fears – but women still worry about what men think. After all, women are taught to worry about such things; we’re supposed to be pleasers and soothers, above all else.</p><p>But if Herbenick’s research is correct – or is at least increasingly correct – then it’s likely that men are adopting a more pragmatic (and realistic) approach to their partners’ pleasure: listening to what she says is going to work, and doing that. So where do you start?</p><p>The therapist, Kerner, recommends that couples go shopping for a vibrator together, or that women ask their partners to select a vibrator for her to use. Couples vibrators like the We-Vibe, a thin U-shaped toy that curves into the vagina and is worn during intercourse, are an especially great option, given that they are designed to bring both partners added pleasure – plus, as Kerner puts it, they “don’t look like big penises and aren’t as threatening.” Occasionally letting the man “drive”, so that he can explore and develop his own expertise with the toy, can help him feel more in control, he says. The key, according to Kerner, is to treat sex toys as an “addition to intercourse, not as a replacement.”</p><p>Or there’s SmartBod, a vibrator with biometric sensing that tracks sharable data about a woman’s arousal process and orgasm. The creators hope that its accompanying app, which visualizes the data, will make it easier for women to talk about their sexuality with partners, friends and even family.</p><p>That’s a thrilling utopian vision – but when a sex writer’s Shangri-la is an app that makes it easier for women to communicate about how they orgasm, perhaps the hardest thing to introduce into any sexual relationship isn’t a sex toy. Maybe it’s just sexual honesty.</p> Sun, 22 Mar 2015 10:24:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, The Guardian 1033643 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships sex women vibrators insecurity The Year-Long Open Marriage Experiment: What This Woman Learned Could Save Your Sex Life http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/year-long-open-marriage-experiment-what-woman-learned-could-save-your-sex-life <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Robin Rinaldi wanted more passion in her life, so she got an apartment apart from her husband and began exploring.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/robin_rinaldi.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Robin Rinaldi’s marriage was not a sexless one. “When I polled my married friends,” she writes, “I realized how exceptional was the fact that after sixteen years we still had regular sex once or twice a week — sex that lasted forty-five minutes and often ended in joyful tears.” Despite this exceptional sex life, though, she felt at the age of 44 that something was missing — maybe it was a lack of passion, maybe it was that she had slept with only a few men before marriage or maybe it was that her husband had squashed her hopes of having a child by getting a vasectomy. In her new book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Wild-Oats-Project-Midlife/dp/0374290210">“The Wild Oats Project: One Woman’s Midlife Quest for Passion at Any Cost,”</a> she writes, ”I refuse to go to my grave with no children and only four lovers. If I can’t have one, I must have the other.”</p><p>Perhaps this seems an odd rationale, in which case, read on, but this is what inspires her year-long experiment with an open marriage. Rinaldi, at the time an editor at San Francisco’s 7×7 magazine, is so committed to the project that she rents a bachelorette pad to stay in during the week, returning to her husband on the weekends. Eventually, she takes things even further, moving into the <a href="http://www.salon.com/2011/05/22/slow_sex_2/">now-infamous One Taste</a> commune devoted to orgasmic meditation. Along the way, she encounters a series of male caricatures who embody nearly every Bay Area cliché imaginable — including a Silicon Valley lawyer and a tattooed vegan healer. There’s dirty talk, Craigslist hookups, a threesome and her first time with a woman.</p><p>Exciting stuff! And yet, let’s be honest, I was not terribly excited at the prospect of this book. It seemed terrain already well covered in Jenny Block’s 2009 <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Open-Love-Sex-Life-Marriage/dp/1580052754">“Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage”</a> and the more recent swinging chronicle <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/11/18/we_saw_a_wall_to_wall_landscape_of_pleasure_seeking_naked_humans_a_married_couple_dishes_on_the_crazy_world_of_swinging/">”A Modern Marriage: A Memoir.”</a> What ground was there left to unearth here, said I, the boring monogamist. There was a tinge of resentment, too: We get it, you’re super-evolved about sex and everything, but must you flaunt it before us mere mortals? The truth, of course, is that these feelings were unreasonable. I had in mind only two past books about non-monogamy, when there have been how many books published about the experience of monogamous heterosexual marriage?</p><p>More important, Rinaldi’s book isn’t a self-congratulatory catalog of sexual escapades. It wrestles with bigger themes of motherhood, feminism, self-fulfillment and the body. That sounds woo-woo, and in its execution it sometimes is — she frequents a woman’s circle that does energy exercises, for example — but the book also engages intellectually with that familiar problem of, as she puts it, “competing desires for security and newness, domesticity and passion.” It isn’t that the men she sleeps with outside of her marriage are all that different from her husband, it’s that they <em>aren’t her husband</em>. She writes, “Of course, it was so much easier to accept men who’d never seen me at my worst, and on whom I never let myself depend, than to accept the one who knew and loved me best.”</p><p>It’s insights like those — similar to those found in Esther Perel’s “Mating in Captivity” — that makes the book relevant beyond those either seeking vicarious thrills or contemplating an open marriage. And for the latter group, the book ultimately functions more as a cautionary tale than a guidebook, because — spoiler alert — she and her husband divorce. You see, there is good reason for the book’s subtitle, which bears the words “passion at any cost.” Toward the end, she writes, “One final interpretation of the Wild Oats Project: an elaborate attempt to dismantle the chains of love and loyalty holding me so fast to my husband that all else was rendered impossible. They had to be loosened first. It takes time — several years, really — to wreck a marriage.”</p><p>I spoke with Rinaldi about the strictures of monogamy, learning to talk dirty and why her memoir is also part manifesto.</p><p><strong>This project was kicked off by your husband getting a vasectomy. Can you explain that?</strong></p><p>It was like the perfect storm: early 40s, a maternal urge that came on late in life, a burgeoning sexual confidence and desire — which I’ve always heard happens to women in their late 30s and early 40s — and this stalemate with my husband about whether to have kids. I’d always been a good worker and a good student and very appropriate — well-behaved, I guess. I could feel this rumbling underneath all of that. I could feel middle age coming and there was this urge that I really wanted to deeply experience my womanhood, what it is to be a female. I felt like motherhood and sexuality were the two most instinctual routes to this, and when the motherhood door closed, it was like a dam burst. All my fears of behaving badly went out the window and I just decided to listen to my body and go wherever it led me.</p><p><strong>So many women experience that to some degree, but few take the leap to do what you did. What do you think allowed you to say, screw it, I’m going for it?</strong></p><p>That’s a good question. I think it’s the fact that I’m kind of a stubborn-headed person to begin with — and that’s not always a good thing, it’s a real weakness of mine — and the fact that we were living in San Francisco and I had seen people having open relationships, a lot of our gay friends had them. So it wasn’t completely out of the realm as if we were living in Omaha.</p><p>In marriage you are constantly negotiating and someone’s gotten more of what they want and the other one is compromised. As soon as my husband got that quote-unquote “win” with the vasectomy, I felt that he owed me something to make up for that. I was willing to go to my deathbed having had children and just the four lovers, but without children or grandchildren, I wasn’t willing. It wasn’t intellectual where I said, “Now I’m putting my foot down.” I literally dropped into my body. It was instinct. I went where it led me. Believe me, it was out of character, I was almost watching it happen.</p><p><strong>San Francisco is kind of a character in this book. Can you talk about the city’s influence?</strong></p><p>I certainly don’t think San Francisco made me do it, but I do think the environment helped influence me. Like I said, we were living right in the middle of the gay community; I have a lot of gay friends and a lot of them seemed to do OK with open relationships. We knew a few straight couples who were doing it.</p><p>And I was a journalist in San Francisco working at a lifestyle magazine. I was going into Kink.com for a week and reporting on the whole S&amp;M porn films that they were filming there and I was going to cuddle parties and reporting on that movement. So, I was exposed as a journalist to lifestyles that were not conventional at all. I think that edged me toward “this is a possibility for me too,” instead of going the traditional route of cheating when you hit your midlife crisis. I could feel that was about to happen. I already had slipped up and it almost happened. I knew it was coming. I felt an open marriage was better than ongoing adultery.</p><p><strong>You knew you were going to do it so why not do it aboveboard.</strong></p><p><em>Try</em> to do it aboveboard, anyway. Of course, you make rules about it and they’re like sandcastles at high-tide. Rules about sex are, you know –</p><p><strong>Made to be broken?</strong></p><p>They tend to go out the window. But both of us did try to abide by the rules. We didn’t always succeed.</p><p><strong>The first section of the book is titled “Death of the Good Girl.” Can you explain that idea?</strong></p><p>I grew up the firstborn, a valedictorian, a codependent in an alcoholic family, just very much trying to help everyone and take care of everyone, a very female thing. As it relates to sex, I do think I carried some of that into the bedroom. I did feel I had a pretty good sex life on average, but I definitely felt inhibited in bed. When I was in my 20s and even into my 30s, I liked quiet sex. I like the traditional, romantic model of how a woman enjoys sex, which is a lot of foreplay and talking and emotional safety and equality. As I started to mature sexually and gain more confidence, I felt this corresponding urge for sex to become more energetic and interactive, for there to be experiences of not just gentleness and love but also what I guess you could call very light BDSM, word play and a little bit of hair pulling. I wanted to experience a different kind of sex than I was having in my marriage.</p><p>I tried experiencing it in my marriage and I found it’s hard to change the sexual dynamic of a long marriage. It tends to be easy to let out a whole new side of yourself with a new lover. It’s a little hard to change something you’ve been doing with your partner for 17 or 18 years. It was challenging to experience this sexual growth within the marriage, because I was changing and my husband really wasn’t. He enjoyed things as they always had been.</p><p><strong>Did you set out with boxes that you wanted to check in terms of sexual experiences?</strong></p><p>I didn’t. It was more a general feeling that I wanted more lovers before I died. I did find that after I got toward the end of that year, as it was coming to a close, then that list came up in my mind, like, “OK, I have two months left, is there anything I haven’t done yet.” I had deprioritized sleeping with a woman, so that came up toward the end. Having a threesome was another one. It was a vague mental bucket list.</p><p><strong>Can you tell me a little bit about the men that you met during this year?</strong></p><p>Some reminded me of my husband in their looks. There was a great variety of men. I wasn’t really going for one thing. It wasn’t even that they were different from my husband, but our encounters were different than within my marriage because I could act differently with them. In general they were more forceful or aggressive or sexually experimenting than my husband, but so was I when I was with them. It made me wonder if my husband was also that way with a new lover. The way I saw it, it wasn’t the people in my bedroom that were changing as much as it was me changing in response to the situation. I consider myself a smart woman and thinker, I’ve done years of therapy, but I was dumbfounded at the fact that I just wanted to say the most basic little slice of dirty talk to my husband in bed and my throat would literally close up. I would even tell him afterward, “I wanted to say this and I couldn’t,” and he would say, “Say it!” I couldn’t. But put me in bed with a new man and it just flew out of my mouth. That times 10.</p><p><strong>Why do you think?</strong></p><p>I’m sure you’ve read Esther Perel’s “Mating in Captivity.” She’s the expert on the domestic versus the passionate and how when you are domestic with someone and somewhat enmeshed, there’s some dependency there, which is a tendency of all long marriages; it becomes psychologically less and less easy to introduce risk, passion, uncertainty or your wilder side into that relationship. You have to create a little distance to ignite erotic energy. That’s the best way I can explain it. Once the marriage opened up and we started having other lovers, our sex did change a little. It did go into the more passionate direction, at least at first. If you take away all that certainty and stability and introduce a little bit of risk and unknowingness you’re able to see your partner in a new light again.</p><p><strong>Did you learn anything from your time with those men about how people can bring that energy and excitement into their marriages? You touched on the importance of distance, but was there anything else?</strong></p><p>I think I did. One thing I learned that could have helped my marriage was just becoming more independent in general, just becoming more emotionally independent. The less you depend on someone, the more you can want and desire them, instead of needing them.</p><p>Also, if I were more in touch with my own purpose, my own mission in life, what I was really deeply committed to, which for me is writing, I think I would have found some passion there and wouldn’t have expected my poor husband to provide all of that for me. Passion is not only something that happens within a couple or a marriage but within a person. If you want passion, you have to find passion for living. The more passion and purpose I have for my own vocation and path in life, the less I expect someone to provide that for me.</p><p>I was telling you about this feeling of wanting to experience this deep womanhood. I really felt like I was on this mission to find my own feminine energy. I don’t mean girly, pink, giggles and blond highlights. I mean deep, fierce, primal feminine energy. The shit the patriarchy was invented to stomp on. That is what I really was searching for, and sex is a very primal and powerful way to get in touch with that. I believe there’s a lot more power for women in sex than we have been led to believe and maybe even have been willing to take and claim. So I was looking for this connection with my own feminine. The way I put it in the book was that the more maleness I had, the more female I could be. So I sought out a lot of macho male behaviors in men, but it wasn’t so I could worship macho-ness or male-ness at all, it was so I could find in response to that the opposite, my femaleness.</p><p>What I found is that I didn’t necessarily have to go through men to get that. I also thought a baby would be a route to that, because of course that’s such a deep, primal, feminine experience to birth and nurse and care for a baby. I found that in community with other women. I stumbled onto a women’s circle in San Francisco and the practices we did there, they were these embodiment practices specifically aimed at syncing into our own feminine energy — they’re not woo-woo at all, they’re pretty basic — those practices put me in direct access to this connected, fierce, purposeful, wonderful, loving feminine energy, which is the way you feel when you’re in love with a man or maybe your baby, but we would just feel it together as women in a room. It changed my life.</p><p>If you’re married and want to stay married and don’t want to introduce a lot of drama in your life like I did, find your purpose, seek out other women and try to get in touch with your deep feminine energy. You don’t necessarily have to upend your life.</p><p><strong>You end up divorcing your husband in the end. Would that have happened without the year of oats-sowing?</strong></p><p>It’s a little hard to say. I think there would have been some infidelity. I don’t think I would have had it in me to do that for very long. It would have created a crisis in the marriage, which is what I believe midlife infidelity is exactly meant to do, bring things to a head so you have to deal with them. Whether we would have gotten over that, I’m not sure.</p><p><strong>You mention at the beginning of the book that it might be a bit of a manifesto. What is the intended call to arms?</strong></p><p>It had to do with listening to your body. That doesn’t necessarily mean go out and have a bunch of sex with strange men. That’s what my body wanted to do. Your body might want to be celibate. Your body might want to divorce your husband or marry the guy you’ve been with and give him an ultimatum or your body might be sick of men and want to become a lesbian. Your body might want another kid or it might want to get its tubes tied. It might want to move to another city. I don’t want to tell women what to do, I want them to do what they want to do. I want to live in a world where women are in touch with the fierce, unafraid, feminine core of themselves and where they talk about what it’s like in their bodies, what it’s like in their skin, truthfully, without fear of judgment from wherever — from other men, from other women, from patriarchs, from feminists. I’m a die-hard feminist, but I don’t even want the feminist in me to silence this more primal energy that I’m talking about.</p><p>I especially want to see women being the ones telling the stories about sex. I want us to talk about sex. I was just reading <a href="http://www.salon.com/2015/03/06/forget_female_viagra_this_new_book_dismantles_stubborn_myths_about_women_and_sexual_desire/">your interview</a> with Emily Nagoski, who wrote “Come as You Are,” and I saw her say that with a lot of other behaviors we get to see what other people are doing and the talk is much more open and trustworthy, but sex is so hidden. Sex <em>is</em> hidden, except it’s not hidden in pornography and the male directors in Hollywood don’t hide it and the advertisers don’t hide it, but I want <em>women</em> talking about it. I want them to do whatever they want with their bodies and I want them to tell the truth about it.</p><p> </p> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 07:35:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1033398 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Books Sex & Relationships Robin Rinaldi sex relationships open marriage monogamy “The Bachelor’s” Sexism Has Hit a New Low http://www.alternet.org/bachelors-sexism-has-hit-new-low <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Viewers are justifiably angry.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/b78c0c6d-588a-452b-8483-4899e556ade6-big.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>I’ve watched the past several seasons of the “Bachelor” franchise with friends in San Francisco who have a weekly viewing party. We order Indian food, drink wine and mostly talk over or at the show. We are a bunch deeply dedicated to watching the series in a mocking, ironic way — although the show is increasingly becoming <a href="http://www.salon.com/2015/03/10/the_bachelors_sexism_has_finally_gone_too_far_and_viewers_are_right_to_be_pissed/%E2%80%9Dhttp://www.salon.com/2015/01/06/the_beast_has_become_self_aware_the_most_meta_moments_from_the_%E2%80%9Cbachelor%E2%80%9D_premiere/%E2%80%9D">self-aware</a> and doing the mocking for us. We announce ourselves as Team [insert totally generic girl name] or Team [insert a different totally generic girl name], psychoanalyze contestants (a popular idea this season was that Becca was a sociopath) and develop elaborate theories on who will get the final rose.</p> <p>All of that is to underscore the gravity of what came out of one of my hosts’ mouth when Chris Harrison announced on last night’s finale that the next “Bachelorette” would star both Kaitlyn and Britt from this season. This time around, a group of 25 men will pick which of the two women, in Harrison’s actual words, “would make the best wife.” That’s when my friend Sara announced in a huff, “I refuse to watch this. No more parties!” She wasn’t joking, either.</p><p>Judging from the Twitter reaction, my host was not alone in her outrage. Sharleen, a contestant on Juan Pablo’s season, <a href="http://www.salon.com/2015/03/10/the_bachelors_sexism_has_finally_gone_too_far_and_viewers_are_right_to_be_pissed/%E2%80%9Dhttps://twitter.com/sharleenjoynt/status/575128527663722496%E2%80%9D">tweeted</a>, “This is sick” followed by the hashtags “#TheBachelorette #misogyny.” She wasn’t the only one to use the m-word. Consider: </p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="211" width="504"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="211" width="504" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/screen_shot_2015-03-13_at_3.47.04_pm_2.png" /></div><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="211" width="500"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="211" width="500" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/screen_shot_2015-03-13_at_3.47.36_pm_1.png" /></div><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="210" width="496"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="210" width="496" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/screen_shot_2015-03-13_at_3.47.53_pm_1.png" /></div><p>Countless more stopped shy of arguing that the decision represented a hatred of women and instead focused on the basic inequity of it: “Even on The Bachelorette, the men still somehow get all the power and pick between the two. #thataintright.” The day after International Women’s Day, no less! That’s not to mention all the tweets that revolted against the decision for other reasons — namely, Britt, who was portrayed as a two-faced seductress and friend to no woman, and who became the villain of this season. As former Bachelor Sean Lowe <a href="http://www.salon.com/2015/03/10/the_bachelors_sexism_has_finally_gone_too_far_and_viewers_are_right_to_be_pissed/%E2%80%9Dhttps://twitter.com/SeanLowe09/status/575129416801521664%E2%80%9D">tweeted</a>, “Judging by the hundreds of tweets I’m seeing, no one likes this duel bachelorette idea.”</p><p>That’s to put it lightly. People are losing their damn minds over this twist. Why, though? Folks generally don’t get so worked up over contest rules, especially when it comes to reality TV. It’s a matchmaking show, it isn’t deciding the next president of the United States or awarding the Nobel. But this decision tapped into something bigger than just who would get the final rose — and I’m not just talking about viewers’ general disdain for the seemingly manipulative and conniving Britt. It upset the delicate pH balance of the show’s sexism. Typically, the “Bachelor” sticks with gender inequalities that are still culturally acceptable — you know, the men always propose and it’s the women who are expected to relocate for love. There are the hyped-up catfights, the occasional slut-shaming and, of course, the ever-present “‘desperate bachelorette’ trope,” as Jennifer Pozner <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/05/21/is-andi-dorfman-a-new-kind-of-bachelorette/all-that-the-bachelorette-inspires-is-nausea">put it</a>. This is stuff that’s tolerable to most of America. It’s the kind of sexism that generally receives a shoulder shrug and a “relax, don’t take it so seriously.”</p><p>But the sexism is always there and ever threatens to alienate its female viewers, even the more conservative ones. The one thing holding it all together, the thing that for so many viewers makes it a guilty pleasure as opposed to a hate-watch, is that each season of “The Bachelor” is followed by a table-turning season of “The Bachelorette.” OK, so there is still so much that is capital-p Problematic about it, but at least the women get their chance. We are just so darn thankful for table scraps. It isn’t ideal — as Kaitlyn herself said when awkwardly brought onstage with Britt at the “Bachelor” finale to discuss their shared bachelorette-hood — but it could be worse. Put in the terms of sexual empowerment, the “Bachelor’s” female viewers are basically that chick who fakes orgasms and makes out with other girls at bars. BUT IT’S SOMETHING.</p><p>Now, that something has effectively been taken away. That is true even though the show has pulled this before with men: In 2004, two guys were chosen to battle it out to be The Bachelor. As Emily Yahr <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2015/03/10/the-bachelor-finale-overshadowed-by-awkward-bachelorette-twist-reveal/">reported</a> at the Washington Post, “The 25 women chose between Byron Velvick and Jay Overbye in the season premiere, giving a rose to the man they preferred.” It’s unclear exactly how this newfangled “Bachelorette” will go — will the 25 men eliminate one of the women on the first night or will the girl fight be drawn out longer? Either way, what viewers saw was an enraging power imbalance in the wake of a season that, even more so than average, revolved around women fighting over a man. Said one woman on Twitter: “The Bachelorette is the show where the women have the power and now the men are getting the power! No! Ban men! Ban Chris Harrison!” Another wrote, “Even on The Bachelorette, the men still somehow get all the power and pick between the two. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/thataintright?src=hash">#thataintright</a>.” That power imbalance has always been there, right under the surface, but with this move “The Bachelor” made it un-ignorable, even to the most blissfully ignorant or in denial.</p><p>Sure, I’ll probably tune it, this time around as a straight-up hate-watch. I’m just not so sure I’ll have anyone to watch it with.</p><p> </p> Fri, 13 Mar 2015 12:20:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1033240 at http://www.alternet.org american culture “The Bachelor’s” Sexism Finally Goes Too Far Even for Its Loyal Viewers http://www.alternet.org/gender/bachelors-sexism-finally-goes-too-far-even-its-loyal-viewers <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Hate-watching the show will now be the only option.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/bachelor.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>I’ve watched the past several seasons of the “Bachelor” franchise with friends in San Francisco who have a weekly viewing party. We order Indian food, drink wine and mostly talk over or at the show. We are a bunch deeply dedicated to watching the series in a mocking, ironic way — although the show is increasingly becoming <a href="http://www.salon.com/2015/03/10/the_bachelors_sexism_has_finally_gone_too_far_and_viewers_are_right_to_be_pissed/%E2%80%9Dhttp://www.salon.com/2015/01/06/the_beast_has_become_self_aware_the_most_meta_moments_from_the_%E2%80%9Cbachelor%E2%80%9D_premiere/%E2%80%9D">self-aware</a> and doing the mocking for us. We announce ourselves as Team [insert totally generic girl name] or Team [insert a different totally generic girl name], psychoanalyze contestants (a popular idea this season was that Becca was a sociopath) and develop elaborate theories on who will get the final rose.</p><div id="ym_1007925900364593340">All of that is to underscore the gravity of what came out of one of my hosts’ mouth when Chris Harrison announced on last night’s finale that the next “Bachelorette” would star both Kaitlyn and Britt from this season. This time around, a group of 25 men will pick which of the two women, in Harrison’s actual words, “would make the best wife.” That’s when my friend Sara announced in a huff, “I refuse to watch this. No more parties!” She wasn’t joking, either.</div><p>Judging from the Twitter reaction, my host was not alone in her outrage. Sharleen, a contestant on Juan Pablo’s season, <a href="http://www.salon.com/2015/03/10/the_bachelors_sexism_has_finally_gone_too_far_and_viewers_are_right_to_be_pissed/%E2%80%9Dhttps://twitter.com/sharleenjoynt/status/575128527663722496%E2%80%9D">tweeted</a>, “This is sick” followed by the hashtags “#TheBachelorette #misogyny.” She wasn’t the only one to use the m-word. Consider:</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" allowtransparency="true" class="twitter-tweet twitter-tweet-rendered" frameborder="0" height="210" id="twitter-widget-0" scrolling="no" style="margin: 10px 0px; padding: 0px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; border-color: rgb(238, 238, 238) rgb(221, 221, 221) rgb(187, 187, 187); outline: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; max-width: 99%; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; line-height: 18px; min-width: 220px; display: block; position: static; visibility: visible; border-top-left-radius: 5px; border-top-right-radius: 5px; border-bottom-right-radius: 5px; border-bottom-left-radius: 5px; box-shadow: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.14902) 0px 1px 3px; width: 500px;" title="Embedded Tweet"></iframe></p><p> </p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" allowtransparency="true" class="twitter-tweet twitter-tweet-rendered" frameborder="0" height="210" id="twitter-widget-1" scrolling="no" style="margin: 10px 0px; padding: 0px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; border-color: rgb(238, 238, 238) rgb(221, 221, 221) rgb(187, 187, 187); outline: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; max-width: 99%; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; line-height: 18px; min-width: 220px; display: block; position: static; visibility: visible; border-top-left-radius: 5px; border-top-right-radius: 5px; border-bottom-right-radius: 5px; border-bottom-left-radius: 5px; box-shadow: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.14902) 0px 1px 3px; width: 500px;" title="Embedded Tweet"></iframe></p><p> </p><div> </div><div data-toggle-group="story-13906815" data-twttr-id="twttr-sandbox-1"><iframe allowfullscreen="" allowtransparency="true" class="twitter-tweet twitter-tweet-rendered" frameborder="0" height="210" id="twitter-widget-2" scrolling="no" style="margin: 10px 0px; padding: 0px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; border-color: rgb(238, 238, 238) rgb(221, 221, 221) rgb(187, 187, 187); outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none; max-width: 99%; min-width: 220px; display: block; position: static; visibility: visible; border-top-left-radius: 5px; border-top-right-radius: 5px; border-bottom-right-radius: 5px; border-bottom-left-radius: 5px; box-shadow: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.14902) 0px 1px 3px; width: 500px;" title="Embedded Tweet"></iframe><p><br />Countless more stopped shy of arguing that the decision represented a hatred of women and instead focused on the basic inequity of it: “Even on The Bachelorette, the men still somehow get all the power and pick between the two. #thataintright.” The day after International Women’s Day, no less! That’s not to mention all the tweets that revolted against the decision for other reasons — namely, Britt, who was portrayed as a two-faced seductress and friend to no woman, and who became the villain of this season. As former Bachelor Sean Lowe <a href="http://www.salon.com/2015/03/10/the_bachelors_sexism_has_finally_gone_too_far_and_viewers_are_right_to_be_pissed/%E2%80%9Dhttps://twitter.com/SeanLowe09/status/575129416801521664%E2%80%9D">tweeted</a>, “Judging by the hundreds of tweets I’m seeing, no one likes this duel bachelorette idea.”</p><p>That’s to put it lightly. People are losing their damn minds over this twist. Why, though? Folks generally don’t get so worked up over contest rules, especially when it comes to reality TV. It’s a matchmaking show, it isn’t deciding the next president of the United States or awarding the Nobel. But this decision tapped into something bigger than just who would get the final rose — and I’m not just talking about viewers’ general disdain for the seemingly manipulative and conniving Britt. It upset the delicate pH balance of the show’s sexism. Typically, the “Bachelor” sticks with gender inequalities that are still culturally acceptable — you know, the men always propose and it’s the women who are expected to relocate for love. There are the hyped-up catfights, the occasional slut-shaming and, of course, the ever-present “‘desperate bachelorette’ trope,” as Jennifer Pozner <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/05/21/is-andi-dorfman-a-new-kind-of-bachelorette/all-that-the-bachelorette-inspires-is-nausea">put it</a>. This is stuff that’s tolerable to most of America. It’s the kind of sexism that generally receives a shoulder shrug and a “relax, don’t take it so seriously.”</p><p>But the sexism is always there and ever threatens to alienate its female viewers, even the more conservative ones. The one thing holding it all together, the thing that for so many viewers makes it a guilty pleasure as opposed to a hate-watch, is that each season of “The Bachelor” is followed by a table-turning season of “The Bachelorette.” OK, so there is still so much that is capital-p Problematic about it, but at least the women get their chance. We are just so darn thankful for table scraps. It isn’t ideal — as Kaitlyn herself said when awkwardly brought onstage with Britt at the “Bachelor” finale to discuss their shared bachelorette-hood — but it could be worse. Put in the terms of sexual empowerment, the “Bachelor’s” female viewers are basically that chick who fakes orgasms and makes out with other girls at bars. BUT IT’S SOMETHING.</p><p>Now, that something has effectively been taken away. That is true even though the show has pulled this before with men: In 2004, two guys were chosen to battle it out to be The Bachelor. As Emily Yahr <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2015/03/10/the-bachelor-finale-overshadowed-by-awkward-bachelorette-twist-reveal/">reported</a> at the Washington Post, “The 25 women chose between Byron Velvick and Jay Overbye in the season premiere, giving a rose to the man they preferred.” It’s unclear exactly how this newfangled “Bachelorette” will go — will the 25 men eliminate one of the women on the first night or will the girl fight be drawn out longer? Either way, what viewers saw was an enraging power imbalance in the wake of a season that, even more so than average, revolved around women fighting over a man. Said one woman on Twitter: “The Bachelorette is the show where the women have the power and now the men are getting the power! No! Ban men! Ban Chris Harrison!” Another wrote, “Even on The Bachelorette, the men still somehow get all the power and pick between the two. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/thataintright?src=hash">#thataintright</a>.” That power imbalance has always been there, right under the surface, but with this move “The Bachelor” made it un-ignorable, even to the most blissfully ignorant or in denial.</p><p>Sure, I’ll probably tune it, this time around as a straight-up hate-watch. I’m just not so sure I’ll have anyone to watch it with.</p></div><p> </p> Thu, 12 Mar 2015 11:06:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1033174 at http://www.alternet.org Gender Culture Gender Sex & Relationships The Bachelor, sexism hate-watching Chris Harrison I Tried "Siri for Sex" http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/i-tried-siri-sex <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Inviting the digital foreplay assistant (and her sexy British accent) to bed with us was a little awkward at times.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_115051549.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Men who are bad at foreplay can now be added to the annals of “there’s an app for that.” That’s thanks to <a href="http://blindfold.club/">Blindfold</a>, a company that bills itself as “your digital foreplay assistant” or “Siri for sex” — which, OK, all new tech entities like being described as [X popular thing] for [Y]. Uber for food! Tinder for clothes! Netflix for books! And sex-tech is no exception (see: <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2978979/The-sex-selfie-stick-offers-bird-s-eye-view-orgasm-images-shared-FaceTime.html">the sex selfie stick</a>). More accurately, though, Blindfold is an audio guide for foreplay.</p><p>Each month, the company releases a new audio file that guides heterosexual couples through some pre-sex exercises that are meant to help them “explore new fantasies,” “break free from routine,” “improve intimacy” and “slow down.” It’s like a sophisticated version of naughty dice, only the directives are given, <em>ahem</em>, aurally. The narrator — or erotic taskmaster — is a woman known only as “Angelina.”</p><p>Perhaps you’re intrigued — well, hold onto your knickers because it comes at a steep price: $19 … <em>a month</em>. It’s hard enough to get people to pay $19 a month for hardcore porn, let alone audio <em>foreplay. </em>This Angelina must really be something — as in <em>Angelina Jolie herself</em> – to command that price, right? Well, I decided to give it — or her — a try to find out, which led to the following Gchat conversation with my husband:</p><blockquote><strong>Me: </strong> can we try “siri for sex” tonight?<br /><strong>Him:</strong>  um wat<br />ok?<br />that sounds ridic<br /><strong>Me: </strong> yeah<br />it’s basically an audio version of naughty dice<br />“do this. now do this.”<br /><strong>Him: </strong> oh! that actually kinda sounds fun/funny<br /><strong>Me: </strong> it’s all foreplay tho<br /><strong>Him:</strong>  oh.</blockquote><p>I was with him. Foreplay is great and all, but when I think of “exploring new fantasies,” my mind doesn’t immediately go to butterfly kisses and foot massages. Suffice it to say, when we sat down on our bed and clicked play on the audio file on my laptop, our expectations were low. “This audio recording is copyright 2015,” said an accented voice that sounded part massage therapist, part sex-cyborg. The copyright announcement out of the way, Angelina began with the instructions: “Take a shower or bath to relax and refresh yourselves,” she said and I audibly groaned. “Ensure the room is warm and free from any drafts. Begin burning some scented candles or incense if you have any.” We determined ourselves to be clean enough and definitely do not own scented candles, <em>nor will we ever,</em> so we decided against her recommendations and skipped ahead.</p><p>“Lay your beautiful woman naked on the bed, covered only with a bedsheet and a blindfold,” she said. “Sit on top of her and the sheet with your knees on either side of her body with your butt gently resting on her pelvic area.” That’s when the laughter started. “Comfortable?” she asked and, clearly, the answer was no. “Let’s see if you can obey my commands. To begin, kiss her on the lips, softly and seductively, with no tongue.” But we were grinning so hard, our lips pulled tight against our teeth, that when we kissed, it felt like we were trying to eat each other’s faces. “Bring yourself back to an upright kneeling position straddling her body,” she said. “Place one hand, palm down, softly and gently on her stomach and over the sheet and just feel the rise and fall of her breath for a few minutes whilst taking a few slow deep breaths yourself.” By this point, I was cracking up and tears were pooling against the tie we had fashioned into a blindfold, but I forced myself to breathe deep as she guided him to kiss along my neck.</p><p>Once our laughter subsided, there was brief, fleeting moment of intrigue when it started to feel like we were having a threesome. Was there a woman sitting in the corner of the room instructing my husband on how to touch me? Because it kind of felt that way — and I wasn’t not into it. She told him to do things like slowly run his fingers lightly up and down my arms, suck on my fingers and give me an eskimo kiss — the last of which sort of took away from the wild ‘n’ crazy group-sex vibe. Then she said, “Pull down the sheet to reveal her alluring breasts and stomach,” and I started to feel a bit objectified. Like, hey lady, I’m RIGHT HERE. I CAN HEAR YOU. And, indeed, why wasn’t she ever addressing me? “Run both of your hands toward her breasts and slowly trace circles around the nipples, but don’t touch the nipples, as tempted as you may be,” she said. “Enjoy your woman and listen to her reaction.” But I was a bit too preoccupied with Angelina to have much of a reaction.</p><p>Just when our hysterics felt like a distant memory, she purred, “Suckle her nipple with your mouth, just like a baby would.” That’s when my husband snorted on my boob. “Are you kidding me? I hate this so much,” he said. “It takes all the joy out of it!”</p><p>Things continued in this manner until, finally, she instructed, “Lay your hands on top of each knee and gently start making circular movements with your thumb as your hand very slowly starts to move up her thigh,” she said. “When you get to the top of her thigh, begin gently stroking down each side of her outer labia” — or as she said it, “laaahbia” — “with your index fingers.” Good looking out, Angelina. After some inner-thigh kissing, she said, “Pull your lips away from hers and take a moment to look at her beautiful pussy.” Oh, so she <em>can</em> talk dirty, I thought. But just then she announced, “I’m going to leave you two now” — which was fine, really. Actually, it was an enormous relief.</p><p>That isn’t to say that it was an unenjoyable experience — although, at points it did feel like we were the focus of an alien-directed human mating experiment. For the most part, Blindfold — and this largely unexplored medium in general — exceeded my expectations. It seems so obvious now: We read books and see therapists and write to columnists in an attempt to improve our sex lives, why not bring that advice into the bedroom in a real-time way? And if that advice comes in the form of a honey-voiced stranger who can bring some of the excitement of a ménage à trois to your relationship without threatening it, all the better. But perhaps the best thing this service offers is simple plausible deniability in the bedroom. If you try something and it doesn’t work, it isn’t you on the line. Go ahead and blame it on Angelina.</p><p>Judging by this episode alone, it seems Blindfold will be something of a remedial course in sexual intimacy — and there certainly is no shortage of couples in need of that. As a 29-year-old woman quoted on the website says, “My husband’s idea of getting things started is to lie on the bed naked and wait for me to walk in on him. Which, um, no.” After trying Blindfold, she enthused, “This audio stopped that shit cold,” she said. “Having a totally sexy sounding woman directing his every move allowed me to relax and just enjoy everything for a change, but allowed him to be controlled to an extent as well.” So, if you have a man in your life who needs to “stop that shit cold,” this app is for you.</p> Sun, 08 Mar 2015 17:06:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1032962 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships Love and Sex sex technology BLINDFOLD How Women Get Turned On: The Stubborn Myths About Women and Sexual Desire http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/how-women-get-turned-stubborn-myths-about-women-and-sexual-desire <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Author Emily Nagoski talks about women’s biggest sexual insecurities and generation porn.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/come_as_you_are.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Just a few weeks ago, Sprout Pharmaceuticals submitted flibanserin to the FDA for review. The so-called female desire drug had been rejected twice before, which has led some to charge sexism. Terry O’Neill of the National Organization for Women <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2015/02/18/female_viagra_is_not_the_fix_and_the_fda_s_rejection_of_flibanserin_is_not.html">said</a> of the FDA’s repeated rejections: “I fear that it’s that cultural attitude that men’s sexual health is extremely important, but women’s sexual health is not so important.” But in an <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/27/opinion/nothing-is-wrong-with-your-sex-drive.html?_r=0">Op-Ed</a> recently published in the New York Times, sex educator Emily Nagoski made a different argument: “The biggest problem with the drug — and with the F.D.A.’s consideration of it — is that its backers are attempting to treat something that isn’t a disease.”</p><p>She wasn’t just referring to the fact that hypoactive sexual desire was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders two years ago, although that is certainly of note. Nagoski was also pointing to misconceptions about what constitutes normal desire, especially in women. That misconception is that it is necessarily spontaneous, arising like a boner out of the blue. But the truth is that for many women, desire is responsive. First comes kissing or touching, and then comes sexual desire — and that is perfectly normal. “I can’t count the number of women I’ve talked with who assume that because their desire is responsive, rather than spontaneous, they have ‘low desire,’” she wrote in the Times. “That their ability to enjoy sex with their partner is meaningless if they don’t also feel a persistent urge for it; in short, that they are broken, because their desire isn’t what it’s ‘supposed’ to be.”</p><p>The cure for that isn’t a pill; it’s, as Nagoski put it, “a thoughtful exploration of what creates desire between them and their partners.” Luckily, Nagoski has written an entire book on that very topic, “Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life.” Lots of books — and articles and experts — claim to have the keys to transform your sex life. This one actually has it. It isn’t as fast as taking a pill, but it will last a whole lot longer. You will find no hot new bedroom moves — it’s that deeper-level soul stuff. You know, the stuff that actually works.</p><p>I spoke with Nagoski about women’s biggest sexual insecurities, generation porn and that Idaho lawmaker who doesn’t know how the vagina works.</p><p><strong>You start the book by talking about how almost all sex questions boil down to “Am I normal?” Why is that?</strong></p><p>It took me a long time to figure what an answer to that question might be, and I don’t know that I’m right, but I think when people ask, “Am I normal?” what they really want to know is, “Do I belong here? Am I doing it right? Do I get to be a part of this experience we’re all having here as humans?” With a lot of other behaviors we get to see what other people are doing and we talk in much more open and trustworthy ways about what we experience, but sex is so hidden. When you finally find someone whom you can ask the question, it’s just one opportunity to hear something you can trust. Am I doing this the way we’re all doing it? Am I part of the herd?</p><p>I’m from the generation right before Internet porn and my students, the way they see sex happening, where they see it, is in porn. I have learned that they are doing the stuff they see in porn because that’s what they see and so that’s what they think you do.</p><p><strong>What specifically are women’s biggest concerns when it comes to not being normal?</strong></p><p>Desire, orgasm and genital response or what their genitals look like. Maybe even in that order. Desire is all over the news these days because of the whole filbaserin thing. I’ve been told over and over again that the most important idea in the book and my blog is the concept of “responsive desire.” The science has shown increasingly for the last 20 years that spontaneous out-of-the-blue desire is totally a normal way to experience desire, but it’s not the only way to experience desire. Responsive desire, which comes after arousal has begun, is also 100 percent normal. That sets lots of women free from beating themselves up for not experiencing spontaneous desire.</p><p><strong>How common is responsive desire in women?</strong></p><p>It’s hard to know. The best estimate I can find is about a third of women experience responsive desire primarily. Almost everyone will experience both depending on the context. The traditional narrative would be you experience spontaneous desire when you’re in the hot and heavy falling in love phase of your relationship because the attachment fire burning in your emotional brain is also lighting the sex fire. As you settle into a secure base of attachment that fire isn’t burning as hot, so you shift into a more responsive style of experiencing desire.</p><p><strong>In the book you talk about how for so long we’ve looked at female sexuality as “Men’s Sexuality Lite,” as you put it. Is expecting women to have spontaneous desire a result of that?</strong></p><p>I think so. I think because the majority of men experience desire as spontaneous that’s why we have the expectation to begin with that desire is supposed to come before arousal. The notion that women are supposed to just matches this entire pattern of believing that the way men work is the way women are supposed to work. One of the emails I got in response to my recent New York Times op-ed was from a man who experienced responsive desire and it was just as liberating for him as it was for all the women that I’ve heard from.</p><p><strong>It seems like such an uphill battle to normalize that because the idea of spontaneous desire is so engrained. If you’re not feeling spontaneous desire for your partner they will feel wounded because it must mean you don’t want them. How do you fight that?</strong></p><p>Very slowly. Culture change is always slow and culture change around sex is even slower. We could have begun really creating change in the ’70s when the Hite Report was published. I don’t know how recently you’ve read “The Hite Report,” but there’s a lot of stuff in there that points in the direction of responsive desire. In my class, I read the definitions of normal sex from “The Hite Report” and then another from <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideal_Marriage:_Its_Physiology_and_Technique">van de Velde’s “Ideal Marriage”</a> from 1926. So, one 40 years ago and one 90 years ago, and I asked them which one sounded like what they grew up learning, and hands down no contest it was the 90-year-old definition of what normal sex was. That is despite the fact that all of the science since “The Hite Report” has just increasingly reinforced what Hite’s definition was. But the culture hasn’t changed. I asked them how could the science be in such a different place from where the culture is and they were like, “[Sigh.] The patriarchy.” The necessity of practicing social control in particular over women’s sexual bodies, the imperative of that is so powerful that it keeps the brakes on social progress in a very powerful way.</p><p><strong>While reading the book’s section on basic anatomy, I couldn’t help but think of the Idaho lawmaker who recently demonstrated his belief that women had a direct route from their mouths to their vaginas. How common are these kinds of misconceptions?</strong></p><p>Alarmingly common. I don’t actually know a number, but I teach some of the best prepared, most privileged women who have ever walked the earth and even they during my anatomy lecture sit there with their jaws in their laps about all the things they didn’t know — not so serious as thinking that there’s a link between their digestive tract and their reproductive tract. The internal stuff about the clitoris, all the stuff we have been taught about the hymen, things that should be common knowledge and taught in high school that nobody knows.</p><p><strong>What specifically about the hymen?</strong></p><p>Literally everything. At the end of my very first teaching at Smith, a student raised her hand and said, “What’s the evolutionary origin of the hymen?” It has never even occurred to me. I looked it up — it’s just a byproduct, by the way, a leftover, it doesn’t serve any reproductive purpose — and in the process I also found that everything that I had been taught, even after 15 years as a sex educator, was wrong. The hymen doesn’t break, it stretches — and if it does break it heals. Some people have hymens, some don’t. There are half a dozen kinds of hymens that you can have, all of them are normal. You can have a hymen fully intact, there is no relationship between whether or not your vagina has been penetrated and whether or not you still have a hymen.</p><p><strong>You have something called the “dual control model” when it comes to arousal. Can you explain that?</strong></p><p>You can tell from the name, it has two parts. If I tell you the first part is the sexual accelerator or gas pedal, what does that mean the second part is?</p><p><strong>The brake.</strong></p><p>Gotta be a brake, yeah. The sexual gas pedal responds to all the sexually relevant information around you — everything you see, hear, smell, touch, taste or imagine, it interprets all that information and sends a signal that says, “Turn on.” This is happening right now at a very low level in everybody’s brains. At the same time that that’s happening, in parallel, the brake is noticing all the reasons not to be turned on right now — everything you see hear, smell, touch, taste or imagine, everything from you’re in public sitting on the bus and it’s not appropriate, to “I’m not sure I can trust my partner,” to “I feel self-conscious about my body,” to “I don’t want to get pregnant.” All those things hit the brake and send a signal that says, “Turn off.” Your level of arousal at any given moment is a balance of this on and off. The process of becoming aroused is both turning on the ons and turning off the offs. For a long time, we’ve tried to treat sexual difficulties by trying to increase stimulation to the gas pedal, so all the advice to get a sex toy, watch some porn, put on sexy underwear. More often, sexual difficulties are caused by too much stimulation to the brake and you’re better off not so much focusing on the gas pedal, which is fully functional, but taking stuff away from the brakes so that the gas pedal can do its job.</p><p><strong>While we’re talking about sexual difficulties, you wrote this Op-Ed in the New York Times about the recent flibanserin re-application and you said that the reason this continues to fail is that they’re trying to treat something that isn’t a problem. Is there a subset of women who do need something like “female Viagra”?</strong></p><p>Well, not a female Viagra, not technically. Viagra is an arousal drug, which is to say it’s a genital response drug. Unfortunately there’s not much of a relationship between what’s happening with female genitals and how aroused she feels. Whereas there’s a strong relationship between what male genitals are doing and how aroused he feels. It’s hard to know what the estimate is, it’s probably in the 5 percent vicinity, of women who experience both lack of spontaneous desire and lack of responsive desire. If they’re interested in having desire, then it’d be great if we had effective treatments. There are some: mindfulness and sex education in combination can be effective. Body-based somatic therapies can be effective. Plain old sex education is often effective, and probably therapy.</p><p><strong>Do you think women who are interested in the idea of “female Viagra” or a female desire pill are basically not willing to accept that their sexuality is normal as it is?</strong></p><p>Most of the women who email me, it’s revelatory to understand responsive desire as a normal variation on desire. They love that they’re not sick or broken and all they need to do is think through how to create a great context that allows desire to emerge. I do hear from some women who can acknowledge that responsive desire is the thing they’re experiencing but cannot bring themselves to believe that what they’re experiencing is a normal, healthy thing that is worth experiencing. They just are totally invested in the idea that spontaneous desire is the only way that they can feel normal. That’s a cultural belief that is deeply entrenched.</p><p>If you try on the possibility that responsive desire is normal and healthy and you don’t need to be experiencing spontaneous desire, if you could just for a second try it on, what would it be like? What would happen next? What would it be like for you to be a sexual person, who would you be? You would not be the sexual person that you imagine yourself being, this sort of phantom sexual self that you have in mind and that you want a drug to help you achieve, you’d be a different sexual person. You would be the sexual person that you actually are. I say over and over in the book: confidence and joy, confidence and joy. I never really get specific, but for me, confidence comes from knowing what’s true about your body, which might be responsive desire, and joy comes from loving what’s true. I think the loving is actually more difficult for some people, recognizing that your sexuality may never be the thing you were taught it was supposed to be and believing that what your body actually is is totally acceptable and is in fact better than the lie you were told.</p><p><strong>What is your best sex advice for women?</strong></p><p>Enjoy the sex you are having. As a culture we talk about how much sex you desire or not and how much sex you have or not. We don’t talk about how much sex you’re enjoying. What does it feel like? Pleasure is not simple. It’s about creating a context that allows pleasure to emerge. When pleasure is your focus instead of specific behaviors, the other pieces begin to assemble themselves on their own.</p><p> </p> Fri, 06 Mar 2015 07:10:00 -0800 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1032870 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Books Gender Sex & Relationships sex women Emily Nagoski desire myths insecurties The Most Annoying Things Married People Tell Single People http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/most-annoying-things-married-people-tell-single-people <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Newly-engaged Lady Gaga reached out to Taylor Swift with the kind of smug platitude that single women hate.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/879c033daa652eec8334051a4a3191c0593ebc45.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The other day, a single friend Gchatted me, “WHERE IS MY BOYFRIEND WHERE IS HE.” I confidently replied with something along the lines of, “I PROMISE that you will find your person. I am 100 percent certain of this.” How easy it was to say now that I’m married. Just a couple years ago, I was sending this very pal frenzied Gchats about how my eggs were shriveling and all the good men had already been taken and fuck all these Facebook engagement photos and “AHHHHHHH!!!!!!”</p><p>I thought of that conversation this week when Taylor Swift tweeted something about how the newly-engaged Lady Gaga seemed to be “fully LIVING right now” and the 28-year-old singer responded, in part, “Your prince charming will come!” I recognized something of myself in Gaga’s tweet — not the “prince charming” bit, because those words would never come out of my mouth, but rather the settled-person smugness of it. I’m only just over a year into my marriage and already dispensing knowing advice to single friends – as though getting hitched were an accomplishment, one based on merit or skill, about which I was now an expert.</p><p>But of course I and so many other women end up here: Straight single ladies in our culture are besieged with grave warnings about how and when to partner up. Disconcertingly contradictory advice abounds — whether it’s snagging a husband in college or settling for Mr. Good Enough. If and when we do wife up, it’s tempting to believe that we’ve achieved some mastery over that particular cultural gallows. The truth is that for the most part we married people have simply lucked out, but we delude ourselves into believing otherwise. That’s why you find so many of us delivering such awful platitudes — and that’s why I decided to talk to some single women about just that.</p><p>Eve, a 29-year-old who describes herself as a “perpetually single gal who has been on the market since 2007,” finds little comfort in her partnered friends’ assurances that she will someday find the right person. “My coupled friends have loads of encouragement and confidence in my eventual mate-finding,” she wrote in an email. “They have no doubt this dude/gal will appear, and he/she will be just right!” This is nice and all, but she says, “Somehow their confidence never seems to translate to my feeling comforted or really heard.”</p><p>What she would like to hear from her coupled friends, but rarely ever does is that “their having found love has nothing to do with them being more virtuous, more desirable, or more ‘together’ than me, their single friend.” She explains, “It really has to do with chance, timing, dumb luck. That’s something I have to remind myself often so I don’t go crazy with self-doubt.” Her single friends — and, of course, her mom — are quick to remind her of this, but not her coupled friends. Eve would like to see the narrative shift from “‘One day your Prince will come, and you’ll be just as happy as I am’ to ‘This love stuff is such a fluke, and I certainly don’t have all the answers. Tell me more about what it’s been like for you,’” she says.</p><p>My friend Katherine, 36, says her hitched friends offer blindingly obvious pointers like, “Oh, I hear a lot of people meet people online.” Then there are the folks who she senses feel sorry for her and “always want to talk about how I have it so great being single,” she says. “‘You’re so lucky! Don’t ever get married!’” But she sympathizes with these advice-givers. “No one knows what to say to someone like me who wants to be married and have children but hasn’t yet, and has no prospects,” she says. “Everything anyone says can seem sort of trite, even if it has the best intentions behind it.” There is one exception, though: “Very, very rarely do I get, ‘Your life is pretty great so far, despite not getting married,’” she said — at which point I had to stop our official interview and tell her just that, because it’s true.</p><p>Another friend, Elissa, also finds these married-people banalities unbearable. “They say, ‘It happens when you least expect it,’ as if I shouldn’t be actively pursuing it,” she says. “People don’t know what to say so they say, ‘I think it’s really true that — insert cliche.’” Elissa also says attached people try to blame her for her singlehood: “Are you not getting out enough? Are your standards too high? Are you closed off?”</p><p>Similarly, Alexandra Drucker, a single 26-year-old writer, says engaged or married friends most often tell her things like, “Join a club or go places where you’ll meet guys with similar interests!” She says, “In theory, this is a great idea, but if I were to join a club whose primary activities include watching ‘Downton Abbey’ and overanalyzing other people’s text messages, I’ll probably be single forever.” On a similar note, a woman wrote to me on Twitter, “If one more person tells me that there’s a lid for every pot or that I just need to put myself out there… .”</p><p>With chestnuts like that, it’s no surprise that these women tend to find greater comfort from fellow singles. “They are so much more likely to say, ‘Yes, it is rough here in the trenches, and who knows if there’s any reward in it! Still we soldier on,’” says Eve. “Bleak maybe, but validating definitely.” Plus, when her partnered friends aren’t being effusive about how absolutely 100 percent certain they are that she will to meet her match, Eve finds herself “the default teller-of-funny-dating stories that my coupled friends can hear, laugh at, and not-so-tacitly squeeze each others’ hands under the table in joint relief that they found each other.”</p><p>I’m pretty familiar with this dynamic: Just the other day, a friend sent me screenshots of absurd Tinder come-ons, which my husband and I cracked up about — until we looked at each other with big scared eyes that said, “Thank god we don’t have to do that.” It just goes to show the absurdity of coupled people acting as experts on finding love: Even those of us who have partnered up still look to the dating scene with terror, because on some level we know the truth: It isn’t that we’ve mastered it, we’ve just lucked out of it.</p><p> </p> Wed, 04 Mar 2015 12:35:00 -0800 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1032777 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships love romance relationships marriage Taylor Swift Lady Gaga “I’m Hung Like a Hamster”: Meet a Man With a Micropenis http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/im-hung-hamster-meet-man-micropenis <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">His penis was just as he described it: “tiny but cute.”</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_91090865-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Lately, I have been emailing a lot with a man with a micropenis. Chris, a 53-year-old who works in financial services in Chicago, first wrote me in response to an article of mine on how <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/09/10/the_real_story_of_how_women_evaluate_mens_junk/">women evaluate men’s junk</a>. “Put bluntly, I have a micropenis,” this complete stranger revealed to me. “Think the size and shape of a sewing thimble soft, wine cork erect.” He continued, “My scrotum is sized to match, no tragedy, just unusual on a tall and fit adult man who appears normal and healthy in every other way.”</p><p>“No tragedy” is a common refrain of his, even as he compares his penis to that of a toddler or a hamster.</p><p>Of course, I had to start an email back-and-forth with Chris. I find men’s relationships with their penises fascinating. I’ve written about a man with two schlongs, <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/08/19/the_best_sex_tips_youll_ever_hear_from_a_man_with_no_penis/">one with none</a>, another with the world’s <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/08/13/id_go_out_in_public_wearing_tight_pants_to_shock_people_life_as_the_man_with_the_worlds_largest_penis/">largest member</a> and then there’s the guy whose Johnson <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/09/25/my_kids_asked_why_i_was_on_tv_a_chat_and_a_cry_with_the_man_who_cant_stop_orgasming/">ejaculates uncontrollably</a> 100 times day. It’s like a dirty Dr. Seuss book: One dick, two dicks, huge dick, no dick! And now: micro-dick.</p><p>It was the first time Chris had talked in depth with someone about his micropenis and he had lots to say — about losing his virginity, locker room ribbing and an ex-wife who left by telling him his penis was inadequate. I was struck by his utter lack of resentment and self-pity, even when talking about sexual rejection. Eventually, he offered to send me a photo of the subject of our discussion and I accepted. I received a full body shot of him wearing only an unbuttoned baseball jersey and an uneasy expression. His penis was just as he described it: “tiny but cute.”</p><p><strong>When did you first realize that you had a micropenis?</strong></p><p>I observed very clearly at age 6, while changing clothes in the locker room of a large municipal pool in connection with my first swimming lessons, that my penis was significantly smaller than those of the other boys my age. I had no idea at the time of the social and sexual implications that would arise later, but I knew that this was the most prominent physical sign of maleness, and I sensed that it was a bad thing for a boy to have a small one. At that point, I expected that I’d grow and catch up. The rest of me did grow, rather nicely, but not down there. My testicles descended enough at puberty for development and fertility, but my testes and scrotum remained very small. My penis remained, and still is today, the exact same size that it was when it looked so small on me when I was a little boy.</p><p>I realized at age 19 that I’d grown into the body of a nice-looking young man, that I was finished growing, and that my lack of penile growth was likely permanent. I knew that I had a significantly undersized penis, but I’d not yet heard the term “micropenis,” nor considered it a medically treatable condition in any way. When I was 25 years of old, I was referred to a urologist for a non-STD infection that wasn’t clearing up on its own. I didn’t go to him for anything related to penis size and I didn’t ask about it. As he examined me, he told me that I have a “micropenis.” I’ll always remember his exact words that followed as he pulled, rolled, and pinched my penis in the gloved fingers of one hand: “…formation unremarkable, function normal, dimensions infantile.” That last word hung in the air.</p><p>He told me that my family pediatrician should have referred my parents to a pediatric endocrinologist or urologist, and that hormone treatments just before or at puberty sometimes are effective and should have been tried. He said that I was at least 10 years too late for that and what I had is all I would ever have down there. He considered it an unacceptable condition for an adolescent male not to have some conservative medical intervention and to face adulthood with a penis my size.</p><p><strong>Did your parents have any awareness that you penis was abnormally small?</strong></p><p>It was a different time. Today, I know that many parents panic if their son has a noticeably small penis, concerned that it will ruin his life. I don’t think that my parents ever knew. They had five children, and probably never saw me naked after I could bathe and dress myself, probably somewhere around age 4. My father was a World War II U.S. Army veteran who had to fight his way across the Pacific and who had seen men standing next to him blown to bits or cut in half by shrapnel. I knew my penis was small, but I never told my father that I was concerned or tried to talk with him about it. I thought he’d consider it a frivolous concern, and he likely would have. There was no one I could talk with about it as a child, or until well into adulthood.</p><p><strong>What did that first realization that you had a micropenis feel like?</strong></p><p>The realization at age 6 was one of mild shame and I began hiding my nakedness from others’ eyes as much as possible. The realization at age 19 that I was finished growing, and that my penis hadn’t grown at all and likely wouldn’t, came with some early and limited kind of acceptance.</p><p><strong>Did other boys ever comment on it in the locker room?</strong></p><p>Absolutely. I went to an all-male high school and we were required to swim nude in gym class. [Ed. note: Yes, <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5597441">this was a thing</a>.] For four years, one week out of every four involved 50-minutes per day nude with random groupings of peers. We lined up to use the diving board, lined up waiting to use a lane, lined up for roll call — large penises hanging down, medium penises at a downward angle, small penises pointed straight out and then there was me, practically an innie.</p><p>Unfortunately for me, news of the size of my penis didn’t stay in the swimming pool, nor within the walls of the school. The girls at our sister school all knew who the larger guys were, and they all had heard about me. There were nicknames with hand gestures and whispers and giggles at social and sporting events. It was universally known for three of my four years of high school that I had the smallest penis in the whole school. I was totally undatable.</p><p>Kids tease each other for all sorts of things and I wasn’t the only one who got teased. In my case, though, it did go straight to the issue of physical sexual sufficiency and I never knew how or when someone might bring it up in front of others. For example, a guy refers to me as “Tiny Tim,” and one of a group of girls says, if it isn’t already clear from the context, “Why do you call him that?” No matter how it plays out, I’m about to turn red, go silent and have a group of peers laughing about my having an unusually small penis.</p><p>It was difficult, but we gain agency and control as we get older. Now, the only people who see me nude and learn this about me are the people I choose, the occasional medical procedure excepted.</p><p><strong>How did having a micropenis impact your feelings about sex and becoming sexually active?</strong></p><p>I was terrified. When I began to attract a new kind of attention from girls and began dating at age 16, I definitely wasn’t pursuing sex in the way that my male friends were. I was terrified that passionate kissing would lead a date to slip her hand down the front of my pants or strip me for sex, and eventually that did happen. I was afraid that the bubble of excitement would burst when they learned my “little secret,” and sometimes it did.</p><p><strong>How did you lose your virginity?</strong></p><p>I lost my virginity at age 17 and my girlfriend was also a virgin. Her friends had told her it would hurt the first time and my friends had generally described their first experiences with intercourse as being tight and uncomfortable, particularly for the girls. I guess I expected the same and I know that my girlfriend did. She didn’t know that my penis was so small, and one night she initiated and I didn’t back off that time.</p><p>It was a disappointing experience for both of us, as I slipped in and she didn’t feel much. As happens with men who have small penises and don’t know how to use them, I also slipped out frequently, which is not a woman’s favorite thing. The condom kept slipping off also. Not knowing what else to do, sensing that she wasn’t enjoying the experience at all and feeling pressure and mild panic, I lost my erection, and remained motionless on top of her, and in her, for what seemed like eternity, but was probably another 15 minutes. I knew that if either of us moved at all, my penis would slip out and I’d never get it back in.</p><p>I wasn’t even sure that I was still in, but I didn’t want to pull away from her hips anyway. She hadn’t seen me yet and I was panicked that the first time she’d see me when I was small and soft — thimble-size — which is exactly what she saw when we did pull apart and dress. She didn’t say anything about it right then, but she stared and her mouth hung open.</p><p>During a conversation shortly thereafter, at the restaurant where she and I worked part-time, we were talking with a group of her girlfriends, all waitresses, and one of them, talking to her, referred to me as “your man.” She said: “He’s not a man; he’s just a little boy.” They knew we were dating. There was silence for a few seconds and then my girlfriend began to laugh, and they all laughed. I thought I might vomit.</p><p>I learned to be very careful from then on, and I never chased women just to get them into bed.</p><p><strong>When did you start telling partners ahead of time?</strong></p><p>I didn’t learn how to bring it up or make that essential disclosure until I was in my late-20s, when I began dating again after my first wife left me, having informed me that she had found an apartment and would be moving out, that we would be getting a divorce, that my penis was way too small to satisfy her sexual needs and that she had already begun dating other men.</p><p>The fact that my penis is so small is never quite as bad as the surprise of it, in a moment of passion and intimate discovery. As a couple complete that dance toward sex for the first time, a man shouldn’t surprise a woman with a large open sore on his penis, and for mostly the same reasons, he shouldn’t surprise her with a 2-inch erection either. Trust is the lifeblood of any relationship, and hoping to keep the lights off and that she won’t notice that I’m hung like a toddler is a form of deception, or it’s likely to be perceived that way, fairly so. Similarly, an acknowledgment from her of my small size is much better for me and for building trust than would telling me: “no, it’s nice” or “it’s a good size” with an expression of disappointment on her face and in her voice.</p><p><strong>So how have you made the disclosure?</strong></p><p>For me it’s usually a two-stage process. Depending on the woman and the situation, I can hint as part of flirtation, like saying something indirect like referring to myself as “a little guy,” or saying something about ancient Greek statues, or just directly say that I have a small penis, sometimes qualified with “very small.” Before I learned how to bring this up, but after I learned that it was necessary, I’d sometimes try to include a swim in a date. It’s certain we’d be checking each other out, and a pair of wet swim shorts doesn’t tell the whole story, but it tells most of it, if a guy is hung like a horse, or hung, as I am, like a hamster.</p><p>The second stage occurs later and is necessary, because saying “small” to a woman is usually understood relative to previous partners or men she’s otherwise seen nude. It’s highly improbable that she’s ever known a man, or even seen a picture of a man, with a penis my size. She’s likely thinking of something like a roll of quarters, when I’m trying to tell her that we have half of a roll of nickels to work with down there.</p><p><strong>How have your partners reacted?</strong></p><p>No matter how tactful I try to be, or clear on the fact that it’s an honest admission that I think I should share, a couple of women have taken offense. One went from romantic cuddling to saying in an unhappy voice: “You think I’m going to have sex with you now?” Another woman was offended that she thought I was suggesting that she was shallow and superficial.</p><p>The most common reactions with disclosure were very positive and honest, the best being: “Well, it’s not ideal, but I’m sure we’ll both find ways to have fun with it.” Another favorite, as improbable as it may sound: “Our sexual organs are mismatched, but I’m sure you’ve found other ways to please your ladies.” One woman told me at the moment of disclosure that she’d probably spank me for it. She said it teasingly and playfully, and I found the thought strangely arousing. Later, she did just that, had me strip and stand before her, and she spanked me for bringing her something so small to play with. We both loved it and that union was very creative in many ways. One disclosure led my new relationship partner to say, “Fine, I’ll treat it like I would a clit.” That thinking worked very well.</p><p>The most common reaction without disclosure was a look of concern and disappointment, along with the question, exact same words more than once: “Why is it so small?” Clearly, they were hoping I’d say it was about to pop out like a turkey timer. At that point, it was always my full erection, and the only answer I could offer was: “It just is.” The breakdown in trust, and the diminished excitement at this turn of events, was always evident.</p><p><strong>What is your personal life like now — romantically and sexually?</strong></p><p>I’m married for the second time, with two children — conceived in the usual way — now on the cusp of adulthood. I learned when single that dating co-workers would eventually lead to me being known around the office as the guy with the tiny penis, so I had sense not to do that more than once. Overall, I’ve had a romantically and sexually satisfying adult life, and I’ve pleased some women very well, and disappointed others who needed what I didn’t have, what I couldn’t do. At least one former girlfriend would probably consider me to be among her best lovers.</p><p>My wife and I are monogamous, and we have trust and good conversation. She’s never been either thrilled or disgusted with the small size of my penis, but women give penises far less thought anyway than we men do. Sexually, we have our hot and cool periods, depending on what’s going on in the rest of life, but the door is always open. One of us just has to walk through it and the other is on the other side ready to put down whatever book is in hand and to begin kissing, touching or telling me to “work that little penis.”</p><p><strong>Do you worry about or avoid urinating in public bathrooms with urinals?</strong></p><p>I may be a bit of an outlier here, especially as a man with an undersized penis, but, for me, the relief of emptying a full bladder and relieving that pressure far outweighs the anxiety of being seen.</p><p>There is one exception: When I’ve been outside in the cold or exercising, or for a variety of other reasons, my penis retracts completely. When that happens, after I lower my zipper at the urinal, I have to manipulate my penis with my fingertips to get it to extend to the point at which it’s long enough to clear my zipper opening and direct the stream of fluid. Otherwise, I could just begin urinating, but my fully retracted penis would send the stream in no particular or predictable direction; like a woman trying to use a urinal, the only predictive force or direction would be gravity. Consequently, it’s always awkward for me when that happens, standing next to another man at a urinal, fumbling within my zipper opening, searching with my fingertips for my hidden and retracted penis, and trying to press the pubic pad and and stroke my penis a bit so that there’s something to hold and point. A man’s supposed to be able to find his penis without searching, and most can, but not always me.</p><p><strong>How pleasurable is sex for you? Do you ever worry that you’re missing out?</strong></p><p>Sexual contact is very pleasurable for me, both the emotional intimacy and the physical sensations. Mostly, I like pleasing a partner. When it comes to vaginal penetrative intercourse, the lack of sensation and stimulation is mutual. Neither of us is ever going to have an orgasm that way, not without the additional use of fingers or other additional stimulation. The old line about a large-small mismatch being “like throwing a hotdog down a hallway” is true. The hallway doesn’t feel much, of course, but neither does the hotdog.</p><p>I do regret not being able to deliver more vaginal pleasure with my penis alone, but I understand that most women don’t have orgasms from that kind of penetration alone. Still, it would be nice to deliver that gentle pressure against a woman’s cervix and to stimulate the nerve endings around it, to give her a full feeling with my natural penis alone, but I can’t. It’s just part of life. I’ve never been anywhere near a woman’s cervix. I can learn new languages, and I do pretty well in three of them, but I’ve never gotten very far with three others that I’ve tried: Japanese, Arabic and Greek. I’ll never give a woman toe-curling screaming orgasms through penetrative intercourse alone and I’ll probably never be fluent in Japanese. No tragedy there.</p><p><strong>I tend to think that people who face what are seen as sexual deficiencies — say, the man with no penis who recently did a Reddit AMA — can offer some of the very best sex advice. What is yours?</strong></p><p>I read your article and I found his positive attitude to be very similar to mine. My advice to men out there is to view sex as a spice of life, an element of a relationship based on trust and good conversation. When it comes to that sexual element, I’ve learned that indulging my own kinks and interests is a prize that a woman will gladly let me claim after I’ve satisfied her needs and wants well first. I enjoy long lovemaking and orgasms aren’t everything, but I generally want to ensure that a woman has two before I seek to pursue one of my own. Alternatively, sometimes, the greatest sexual gift a man can give a woman at the end of a long and tiring day isn’t a sexual marathon requiring extensive cleanup afterwards. It’s to treat her kindly, to guide her to an orgasm in her favorite way and let her drift off to sleep immediately afterward, without having to worry about pleasing him physically right then. It’s a gift I have enjoyed giving, and one that’s been appreciated.</p><p><strong>Do you watch porn much? How do you feel about the emphasis on big dicks?</strong></p><p>I do enjoy porn for the same main reason other men do: masturbatory fantasy. I’ve lived in a world surrounded by men more generously endowed than I am and that may be why large-dick porn doesn’t particularly appeal to me. It’s my everyday reality. There are two places with active and advanced porn industries for consumption in the domestic market where men don’t tend to be large. Russia is flooded with porn, and the men tend to be of all sizes, and without a size obsession like we have in the U.S. The other place is Japan, where most of the women are still unshaven and the men appearing often have penises that are quite small. There doesn’t seem to be any penis-size stigma there.</p><p>The porn I most enjoy is Japanese porn, seeing an attractive woman squealing with delight while being dicked by a man with a small penis. I also enjoy, as strange as it may seem, porn featuring small penis humiliation and small penis teasing. It seems that I’ve sexualized some of life’s early unpleasantness and now it’s capable of generating great sexual energy for me. As a fantasy in porn or as sexual play with my wife, I enjoy it very much. We humans can sexualize any kind of fear or pain, and fear of rejection, of being judged sexually inadequate, of being told that my penis is too small, all can be used to harness sexual power, under the right circumstances.</p><p><strong>Have you compensated for your micropenis in the bedroom in any ways?</strong></p><p>I’ve found things that work for me, that compensate. I view vaginal penetrative intercourse as an appetizer or a dessert and never as a main course. I have 10 fingers and a tongue, a fit body and a creative mind, and I use them all. I experiment, respond to her pleasure signals and deny myself initially. Although exceptionally small, I can stay hard for hours when appropriate and have very good control over my ejaculation and release. Any man can do an Internet search for “sex positions for small penis” and find some very solid ideas.</p><p>Rather than insert my penis, it works much better if I hold my hard penis in my fingertips and rub her vulva with it. Giving attention to her clitoris, labia and vaginal opening, about all I can reach anyway, has worked very well. I’ve used penis extender sleeves to good effect. They eliminate all surface sensation for me, but I sense a squeezing that I would never otherwise feel during intercourse and I like that the motion is mine and my penis is inside of it, delivering deeper and more filling sensations than nature equipped me to do unassisted.</p><p>After a certain age, maybe mid-20s, women tend not to divulge too many details of their sex lives and partners’ equipment to anyone other than very close friends, if anyone. However, men should expect that being extremely large, extremely small, curved at a very strange angle or otherwise highly remarkable sex is going to merit mention over drinks with the girls from time to time, at any age. Over a pitcher of margaritas, I always expected that women would say something about my highly unusual penis. Because it seemed inevitable, I wanted it to be accompanied by a satisfied smile, a faraway look and a comment like, “he’s got a really little dick, but he sure knows how to use what he has.”</p><p> </p> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 11:37:00 -0800 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1032377 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Gender Sex & Relationships penis micropenis erection sex Sex Orgies of the 1 Percent: What Really Happens When the Rich and Powerful Gather For Group Sex http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/sex-orgies-1-percent-what-really-happens-when-rich-and-powerful-gather-group <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Dominique Strauss-Kahn trial depicts events of force and coercion, but most sex parties aren&#039;t like that.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/wolf_of_wall_street10.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The recent pimping trial against Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been filled with lurid details about forced anal, rough sex and hired women, whom the former International Monetary Fund chief reportedly referred to as “equipment.” One woman infamously described the scene at these parties as “carnage with mattresses piled on the floor.”</p><p>This follows on the heels of a federal lawsuit alleging that New York financier Jeffrey Epstein instructed an underage girl to have sex with Prince Andrew on three occasions, including during an alleged underage sex party on Epstein’s private Caribbean island. This case too has salacious details about hidden cameras, sex tapes of powerful men and a private jet nicknamed the “Lolita Express” by locals.</p><p>These cases, filled with allegations of coercion and force, do not exactly give sex parties a good name. I had to wonder: How representative are they of the bacchanalia of rich and famous men? I spoke with Katherine Frank, a cultural anthropologist at American University and author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Plays-Well-Groups-Journey-Through/dp/1442218681">“Plays Well in Groups: A Journey Through the World of Group Sex,”</a> about Mötley Crüe orgies and erotic bashes in the Hamptons — but also flyover state swingers and how the world of group sex can serve to give average people a taste of fame.</p><p><strong>How do the allegations of what took place at DSK’s events compare to the broader sex party scene?</strong></p><p>As for the allegation of rough sex, when you’ve got lifestyle couples and men are with other men’s wives, the sex is going to be really respectful. That’s an important element of it: You have the spouses looking out for each other. In a situation like this, it sounds like the women were not necessarily connected to the men there, so if there was rough sex, or boundaries being crossed, they didn’t have anyone to stand up for them there.</p><p>In response to DSK’s claim that he went to 12 parties in three years, people were acting like that was so many, but really it’s just a niche world. You could, if you were dialed into it, go to a sex party every weekend. Not everyone does, but if that’s your form of recreation, it’s just looked at really differently. Some of his comments were really interesting in that way. He was really talking about it in terms of recreation and play, just like lifestylers would.</p><p>There’s all this judgment in the media about the lifestyle being all about casual sex — that if someone did go to a party every weekend that would mean they were highly promiscuous. But there’s so much more than sex going on and your partners might be the same couple, you might only sleep with one couple for a year. Whenever it comes out in terms of a scandal, the focus stays on the scandalous and it’s hard then to talk about all these other things that get wrapped up into the sex partying.</p><p><strong>How common is prostitution at the sex parties of the rich and famous?</strong></p><p>The one thing that was striking to me was that DSK kept defending himself as a swinger. In lifestyle or swingers parties, prostitution happens, but it’s going to be pretty rare; people really look down on it. In terms of the wealthy or famous guys, there are so many groupies that are willing to sleep with them for free, too. You could very easily be at a party where none of the women were being paid. On the other hand, I have heard stories of men arranging — just like the guys said they did for DSK — a bunch of escorts to have sex or go on a trip for the weekend. Anywhere I’ve been with wealthy, powerful men, there are women who want to sleep with them.</p><p>Sex is also a form of recreation that people engage in in all social classes, but certainly having the wealth and the privacy makes it even more accessible if that’s your thing. DSK had a private apartment to have his parties in. Would every guy do that if they had the money to do that?</p><p><strong>That was a question I wanted to ask you. We hear about rich, powerful men and group sex a lot — is that a mere function of the access that they have or is there something about being rich and powerful that draws them to such things?</strong></p><p>I think it’s a great question. One of the things I would say is for men who pursue the lifestyle or swinging in the U.S., that’s sort of the way to have the life of someone who is rich and famous without having to be rich or famous. Some of the parties are really designed to be the rock-star experience. They’ll have a red carpet, they’ll have the VIP line. The themes of the parties will have people dress like movie stars or really elaborate outfits, things you could never wear in your regular life. By having these weekends, not only can they go away and have a little bit of luxury and sleep with four or five women, but they can also have this rock-star experience that other people only hear about through these scandals.</p><p><strong>The recent Jeffrey Epstein case allegedly involved “sex parties” — scare quotes, because according to the allegations they sound more like “rape parties” — with underage girls. Have you heard about underage “sex parties” like this?</strong></p><p>In terms of underage, no.</p><p><strong>How do the sex parties of the rich and famous differ from those of us, you know, commoners?</strong></p><p>A lot of people who are into sex parties are concerned about their privacy. You can’t even say that the famous guys are more concerned about their privacy and have more to lose, because a lot of people have something to lose, because it’s a pretty stigmatized thing to do still. That said, if you go to a lifestyle party or smaller town maybe somebody will be taking pictures and trying to expose you but probably not. Whereas Prince Harry, when he was partying in Vegas, people snapped pictures and spread them around. I wrote a little bit in the book about Sir Ivan’s castle, where I’ve been a number of times. He has a castle in the Hamptons where there are erotic parties and he has a no-cellphone rule that is really strictly enforced.</p><p><strong>Are there differences in the sex parties of, say, rock stars compared to politicians? Or, when it comes to group sex, is everyone sort of in it for the same thing?</strong></p><p>The texture of parties are going to differ whether it’s a group of ravers after a whole night of doing drugs and dancing, or a group of parents in Ohio who want to get home by midnight. No sex party is ever all about sex. It’s also about how you like to socialize and the music you like and are you a drinker or are you doing E? Probably there are some rich and famous sex parties that are like the swingers in Ohio getting home early and some that are more crazy and they’re up all night like Mötley Crüe trashing the room and doing cocaine.</p><p>If you’re high-profile, you may have less of a choice. You can’t go to Vegas and say, “I want to go to the lifestyle convention this weekend and wear silver booty shorts and run around the pool at the Hard Rock.” Lifestylers meet each other on websites or at parties. There’s a party almost every weekend in a big city. People who are higher profile don’t have that luxury. You can’t just go to a party and try to meet sex partners there.</p><p>I remember being at parties before where people were talking and saying, “Maybe our life is better than the rich and famous, just because of the freedom.” No one knows who you are. There are a lot of people in military and government, jobs that are pretty powerful but where they’re not necessarily recognized by everyone and they can move around those worlds easier than someone whose picture has been all over.</p><p> </p> Fri, 20 Feb 2015 12:00:00 -0800 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1032189 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships sex parties orgies wealthy elite The Fascinating Reason More Women Are Flocking to Porn http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/fascinating-reason-more-women-are-flocking-porn <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A new study shows a peculiar &quot;gateway&quot; to porn. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/fifty_shades_of_grey.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Just ahead of the release of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey,” new research has found that the book that inspired it all is a kind of gateway drug for — dun, dun, dun — pornography. Somebody go alert the anti-porn organization National Center on Sexual Exploitation, formerly known as Morality in Media, which is already <a href="http://endsexualexploitation.org/fiftyshadesgrey/">campaigning against</a> the book and movie! This finding comes courtesy of Diana Parry, an associate professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies (yes, that is a thing) at the University of Waterloo (yes, that is a thing too, in Canada). After qualitative research into women’s experiences with “Fifty Shades” and sexually explicit material online, she’s concluded that the book has turned women onto porn in a big way.</p><p>Now, keep in mind that she defines porn in the broadest possible terms, so it’s not necessarily that “Fifty Shades” is singlehandedly driving PornHub traffic. What we’re really talking about here is how this crazy cultural phenomenon of a book has driven women to seek out sexually explicit content of all sorts — but especially sexually explicit content that is targeted to them, as opposed to men. Parry also has a compelling argument for why we should try to erase the dichotomy between erotica and porn in the first place. I gave her a call to talk about why the book has driven women to look for sexy stuff online, the explosion of feminist porn and how the “Fifty Shades” movie is “busting the myth” that women only like erotica.</p><p><strong>Tell me about how this research got started.</strong></p><p>It started with research that we did looking at the book “Fifty Shades of Grey.” My collaborator, Tracy Penny Light, and I had heard about all of these women reading this book — my sister called me up and said, “Have you read this book? You’ve gotta read this book!” I felt conflicted, we both felt conflicted, about reading the book, because, as feminist scholars, we weren’t sure if we would be able to engage in and enjoy the book without critiquing it. On the one hand, we saw the liberatory nature of this book — it got women thinking about their sexuality, it got women talking about their sexuality, it got women engaged in conversations around sexual practices that were based on <em>their own</em> desires — and yet the scripts that were in the book were so patriarchal and could potentially be harmful to women’s understandings of their sexuality. So, we published a paper that unpacked the book and looked at it from a liberatory perspective and also a constraining perspective. I like that — I don’t think the book is good, I don’t think the book is bad, I think it’s complex.</p><p>One of the things that jumped out at us from that research was that so many of the women [we interviewed] were hopping in for the first time to pornography or sexually explicit material that was written by women for women. It got women moving from the book into consuming other types of books, but also sexually explicit material that’s online. So we embarked on [this latest] study where we interviewed 28 women who ranged in age from their twenties to their fifties around their pornography consumption patterns.</p><p><strong>What is the connection between reading “Fifty Shades” and then seeking out online pornography?</strong></p><p>I find it’s motivating women. It is exposing them to a genre of material that they either didn’t know existed or they didn’t know that they liked — but they’re reading the book and then they’re curious. They want to know more. They want to see what else is out there, so they’re going online to find that material. It’s really motivating women to look for sexually explicit material online.</p><p><strong>Are we talking about erotica? Are we talking about visual X-rated material?</strong></p><p>There’s a tension there between what is erotica and what is pornography. There’s gonna be different boundaries drawn around that term depending on who you talk to. What we’ve decided to do is sidestep and label it as sexually explicit material. The book would fall into that and then material online would also fall into that.</p><p><strong>What about specifically X-rated videos, what did you find in terms of the relationship between the book and seeking that stuff out in particular?</strong></p><p>We’re still analyzing that data, so I need look into what women are actually conceptualizing as X-rated material. That’s an interesting analysis onto itself. But we did find women are going online and looking at all sorts of material. They’re looking at things like the Good For Her website, which we worked with to recruit a number of our participants, they’re also going to PornHub, some of them are going to sites that they learned of through male heterosexual partners. But women are going online to consume sexually explicit material, whether or not it’s X-rated I think is open to interpretation, by the women, by me, by you. That’s why we sidestep that.</p><p><strong>That’s interesting. I guess in my question, I was basically saying, “What about <em>actual</em> porn?” That thinking is such a product of our culture, just in terms of viewing what has traditionally been male sexual entertainment as the <em>real</em> stuff, you know?</strong></p><p>Yeah, although I think one thing that’s come out of this is that women are now producing and consuming and discussing porn with their own sexual interests in mind. For example, in April there is the Feminist Porn Awards, and that’s for pornography made through a feminist lens. It’s no longer solely about heterosexual male desire and that’s one of the interesting components of this, it’s women taking their own sexuality into their own hands. While they may be consuming things that were initially produced for a heterosexual male audience they’re also consuming feminist porn.</p><p><strong>The common wisdom is that women prefer written explicit material over X-rated visuals — is that true from what you’ve found?</strong></p><p>Women like both. Some women seek out the literary stuff, but they are also going online and seeking out visual pornography. I think that is part of the draw of the movie. Women are actually going to the movie and it’s a sexually explicit movie. So, I think that’s one of the ways the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie is sort of busting the myth that women only like literary porn. A lot of women do like visual porn too.</p><p><strong>Do women look for different things from erotica as opposed to porn?</strong></p><p>I think that gets back into the erotica-X-rated binary. Part of what we’re trying to do is trouble that binary. What we’ve learned from the “Fifty Shades of Grey” study that we did is that not all women want to call that book pornography, not all women want to call it erotica. So what we’re trying to do is initiate a conversation around women desires and frame it as sexually explicit material because we don’t want people necessarily focus on is it porn or is it erotica? In some ways that serves to reproduce some of the shame of consuming it. They feel okay maybe consuming it if it’s labeled erotica, but not if it’s labeled pornography.</p><p><strong>There’s a lot of speculation about whether the “Fifty Shades” movie will be a date movie or a girls’ night flick. Any thoughts on that?</strong></p><p>It’s interesting in the way the book has been framed as pornography written by women for women but the movie is being released on Valentine’s Day which is a traditional day around heterosexual romance. I think there’s a real tension there.</p><p><strong>It seems we’re in a unique time in terms of pop culture targeting female sexual desires — I’m thinking not just of “Fifty Shades” but also TV shows like “Outlander” and then of course there was the recent trailer for the “Magic Mike” sequel, which set the entire Internet aflame. Is that true?</strong></p><p>Yeah, I think what makes it interesting for me is the way that women’s sexuality is being acknowledged, not necessarily through a male partner but her own sexuality, women taking their own sexuality into their own hands. It’s an interesting moment to look at women’s sexuality as represented in mass media or pop culture or films like “Fifty Shades of Grey” or various TV shows. But I think we need a cautionary note around it, because while they open up opportunities and provide women with unprecedented access to new genres or ways of thinking about their sexuality, at the same time, many of the scripts that are reproduced are really patriarchal scripts around women’s sexuality. So, again, we want to look at the complexity that underlies women’s consumption of sexually explicit material. It’s not all good, it’s not all bad.</p><p> </p> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 12:45:00 -0800 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1031796 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Culture Gender Sex & Relationships 50 shades of grey women pornography erotica The Joy of Sex After Prozac http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/joy-sex-after-prozac <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Sometimes, the sexual side effects are enough to force people off the medication.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_149442434-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The other day, I found myself in bed with my Hitachi counting off orgasms. <em>One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six.</em> All in under 30 minutes. Not too long ago, it would have taken me at least that long to have just one. I kept going just because I could. I felt like the Cookie Monster of climax — my googly eyes rolling around in my head while I barked, ”Me want orgasm!” It may or may not have occurred to me at one point to get out a stopwatch. I sort of wanted to call a friend about my newfound orgasmability. I kind of wanted to <em>tweet</em> about it.</p><p>The secret to this surprise sexual awakening? A couple of months ago, I stopped taking Prozac.</p><p>I went on antidepressants not too long after my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was my second experience with antidepressants, but also by far my longest. There was just so much to endure for so long —  the diagnosis, the illness, the years of uncertainty waiting for something we didn’t want to happen and then the grieving when it did. All in all, more than four years. So when I decided to go off Prozac, I couldn’t even meaningfully remember what anything was like before it. Least of all sex.</p><p>Of course, when I first went on I was well aware that sexual side effects were a possibility. I’d seen the antidepressant commercials, where a voice-over going a mile a minute summarizes all the potential hazards. Being depressed, though, I was more concerned with fixing my damn brain than the chance that it might take me a little longer to orgasm. Getting out of bed in the morning was my pressing issue, not my ability to achieve toe-curling ecstasy. You know, joie de vivre, not la petite mort.</p><p>But also, I just didn’t think it was all that likely that Prozac could get in the way of sex. How easily could a man-made pharmaceutical overpower the primal act of boning?</p><p>It turns out I’m not alone in my underestimation of the risk. Sexual side effects are far more common than popular wisdom, or even actual drug inserts, suggest. Studies show that between 30 and 73 percent of adults on SSRIs experience sexual dysfunction, according to <a href="http://www.pssd.nl/09_06_sexual_side_effects_bahrick.pdf">a paper</a> published in the Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy. That’s a lot of sexual dysfunction — especially when you consider that one in 10 Americans is on antidepressants. Throw in our insane cultural dysfunction around sex and it starts to seem a wonder that anyone ever does it.</p><p>Among men, the reported sexual side effects include things like the disappearance of morning wood, finicky boners and trouble ejaculating. Ladies experience arousal and lubrication issues, low libido and delayed orgasms or the inability to orgasm. Add to the list “loss of genital tactile sensitivity and diminished intensity of orgasm, or pleasureless orgasm” for both sexes. <em>Pleasureless orgasm</em>? Try to wrap your head around that.</p><p>When Jarett, 46, went on Celexa,  he soon found it difficult to orgasm. “Everything else worked and it felt good,” he says, “but alas, crossing the cusp was nary impossible.” Of course, there was also a benefit to that: “When I was with a lover, it was nice, because it all felt as good and I could just keep going and not have to worry about losing control,” he said. “But that was a double-edged knife — so to speak — in that eventually all good things should come to a conclusion.” Shortly after he went off Celexa, his orgasms came back strong. It was a huge relief — at least for his solo sessions. As for partnered sex, he occasionally misses the “go-forever” thing.”</p><p>Never-ending boners aside, the impact on relationships can be devastating. In a matter-of-fact email bearing the subject line, “Wellbutrin and me,” one woman wrote to me, “I haven’t had sex in 2.5 years with the love of my life.” Another message from Sam, a 33-year-old from Florida, described how Cymbalta ever so slowly began delaying his orgasms; he wasn’t at first sure that it was the medication, and that introduced problems in his marriage. “She was very understanding, but there were some feelings of inadequacy, I think, on both sides at times. It got into both our heads, those ‘what am I doing wrong?’ thoughts,” he said.</p><p>Sometimes, the sexual side effects are enough to force people off the medication. “When I’m at my worst vis-a-vis depressive episodes, masturbating is one of a few things that I can trust to give me a few moments of reprieve,” says Dana, who tried Zoloft. “Not being able to have that” — because she couldn’t reach orgasm — “was counterproductive to my treatment, and I was fortunate enough to have a doctor who gave due credit to my concern.” Four days after she stopped taking it, she says her “body returned to factory settings.”</p><p>“Richard,” a 38-year-old living in Brooklyn, tells me that he went onto Lexapro knowing that there could be some sexual downsides but, as he puts it, “[I] was pretty crazy depressed and thought I could live with them.” Then came the diminished sex drive and difficulty getting an erection or having an orgasm. “The stress from it all kept me up at night,” he says. “So I’d sit at my computer and google everything I could find about this drug and the side effects.” It was during one of these middle-of-the night information binges that he found a message board with similar stories to his. “The last message I read was from a guy who wrote, ‘…I feel great now and not being able to get a erection or achieve an orgasm is a small price to pay,’” he says. “Like hell it is! I stopped taking them the very next day.”</p><p>The sexual side effects are by no means inevitable. Forty-two-year-old Kathleen went on Wellbutrin for postpartum depression. She says it helped her lose her baby weight faster than with her first pregnancy, which actually had a positive effect on her sex life. “Since I felt good about my body, I felt more sexual,” she says. Since then, she tried Abilify, which caused her to gain weight and consequently lose sexual desire, she says. Now she’s on a combination of Wellbutrin and Zoloft and her love life is rockin’. “I love sex, and it was important to me that any medication I took wouldn’t dull my desire. I expressed that to my therapist and psychiatrist, so they worked with me on what course of treatment would be best,” she says. “I can’t emphasize enough that women should be very vocal about what they need from their therapist and doctor — it’s okay to say ‘sex is important to me.’”</p><p>Unfortunately, not all doctors are savvy about sexual health issues (understatement of the year.) David Ley, a clinical psychologist specializing in sexuality, says that after his wife went on an SSRI, she began having orgasm-induced migraines. Her doctor responded to this news by asking, ”Is that a problem for your husband?” Ley says, “My wife was amazed, and responded appropriately, that it was her head, her headache and her orgasm that were the important issues here. I’m still shaking my head over this experience, embarrassed for the mental health and medical profession.”</p><p>In his own practice, Ley sees many patients who struggle with sexual side effects of SSRIs. Given his area of expertise, he tends to attract patients for whom “sexuality is often a critically important piece of their emotional functioning,” he says. ”It becomes a real dilemma, and trade-off between enjoying sexual health and satisfaction, versus enjoying life and experiencing decreased depression,” he said. “For people used to a high libido, who place a lot of personal value on sexuality in their life, this can be a very challenging negotiation.”</p><p>The bottom line is that antidepressants can kill your sex life, but so can depression. In fact, depression can <em>literally</em>kill you. It’s no wonder people are willing to potentially sacrifice their sex lives. In my case, Prozac made me a total believer in the power of antidepressants. Looking back, knowing what I know now about the sexual side effects, I would have gone on it all the same. But I tell you this: I would have gone off it much, much sooner. I just didn’t realize how many orgasms were waiting on the other side.</p><p> </p> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 09:51:00 -0800 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1030956 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Personal Health Sex & Relationships sex orgasm antidepressants prozac sexual dysfunction What an Attempted Mass Murderer's Scary Words Tell Us About Our Sexual Culture http://www.alternet.org/gender/what-attempted-mass-murderers-scary-words-tell-us-about-our-sexual-culture <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Ben Moynihan stabbed three women apparently because he couldn&#039;t get laid.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/moynihan.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>“When women won’t talk to you, it’s heart breaking. Why are they fussy with men now days?” </p><p>Who do you think wrote that sentence? Maybe an angst-ridden teenage boy who just hasn’t yet figured out the opposite sex — or perhaps even a lonely young adult frustrated with his dating life. These are the types of sentiments you hear all the time from frustrated single men. No big deal, right? But here is another sentence written by the same person: “All women needs to die and hopefully next time I can gauge [sic] their eyeballs out.”</p>Oh, OK, gotcha.<p>The young man behind these messages is 18-year-old Ben Moynihan of Portsmouth, Hampshire. This week, he was found guilty of attempted murder. Over the summer, he stabbed three women, all complete strangers who were unlucky enough to become targets of his rage. His victims survived, but as he later told police, he fully intended to murder them. This wasn’t because he was a “psychopath,” he wrote in a letter, but because he hated women.</p><p>In a self-recorded video, Moynihan said, “I think every girl is a type of slut, they are fussy with men nowadays, they do not give boys like us a chance.” He continued, “I am still a virgin, everyone is losing it before me, that’s why you are my chosen target.” While waving a knife at the camera, he asked, “Shall I stab you in the neck or in the heart, shall I slash your throat or should I just cigarette lighter you or just fire you. I do not know where I could get petrol from but how hard can it be to come by.”</p><p>He ended with this warning: ”So I hope you learn a lesson not to bully guys like us, we deserve dignity, for your own generations, remember.”</p><p>It’s shades of Isla Vista all over again. Just under a year ago, 22-year-old virgin Elliot Rodger went on a shooting spree near the University of California, Santa Barbara. He killed seven people, including himself. In several Internet postings, including a 141-page manifesto, he made his motive clear. It is perhaps best summarized in a video he made hours before the attacks: “For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires, all because girls have never been attracted to me,” he said. “If I can’t have you, girls, I will destroy you.”</p>Rodger is just the most infamous and recent example of men exacting headline-making revenge on women for, well, not having sex with them. Anyone remember George Sodini? In 2009, the 48-year-old went on a shooting massacre at a gym in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, killing three women and injuring many more. He too posted online about his lack of sex. “No girlfriend since 1984 … Who knows why. I am not ugly or too weird. No sex since July 1990 either (I was 29). No shit! Over eighteen years ago. And did it maybe only 50-75 times in my life. … I masturbate. Frequently.” He also wrote, “I have slept alone for over 20 years. Last time I slept all night with a girlfriend it was 1982. Proof I am a total malfunction. Girls and women don’t even give me a second look ANYWHERE.”<p>Certainly, mental health is a critical part of the equation in these cases. Not all lonely masturbators set out to commit mass murder. Most pose a far greater threat to tissues than to women. But we should be alarmed that these outlier men are driven by attitudes that are everything but outlying. We should be concerned when a mass murderer’s — or attempted mass murderer’s — manifesto reflects widespread beliefs. The rants about girls not going for nice guys and the bile directed at women for being slutty? It’s all utterly familiar. Take away the actual threats of murder and these remarks could just as easily have come from an unremarkable college virgin, hapless online dater or Salon commenter — sorry, but it’s true! — as Moynihan, Rodger or Sodini. In fact, you can even leave in the threat of violence and still have something uncannily resembling what many women encounter daily online, if not also in the real world.</p><p>I’m not sure that there has ever been a clearer expression of the deeply fucked-upedness of our attitudes toward sex.</p><p>At the root of all this is male sexual entitlement and the desire to control female sexuality. That has been going on since the dawn of time and it continues today in all sorts of sickly ingenious ways — from blaming women for their own sexual assaults to restricting access to birth control and abortion. It’s no surprise that as women have gained greater sexual autonomy, a certain kind of man has gotten much, much angrier. By “a certain kind of man,” I mean any man who has been poisoned by our culture’s <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/10/27/jian_ghomeshi_to_gamergate_americas_toxic_masculinity_crisis_on_display/">toxic masculinity</a>, and who doesn’t get that to which he feels so entitled (read: any woman he wants).</p><p>It isn’t just women who are hurt by this. All but one of the men I mentioned earlier ultimately killed themselves, and Moynihan, the only one who didn’t end his violent spree in suicide, will be in prison for a very long time. As Amanda Hess <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/05/29/elliot_rodger_hated_men_because_he_hated_women.html">wrote</a> in the wake of Rodger’s shooting spree, misogyny serves to control men too. “It expresses itself in the bullying of insufficiently masculine boys, in the pervasiveness of homophobic slurs, in the suppression of open emotional expression among men, and in overwhelming violence against trans women, who are especially stigmatized for appearing to reject what some consider as their God-given male bodies.” It also tells men who are not successful with women that they are not real men. And, of course, it teaches them that the only appropriate way for a man to express his emotions is with violence.</p><p>Until that changes, there will always be another Moynihan or Rodger or Sodini — and both women and men will pay the price.</p><p> </p> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 12:05:00 -0800 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1030768 at http://www.alternet.org Gender Gender News & Politics Sex & Relationships Ben Moynihan ELLIOT RODGER misogyny mental illness violence against women The Year in Sex Scenes http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/year-sex-scenes <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">From &quot;True Blood&quot; to &quot;Transparent,&quot; the steamy, and sometimes creepy, carnal moments we can&#039;t get out of our heads.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/draper.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Much has been written about how this is the golden age of television. Much less has been written about how this is the golden age of <em>sex on TV</em>. Flavorwire’s Elisabeth Donnelly recently did just that, <a href="http://flavorwire.com/491751/shows-like-the-affair-are-proof-that-its-a-golden-age-of-sex-scenes-for-grownups">writing</a>, “It may be true for the ‘prestigious’ likes of HBO shows that are generally led by men where your creators and showrunners are referred to as auteurs, but it’s not the case with three shows that are doing a great job of showing sex as a part of life in all its weird complexities: Girls, Transparent, and The Affair.” But this renaissance is hardly limited to those three. The last year has brought a slew of sex scenes that range from rawly realistic to richly symbolic to knuckle-bitingly sexy. We’ve rounded up the most memorable of these moments. Taken together, they show sex as hilarious, deeply human and, perhaps most important, as a legitimate form of storytelling. It’s about time.</p><p><strong>“True Blood”</strong></p><p>HBO’s now-dead undead series is known for its wild sex scenes — and yet there was one obvious standout from the final season. Two words: Eric and Jason. In the show, it’s only a dream sequence, but in my heart it is so, so real. Here’s a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAbTJ4V5mm0">video</a>, and here’s the GIF that will playing in my head for always:</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><img alt="" class="media-image" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/sex1_1.gif" /></div><p><strong>“Outlander”</strong></p><p>If you haven’t seen Jamie and Claire get down on their wedding night in the STARZ time-travel romance “Outlander,” you just haven’t lived. <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/12/31/the_year_in_sex_scenes/www.youtube.com/embed/JTSNjiZg53I">This</a> cheese-tastic fan video — set to Portishead, naturally — will give you a good idea of why. Or there’s this GIF summary:</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><img alt="" class="media-image" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/sex2_0.jpg" /></div><p><strong>“Sons of Anarchy”</strong></p><p>In November, “Sons of Anarchy” kicked off an episode with a more-than-two-minute-long montage of sex starring six different couples. This caused the Parents Television Council to issue the following statement: “Last week’s episode of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ opened with the most sexually explicit content we’ve ever seen on basic cable, content normally found on premium subscription networks like HBO or Showtime.” High praise! The annoying clip below is the best I could find — but it’s worth enduring just for the shots of Jax’s muscled back.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/pFD009JgjBo" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>“Homeland”</strong></p><p>Not all notable sex scenes are sexy. Carrie Mathison’s seduction of Aayan, the teenage nephew of a Pakistani terrorist, “is certainly one of the weirdest and most inappropriate things she’s ever done, and that’s saying something,” <a href="http://www.vulture.com/2014/10/homeland-recap-season-4-carrie-boy-aayan.html">writes</a> Price Peterson at Vulture.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><img alt="" class="media-image" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/sex3_0.gif" /></div><p><strong>“The Affair”</strong></p><p>Flavorwire recently pointed to Showtime’s “The Affair” as proof that “it’s a golden age of sex scenes for grownups.” Indeed, what grown-up hasn’t fantasized about seeing McNulty — I mean, Dominic West – <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/12/31/the_year_in_sex_scenes/www.youtube.com/embed/bNgP_L6uECs">engaged in an illicit tryst</a>?</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><img alt="" class="media-image" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/sex4.gif" /></div><p><strong>“House of Cards”</strong></p><p>Frank, Claire and Meechum. It was the “WHOAH” heard ’round the world.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><img alt="" class="media-image" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/sex5.gif" /></div><p><strong>“You’re the Worst”</strong></p><p>This FX romantic comedy, which follows two supremely messed up people as they fall in love with each other, is filled with laugh-out-loud sex scenes that are sometimes so funny that they actually <em>become sexy</em>, if that makes sense. The show’s red band trailer gives a peek at my favorite clip (at 1:41), in which Gretchen insists on watching Jimmy masturbate.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/QHqjJ9WYl0A" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>“Masters of Sex”</strong></p><p>There are plenty of scenes to pick from in this HBO series about legendary sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson, but the most compelling coupling on this show has to be between Libby, Masters’ wife, and Robert, a black civil-rights activist. Again, with the fan videos!</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/QOXlTVFYDFc" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>“Transparent”</strong></p><p>This Amazon Prime series by the brilliant Jill Soloway is a must-watch, period — but the final episode of the first season delivers one of the most complex sex scenes of the year. Sarah, who is having an affair with Tammy, sneaks off to the laundry room with her husband, Len. (If that sounds confusing, it is.) What follows is some great dialogue about sex toys versus “a warm, hot, throbbing cock,” and, well, you’ll have to watch to find out what happens next.</p><p><strong>“Kingdom”</strong></p><p>Not even gonna pretend like I’ve ever watched this DirecTV series about … what again? There’s no need, not when there are clips of a Nick Jonas sex scene so readily available online.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" mozallowfullscreen="" src="//player.vimeo.com/video/111583179?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ed7233" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640"></iframe></p><p><strong>“Mad Men”</strong></p><p>I couldn’t go and leave <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asjZB9suG2Q">Don Draper’s threesome</a> off this list, now could I?</p><p> </p><p><img src="http://uproxx.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/oof.gif?w=650" style="width: 300px;" /></p> Sun, 04 Jan 2015 09:13:00 -0800 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1029716 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Culture Media Sex & Relationships video sex Love and Sex Editor's Picks Life News Why Is Female Ejaculation Considered Obscene? http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/why-female-ejaculation-considered-obscene <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The controversy over squirting persists as the U.K. recently instituted a ban on the act. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_56353741-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>In the legendary 2001 lesbian hardcore film “Sugar High Glitter City,” there is a scene where a naked femme wriggles on a pool table while two butch women play with her body. Before long, she’s … visibly ejaculating on the green felted fabric. A few seconds later, it happens again: A stream arcs forth in such an impressively forceful way it causes the woman penetrating her to break with her tough character and let out an innocent, awestruck laugh.</p><p>“In this particular scene, we were subverting and perverting the traditional pool table gang bang,” Shar Rednour, the film’s co-director, tells me. “In the traditional flicks, the woman gets penetrated then the men come visibly all over the place.” In their film, it was the woman who was visibly coming all over the place.</p><p>And that was a problem.</p><p>The movie was invited to play at LGBT film festivals around the world, which was groundbreaking for an explicit film of its sort. But then they got a phone call from organizers at an event in New Zealand: The female ejaculation scene had to be cut, thanks to a strict governmental oversight board. “I am not one to usually throw a diva fit about my artistic vision — they could cut some other scene for time or what have you, but in no way could they cut that because it changes the entire pool table scene,” Rednour said.</p><p>Instead, they instructed the organizers to stop the film before that point, explain the controversy to the live audience “and tell them to stop censoring women’s bodies and to write to their government,” says Rednour.</p><p>Incredibly, more than a decade later, the controversy over female ejaculation persists. As has been widely reported in recent weeks, the U.K. has instituted broad restrictions against certain acts in online streaming pornography, including female ejaculation. “This isn’t actually all that new,” says Good Vibrations staff sexologist Carol Queen. “The UK and some other countries used to give lesbian movies with ejaculation an especially hard time at the import office.”</p><p>The U.S. isn’t innocent in this, either. As Nan Kinney, publisher of the lesbian erotica magazine On Our Backs and producer at porn company Fatale Media, said, “We faced censorship in the 1980s, primarily over images of fisting, but also female ejaculation because it was perceived as urination,” she said. “Back then, the law was implemented on a state by state basis. It was OK to ship this material to some states, but if you mailed to states where the law was strictly enforced, you could be prosecuted on obscenity charges.”</p><p>Sometimes they took desperate measures to avoid prosecution. “I can remember the staff at On Our Backs magazine tearing out pages of the magazine that showed fisting so that it could be sent to subscribers in the states that prohibited images of fisting,” she said. “Same with the videos showing female ejaculation; we would only ship those videos to states that weren’t enforcing the censorship laws.”</p><p>More recent obscenity trials against pornographers, including <a href="http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist/2010/07/13/opening-arguments-in-the-u-s-vs-john-buttman-stagliano/">John “Buttman” Stagliano</a> and <a href="http://www.alternet.org/story/11316/extreme_porn_crackdown">Adam Glasser</a> (aka Seymore Butts), have centered around films featuring female ejaculation. In 2001, lawyer-to-the-porn-stars Paul Cambria crafted a list of legally vulnerable acts, and female ejaculation was one of them. But, as is clear to anyone who has ever visited a porn site, those guidelines are routinely ignored. “Adult squirting scenes are not per se illegal under federal statutes,” says Carmen M. Cusack, author of the book “Pornography and the Criminal Justice System.” “Each jurisdiction may prosecute production, distribution, transmission or receiving obscenity using their own definitions of obscenity.”</p><p>So it should come as no real surprise that the U.K. is censoring squirting. This isn’t the first time it’s done this, either. In 2001, a porn film by the name of “Squirt Queens” was approved only after the name was changed to “British Cum Queens” and more than six minutes of female ejaculation was scrapped. The squirting was thought to look like urolagnia, the eroticism of urination, which is banned in the U.K. Never mind that the filmmakers said it was female ejaculate, not urination. All that mattered was that it looked kinda like pee to the censors — and after consulting with experts, the British Board of Film Classification expressed skepticism that female ejaculation even existed at all.</p><p>Then, in 2009, filmmaker Anna Spans won a victory for squirting. She fought the board’s attempt to censor her film “Women Love Porn,” which featured female ejaculation. Spans went so far as to get samples tested of ejaculate from the fountainous performer in question to prove that it wasn’t pee. The board ultimately approved the film, but not because it had come to terms with the existence of female ejaculation. As a spokesperson explained at the time,  ”In this particular work, there was so little focus on urolagnia that the BBFC took legal advice, and the advice was that, taking the work as a whole, there was no realistic prospect of a successful prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act and therefore the BBFC passed the work.”</p><p>Nowadays, it seems the board at least concedes that female ejaculation might sometimes occur — but it still won’t allow anything that <em>looks like</em> pee. Vice called the BBFC or the “ejaculation police,” as they put it, and got this <a href="http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/joel-golby-ejaculation-police-squirting-vaginas-jizzing-cocks-808">explanation</a>: “[U]nless it’s very clear that what is being shown is indeed ‘female ejaculation’, as opposed to urolagnia, the Board’s position has to be that scenes of this nature featuring liquid that might be urine have to be cut.”</p><p>There is another explanation — one with more of a cultural angle — for why female ejaculation so rankles censors. As Kristina Lloyd brilliantly <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/oct/08/pornography-sexuality-censors-female-ejaculation">wrote</a> in response to Spans’ case, “The BBFC’s ban colludes with the cultural default of viewing female sexuality as intangible and precious, as if the ‘enigma of woman’ was something beyond the reach of science.” The truth is, the science isn’t unclear on the matter: In the 2013 paper <a href="http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2222040">“Obscene Squirting</a>: If the Government Thinks it’s Urine, Then They’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” Cusack noted that research has shown women can ejaculate even when their bladders are empty and that “the chemical composition of ejaculate differs from that of urine.” It is not, I repeat, <em>it is not</em> urine.</p><p>Regardless of whether it’s in the U.K. or stateside, attempts to censor depictions of female ejaculation aren’t just assaults on freedom of expression — they also have serious implications for the health of people’s sex lives. “Women who ejaculate are often made to feel ashamed of it, and because it’s so closely associated with orgasm in many women who are doing it, this can make some women actively repress orgasm,” argued Carol Queen. “A state ban on such images will only support that level of shame and lack of information. This whole ban is horrible … but the ejaculation thing goes right to the heart of whether some women will come or not.”</p><p> </p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 07:00:00 -0800 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1028774 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Gender Sex & Relationships porn female gender sex Ejaculation squirting censorship orgasm Why I Faked Orgasms With Lovers and Went to Strip Clubs http://www.alternet.org/why-i-faked-orgasms-lovers-and-went-strip-clubs <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Confessions of a &quot;chill girl.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-12-04_at_2.29.16_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>While reading Slate’s review of Laura Kipnis’ “Men: Notes From an Ongoing Investigation,” I was struck with a pang of self-recognition. Amanda Marcotte <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2014/12/laura_kipnis_men_notes_from_an_ongoing_investigation_reviewed.html">wrote</a> that the book, which covers everything from the economy to politics, but largely focuses on sex, has too many “‘chill girl’ moments.” She defines these as points in the book in which Kipnis “props herself up by suggesting she’s unperturbed by the typical things that send hands clutching pearl-ward.”</p><p>Ah, the “chill girl.” I know her well. I was her through much of my 20s.</p><p>Now, the “chill girl” is not to be confused with the “Cool Girl,” a concept popularized by Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.” What Marcotte zeroes in on is something more specific than the one-of-the-guys behavior of embracing sports and beer. The “chill girl” of which she speaks is chill about one thing in particular: sex. It’s a narrower class than the Cool Girl. It’s a sub-category that was most developed in Ariel Levy’s “Female Chauvinist Pigs,” a book I hated more than I’d ever hated a book, because it understood me and my ilk all too well.</p><p>As Levy put it, a female chauvinist pig is a woman who deals “with her femaleness” by “either acting like a cartoon man — who drools over strippers, says things like ‘check out that ass,’ and brags about having the ‘biggest cock in the building’ – or acting like a cartoon woman, who has big cartoon breasts, wears little cartoon outfits and can only express her sexuality by spinning around a pole.”</p><p>In my case, I went to strip clubs, got lap dances, sat at the tip bar with the men and gamely evaluated performers’ bodies with male companions. Often, after enough drinks, I would begin to chat up male customers, ask them why they were there, how often they came, whether they had girlfriends or wives. I fancied myself as finding out some deep, dark truth about men and male sexuality — convinced, as I was, that I had to love it in order to love them. I was sitting there tucking dollars into G-strings, practically screaming, “I AM SO OK WITH ALL OF THIS! UNLIKE MOST WOMEN!” I suppose it fell into the category of “thou doth protest too much” — or rather, “thou doth protest too little.” As for the women dancing: I was scared of them, I loved them, I worshiped them, I wanted to be them, I wanted to conquer them.</p><p>That was just the most sensational part of it. I faked orgasms. So many. Most. I pretended to be OK with friends-with-benefits situations when I was very much not. I inured myself to the most hardcore porn I could find, as though trying to ensure that I could never, ever be shocked by anything I found in a boyfriend’s browser history. For crying out loud, I devoted my career to writing about sex, which ensured a certain degree of mastery over male partners. (Maybe shrinks are always crazy and sex writers are always scared of sex.) Ironically, I tried to take charge of sex by accepting, embracing and being everything I thought men wanted.</p><p>During this “chill girl” period, I was all about challenging men — intellectually and physically — except when it came to sex. That’s because men had the unilateral power to reject me, to find me undesirable. It seemed to me that in all other areas of life, I had means for recourse — but withholding sex didn’t seem like an option. I wanted to have sex! I wanted men! There was no denying that, so I gave in. My central error was in overestimating men’s undesirable characteristics — or, put another way, underestimating men.</p><p>I really only started to give up the pursuit when I got married — to a guy who would rather not go to strip clubs and whose erotic material of choice is amateur Tumblr porn that makes the hardcore stuff I’d studied look like war movies in comparison. Suddenly, with a man on lock, I could let go of chill girl-dom, which tells you most of what you need to know about the motivations behind it.</p><p>All of that said, there is something to be said for trying to be a chill girl. You can learn more about people when you’re open and sympathetic. I’ve also found that it’s a great position from which to change minds about things like, well, feminism. It’s just, you want to be sure that you’re being a chill girl to the right kind of man — not all men or the worstof men. And you want to understand, and actually believe in your bones, that more important than being a chill girl is being a real woman.</p><p> </p> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 11:26:00 -0800 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1028156 at http://www.alternet.org sex sexuality What Happens When the Woman Wants Sex More Than the Man? http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/what-happens-when-woman-wants-sex-more-man-0 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The stereotype is of a frigid wife, but plenty of women find themselves the more desiring partner.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_122546353-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Once in bed at night, Cathy’s boyfriend would almost instantly curl up in the fetal position facing away from her and begin breathing heavily as though asleep. “But if I put my arm around him, he would stiffen up and hold his breath,” she says. “A couple times, I even saw him hurriedly shut his eyes.” Sometimes the 37-year-old from St. Louis, Mo., would take a more direct approach, telling him, “I want to be with you” — but she often ended up being rebuffed. It wasn’t uncommon for him to ask, “Why do we have to have sex all the time?”</p><p>This is the gender reversal of what we’re used to hearing: stories about women complaining of a headache or offering a simple, “Not tonight, honey.” Just this week, the Wall Street Journal <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324874204578438713861797052.html">published a piece</a> ostensibly about “differing expectations about sex” in relationships in general, but which fell back on the stereotype of the frigid wife who withholds sex. The piece presented only one real-life example of such a dynamic and, despite mentioning far, far down in the piece a study on desire that found no significant gender differences, the piece ran with the headline, “He Says ‘More’ and She Says ‘No.’”</p><p>When I put out a call for women who had experienced having the higher sex drive in a relationship, I was flooded with responses — and many of these women wanted to put me in touch with female friends with similar tales of sexual dissatisfaction. There was tremendous variability in what they considered too little sex: One expressed annoyance over an ex-boyfriend who wouldn’t have sex more than four times in one night; another complained that her ex-husband wanted it no more than twice a week; and yet another reported getting busy five times in three years of marriage.</p><p>Let’s be clear: None of this is to say that the real problem is men who don’t “put out” (a phrase that makes sex sound like such a dreary chore — can we please retire it?). It’s to show that it isn’t exclusively a “male” or “female” phenomenon, nor is it a heterosexual one; it’s a human one.</p><p>Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and best-selling author, doesn’t believe that either sex has stronger desire — but different desire? Yes. “I would say that women tend to experience ‘responsive desire’” — in which interest is sparked after sexy times have begun — “while men experience ‘spontaneous desire,’” which seems to spring, so to speak, out of nowhere. He says this difference “can create the appearance that male desire is stronger, but what I’ve found is often quite the opposite in relationships.”</p><p>In his therapy practice, he says, “I often meet couples who are stuck in ruts and neither partner has an interest in sex with the other, although there is often sexual interest outside of the relationship, or mismatched desire levels in the relationship,” he says. “But I meet just as many men dealing with low desire as women.”</p><p>For a hormonal perspective, I went to Kim Wallen, a professor of psychology and behavioral neuroendocrinology at Emory University. He says the key sex differences in desire aren’t in strength but rather constancy. “This likely reflects the effects of gonadal hormones on sexual motivation and men are subjected to a constant hormonal stimulus, whereas women are subjected to a cyclical influence,” he says. “In addition, women have both exposure to estradiol, which increases sexual desire, and to progesterone, which in large amounts suppresses sexual desire.”</p><p>If you tuned out at the mention of “gonadal hormones” – bad student, tsk! – Wallen offers up a simple takeaway: “When women are interested in sex they are as intensely interested as are men.” Interestingly, he says “it may even be that it is this intermittent nature of women’s sexual desire that makes them more sensitive to a mismatch with their partners,” he says. “When intense desire occurs, they want to act on it then as it will likely soon diminish.”</p><p>The women I spoke with attributed the desire differentials they had experienced to a range of causes. Some blamed it on fundamentally mismatched libidos: The anonymous 29-year-old blogger from girlonthenet.com, the same woman who sometimes found it frustrating if a guy couldn’t perform more than four times a night, tells me that she got over her anger when she “realized that, you know, people have incredibly diverse sexual needs.” Now she’s with a man who has a similar sex drive to hers.</p><p>Then there were familiar life stresses. Thirty-eight-year-old “Mary” says sex with her husband was great at first, but then, she says, “our lives settled into a routine.” They had kids, he got busier at work and both of their parents fell terminally ill. “Maybe we’re both depressed? I don’t know,” she says. “But with so much happening physically and emotionally, something had to go, and our sex life was it.” They’re both under pressure, but his sexuality is more susceptible to stress.</p><p>Similarly, 25-year-old “Martha” says of her stressed-out boyfriend, “I feel like he rejects the therapeutic powers of sex in times of difficulty,” whereas she sees it as a way to blow off steam.</p><p>Debby Herbenick, a sex researcher at Indiana University, says this is a common experience for both genders. “Many women and men are dissatisfied with frequency, but it’s complicated,” she says. “Often they are dissatisfied in the sense that ‘in an ideal world’” — one in which they were less stressed, for example — “they would have sex more often.” Sometimes “people crave more intimacy in order to drive them to have more sex.” Herbenick explains, “Just because two people want more sex with each other doesn’t mean they know how to make that happen, especially if feelings are hurt or they don’t feel connected or have feelings of shame or guilt for wanting sex or initiating it.”</p><p>Often, the lack of sex isn’t really about sex itself. “Our sex life became, to me, emblematic of an overall disinterest on his part in nurturing the marriage, compromising to meet my needs, and being aware of and responsive to my feelings,” says Clare, 34. “So it might have been a case of mismatched sex drives, but more importantly it was a case of mismatched emotional needs.”</p><p>Kerner identifies a handful of common causes for low sexual desire in men: “over-masturbation as a result of proliferation and easy [and] free access to Internet porn,” “diminished sexual attraction” to their partner, the side-effects of certain drugs like anti-depressants and low self-esteem (nowadays, particularly in response to “unemployment and financial uncertainty”).</p><p>Where gender differences become very real is in social expectations. Being more desiring than your partner can make anyone question their own sex appeal — although that’s perhaps especially true for women: ”We get this image of women who can simply flutter their eyelashes and have guys tripping over themselves to get into bed with them,” says Bex, a 20-something living in New York.</p><p>Of course, it may be harder for men than women to find themselves the less-desiring party: ”I’m friends with all guys and if I mention this to any of them they say that he ‘must be gay or something’ to not want sex all the time,” says Bex, which she knows is unfair. Cathy feels a lot of sympathy for guys who find themselves in this situation: “The guy who thinks he’s supposed to be driving the penetration train gets confused when he finds himself without the conductor’s hat.”</p><p>Men who are more desiring than their female partners might at least have the benefit of feeling like things are as they should be. Bex says of having stronger sexual desires than her boyfriend, “It feels like I’m broken or something, which is absolutely not the case,” she says. “We just never get to see an image of a man with a low drive and a woman trying to seduce him.”</p><p>Of course, it’s never too late to correct the public record.</p><p> </p> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 17:32:00 -0800 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1027680 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Gender Sex & Relationships sex women men "People Were Having Sex and Doing All Kinds of Crazy Things": A Married Couple Dishes on Swinging http://www.alternet.org/books/people-were-having-sex-and-doing-all-kinds-crazy-things-married-couple-dishes-swinging <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Mark and Christy Kidd had a pretty average marriage, until they accidentally stumbled upon a swingers party.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/christy_mark_kidd.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>“Swingers.” The word brings to mind hot tubs, handlebar mustaches, bowls of keys and the cheesy come-ons of Austin Powers. Put more succinctly: “dorky images from the seventies,” as Mark and Christy Kidd put it in their new memoir, “A Modern Marriage.”</p><p>But all of that associated imagery changed when they accidentally stumbled upon a swingers party one New Year’s Eve. “OMG. I mean to tell you: Oh. My. God! Atop the mattresses was a wall-to-wall landscape of pleasure-seeking, pleasure-giving naked human bodies in every conceivable configuration,” they write. “A guy on the left was a dead ringer for Brad Pitt — <em>naked</em> Brad Pitt. A few bodies down, a woman babbling in Italian was like a younger Sophia Loren.”</p><p>That this existed, even in their home of New York City, came as a shock. ”Call us naive, or call us normal, I’m not sure which, but we had never thought about a scene like that one,” they write. Once they saw it, they couldn’t un-see it — or  stop talking about it. In fact, the next morning, they were already discussing how they would give swinging a try. ”Just by dumb luck we had stumbled across the party that was going to change our lives forever. That evening was the start of an adventure that’s evolved and transformed our world for eight years now, with no sign of letting up or slowing down.” In fact, they refer to that fateful night as the “Great Awakening.”</p><p>The Kidds spoke with Salon about how to conquer jealousy, why women usually drive the decision to swing and how the whole scene is actually pretty vanilla.</p><p><strong>Tell me about the first time you went to a swinging party — you ended up there somewhat by accident.</strong></p><p>Christy: It was a New Year’s Eve party; we thought it was actually a regular party, and we just wanted to do something for the holiday. We ended up at this loft in midtown. Everything was normal in the party, people were just walking around and whatnot, and we were almost ready to leave the party when I noticed a curtain with a guard in front of it. Mark had gone to the restroom, and I approached the guard and he wouldn’t let me go in without the person I came with. I didn’t know what that meant at the time. So as soon as Mark came back, we went up to the curtain and he opened it for us and we saw this crazy, completely opposite of what we were seeing on the outside, it was completely crazy with wall-to-wall people, mattresses on the floor, people were having sex and doing all kinds of crazy things.</p><p>Mark: Like Christy was saying, it’s definitely not something we expected. We didn’t even know this existed. I had no idea people did this kind of thing in public.</p><p><strong>You must have heard of swinging before, but you didn’t know that it happened in that public way?</strong></p><p>Mark: We had heard of it, but it was a general idea that we kind of knew nothing about. My idea of it was maybe 1970s notion of hot tubs and stuff. Just seeing normal people having sex and trading partners and having orgies, it was really incredible.</p><p><strong>How did you feel seeing this?</strong></p><p>Mark: It was a powerful experience for me.</p><p>Christy: For both of us. It was initial shock, of course, because we didn’t expect that to be behind the curtain, and intriguing as well. People were watching, it wasn’t just people having sex. It was a totally a turn-on to see this happening before your eyes.</p><p>Mark: It was a very powerful experience. We were captivated by it. We had to sit down. We both felt compelled to watch instead of running away. It started the conversation. The conversation the next day was inevitable. We had to explore this.</p><p><strong>How did you end up talking about it the next day?</strong></p><p>Mark: We first were completely fired up sexually. Because it was so visceral, our reaction to it all, we felt like we had to explore it. I think the conversation was that we couldn’t stop thinking about it. And we both felt like we had to figure it out, we had to see what this was all about.</p><p><strong>How did you decide to actually try it out?</strong></p><p>Mark: We started on the Internet, because that was the most obvious starting place. That led us to meeting all kinds of crazy characters.</p><p>Christy: We just Googled “swingers” and found AdultFriendFinder.com.</p><p><strong>Tell me about the first swinging experience you had.</strong></p><p>Mark: We toyed with it for almost a year before we were finally successful with it. We met one couple we were trying to get to know and the chemistry seemed good so we met them at a motel and it was just awkward. They brought a bag of sex toys. It just didn’t work. So we ended up leaving.</p><p>Christy: We didn’t know what we were doing and we weren’t ready to dive into the notion of swapping. We were still newbies and amateurish, and the couple we met had been in the lifestyle for a while. When we met them at the bar, they seemed normal, the chemistry was there. So then we met up with them at a motel — a motel motel — and had dinner in the room. It had a kitchenette.</p><p>Mark: The four of us were eating at a dinette under a very bright light. There was lots of forks clinking on the plates.</p><p>Christy: It was awkward. We started talking and everything and the girl brings out a roller bag full of sex toys. We weren’t prepared for that. We ended up mutually leaving and deciding to meet up again, which was another failed attempt.</p><p>Mark: There were a lot of missteps. Some of it was my fault. My jealousies had control over me. I couldn’t get past the thought of Christy having sex with someone. I knew I wanted to pursue this, I just couldn’t get past it for like a year. Finally after all those couples and experiences, we found the sex club that worked for us.</p><p><strong>Why did you decide to push through those feelings of jealousy? It seems like such a challenge.</strong></p><p>Mark: We really felt compelled to conquer this whole thing.</p><p>Christy: We saw at that first party that people were having fun. It was a very joyful environment and we were like, “Why are we having all of these missteps?” Obviously we weren’t to that point yet.</p><p>Mark: What was really transitional for us in this learning process was one couple we met that essentially served as our mentor couple. They were really a free-spirited, Brooklyn-cool kind of couple that showed us how to have fun with it and take the personal out of it.</p><p><strong>Do you feel like you’ve conquered jealously?</strong></p><p>Christy: Not completely. Jealously is a human reaction and feeling. We’ve learned over time that you separate your feelings and personal live from sex. Sex is sex.</p><p>Mark: I would say I’ve overcome 80 percent of my jealousies. I really have. In my previous relationships in college, jealousy was such an issue for me. Now it’s not so much. I have that so much more in check.</p><p><strong>How do you overcome jealousy?</strong></p><p>Christy: We started on this journey together and have a very open line of communication, we’re honest with each other, we talk through things. It’s a mutual decision. We do everything together. By having that dialogue and doing this together has made us not as jealous because of the trust and honesty that we have.</p><p>Mark: Sex in and of itself is not that big of a deal. In the book we talk about a two-year committed relationship that we ended up developing with another couple. I would get jealous of the relationship that Christy had with Brett and it had nothing to do with sex.</p><p>Christy: Not everyone can do that. But we’ve just learned and kind of separate the two.</p><p><strong>Tell me about that committed relationship to another couple.</strong></p><p>Basically, we had been doing this for a while. Once when we were visiting Texas, we decided to meet up with an old high school friend-of-a-friend and his wife. There was some chemistry there when we were out one night having drinks and we approached them and they were kind of into the idea, so during that vacation we ended up all getting together. It turned into them coming to New York to visit us; we’d go down to Austin to stay with them and it evolved further as Christy and Brett developed their relationship and Terry and I developed ours.</p><p>Christy: We would start doing things on our own as other couples, Brett and myself and Terry and Mark. And as a couple they would come visit us and bring their daughter. Every couple of months we would see each other. It got very intimate very quickly.</p><p><strong>Sounds like it could get very emotionally complicated.</strong></p><p>Christy: Very much so. Brett and I were very similar in the things that we liked to do. The same was true of Terry and Mark. I guess what Terry wasn’t interested in, I was. So it complemented each other’s couples. That’s where some of the jealousy comes into play. When Mark sees a DVD of me and Brett skydiving he couldn’t watch it because it was too much, it was something that Mark wouldn’t do but that I always wanted to do. It was very difficult because it was not just sex anymore.</p><p><strong>How did that relationship end?</strong></p><p>Mark: Sadly, it ended with them getting a divorce. Unbeknownst to us they were having marriage problems in the beginning. They were using this lifestyle to improve their marriage, which is a big-time mistake.</p><p><strong>You mention in the book that it’s pretty common for people to use swinging as a last-ditch effort to save a marriage. Do you think that ever works?</strong></p><p>Mark: I don’t think so. I think it would make it worse. If you have a good relationship, it could make it really great. But if there’s cracks in it it could really mess it up.</p><p><strong>What sort of boundaries do you guys have?</strong></p><p>Mark: First and foremost, we don’t do it too often. We don’t go to sex clubs or house parties more than once a month. We keep it light. Although we like to become intimate one on one with other couples, we don’t communicate with them on the side.</p><p><strong>What was your sex life like before swinging?</strong></p><p>Mark: It was good.</p><p>Christy: We’ve never had a problem or had any kind of disinterest in each other. This was just an added element that sparked a different flame. And it made us closer.</p><p>Mark: There was never a deficiency, but it made it even better.</p><p><strong>What’s the biggest misconception that you had about the swinging world?</strong></p><p>Christy: It’s not any certain class of people.</p><p>Mark: That’s a big thing. You would think it might be all cool, edgy and good-looking people, but it’s normal people. It’s not just people tatted up for something like that.</p><p>Christy: We’ve met AIDS scientists –</p><p>Mark: Nannies, teachers –</p><p>Christy: Casino owners –</p><p>Mark: Republicans, Democrats, lawyers –</p><p>Christy: This lifestyle has what we call a social equalizer. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what you do –</p><p>Mark: Your status in life or anything. Everyone is equalized. Once their clothes are off, everyone’s the same. We’ve been to parties where there are millionaires there, but everyone’s the same.</p><p>Christy: Also, it’s interesting to note that women drive this process more than men.</p><p>Mark: To the tune of 80 to 90 percent, I think.</p><p><strong>Why do you think?</strong></p><p>Christy: A couple reasons. Women want to spice up their sex life and so, of course, if they express interest in it, I don’t think a man would say no to it.</p><p>Mark: I think men are the more insecure and jealous of the two. It’s usually the men that can’t handle it.</p><p>Christy: The woman will initiate this and the man will totally be on board, but when they get into an actual swinging situation the men are the ones that actually back out.</p><p>Christy: One of the other misconceptions we want to dispel: Fetishes are completely different than swinging.</p><p>Mark: This world is pretty vanilla. It’s pretty standard sex, it’s just partners trading with each other.</p><p> </p> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 08:25:00 -0800 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1027306 at http://www.alternet.org Books Books Sex & Relationships swinging swingers sex Mark and Christy Kidd 6 Reasons Women May Have Orgasms http://www.alternet.org/6-reasons-women-may-have-orgasms <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Is the female orgasm an evolutionary byproduct? Or does it have a different function?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-11-13_at_1.08.34_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>It’s a question that few women would think to ask: Why does the female orgasm exist? More likely is, “<em>Where</em> is my female orgasm?” — or, for the easily orgasmic, “More, please?” But it’s a query that has nonetheless plagued sex researchers for decades, and <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25376054?dopt=Abstract">a new study</a> has proposed an answer: that the female orgasm helps women choose better partners. More specifically — and perhaps unflatteringly to women — researchers found that “how often a woman experienced orgasm as a result of sexual intercourse was related to their partner’s family income.” They also found that “his self-confidence” and “how attractive he was” also factored in.</p><p>The orgasmic explanation proposed by the study, which is a “preliminary investigation” and by no means definitive, isn’t new. There has long existed a schism in expert thinking around the raison d’être of lady-gasms. In one camp, you have what I like to call the reproductive successers. In the other, the “byproduct” believers. (I hope I’m not the only one picturing a snapping “West Side Story” scene here. Only with super-raunchy gang signs.) And even the former group breaks down into several warring factions (and none of them attempt to address why lesbians have orgasms — <em><a href="http://jezebel.com/study-lesbians-have-more-orgasms-than-straight-women-1624092097">and more of them</a></em>). Given this latest study, which in recent days has revived debate among sex researchers, I figured I would break down the arguments into a language the Internet understands — that of the listicle, of course.</p><p><strong>1. It makes you want to bone more (aka reproductive success)</strong></p><p>This is the most intuitive of explanations: Sex feels good because it causes us to have more of it. In other words, men and women who are orgasmic reproduce more, and orgasmability is evolutionarily supported in both sexes.</p><p><strong>2. It makes you want to snooze</strong></p><p>Orgasms cause you to relax, lie down, maybe even fall into a post-coital nap, and some researchers believe that this all gives sperm an easier time of finding the egg.</p><p><strong>3. It gives sperm a little boost (aka “sperm upsuck”)</strong></p><p>You read that right: sperm upsuck. The idea here is that the female orgasm causes contractions that pull sperm into the uterus and through the fallopian tubes, thereby increasing the likelihood of pregnancy.</p><p><strong>4. <strong>It makes you fall in luh-luh-luh-love (aka “pair-bonding”)</strong></strong></p><p>Oxytocin, which is released during orgasm, is often referred to as the “love drug,” because it’s believed to create feelings of connection and intimacy. The argument here is that orgasm releases oxytocin, which encourages pair-bonding, which increases a child’s likelihood of survival. Note, though, I once spoke with a researcher about oxytocin’s lovey-dovey reputation and <a href="http://www.salon.com/2011/09/02/orgasms_love/">he said</a>, “There’s actually no evidence of oxytocin as a love hormone in humans. You have to be very careful about any romantic role attributed to humans based on research on non-humans.”</p><p><strong>5. It helps you land a good partner (aka “mate selection”)</strong></p><p>This latest study falls under the “mate selection” hypothesis, which states that the female orgasm ”evolved to increase the probability of fertilization from males whose genes would improve offspring fitness,” as <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22733154">one study put it</a>. Theories about the actual traits it controls for range from strength to sensitivity.</p><p><strong>6. It’s a happy evolutionary freebie (aka “byproduct”)</strong></p><p>This approach challenges the adaptive theories above, arguing instead that the female orgasm is a byproduct of the male orgasm. This belief is based on the shared embryological beginnings of males and female. The thinking is: Men have to orgasm in order to spread their seed and further the species, thus women, who begin with the same basic parts, have orgasmic potential as well.</p><p>As a lady, I’m not particularly thrilled to think of the female orgasm as men’s biological leftovers. But, thought of in a different light, this theory can be freeing for women who feel they aren’t as orgasmic as they ought to be. As I told Dan Savage <a href="http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=10134038&amp;">in an interview</a> a couple of years ago, “This means a multiorgasmic woman is just as ‘normal’ as an orgasmless one, a lady who comes from a single flick of the finger is just as ‘healthy’ as one who requires 45 minutes with her Hitachi Magic Wand set on high.”</p><p> </p> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 12:15:00 -0800 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1027095 at http://www.alternet.org sex What It's Like to be Christian and Addicted to Porn http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/what-its-be-christian-and-addicted-porn <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A new film attempts to show the downside of pornography, but instead reveals the danger and sadness of sexual shame.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/heart_of_the_matter.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>I was chagrined to get an email from Morality in Media this morning reading, “We at Morality in Media are sending this out to our friends in the press who we think might be interested in this new film.” A <em>friend</em>? Methinks someone needs to update their press list! The email continued, “It will be immensely helpful to the movement to end sexual exploitation and educate about the effects porn has on society. We think this film will give hope to those in the Church who are struggling with obsessive pornography use.” And who better to review it than this porn-watching, sex-writing atheist!</p><p>That is how I came to find myself watching the documentary “Heart of the Matter,” which shows, in its own words, “what it is like to be Christian and addicted to pornography and sex.” Well, here’s the top-line summary: shame. Deep, cavernous, as in Grand Canyon-size, sexual shame.</p><p>The entire film takes place on a barren white stage with interview subjects seated on stools, ready for their confessions. One man says of his porn-watching, “I’d feel some relief and then immediately thereafter a deeper level of shame, a deeper level of guilt, a deeper level of self-loathing.” Says a younger man who appears in the documentary with his mom, who caught him looking at porn: “You just start feeling like a pervert. You start feeling like an alien inside your own house.”</p><p>I probably would have felt like a pervert too if my parents had gone nuclear when discovering my adolescent porn-browsing history. (Instead, they were super chill about it and explained that they didn’t want adult material to distort my view of sex, which was a healthy, beautiful thing, etc. etc. And just look how I ended up! A sex writer who was recently told via Twitter, “You have no morals. You are the epitome of what is wrong with American society.”)</p><p>The documentary frequently speaks about porn in the language of addiction. Wives talk of husbands “relapsing,” one man even says of himself, “I slipped into relapse seeing a pornographic movie.” Dan Gray, co-founder of <a href="http://www.lifestartherapy.com">Lifestar Therapy</a>, a ministry devoted to healing “compulsive sexual behavior,” says, “Much like a young person who turns to alcohol or marijuana to manage their stress or their anger or some of their loneliness, they will turn to sexual behavior in order to create the same kinds of dependency on the internal drugs.” </p><p>Similarly, porn is talked about like a high that addicts will attempt to obtain at all costs. Cameron Lee, co-founder of <a href="http://fightthenewdrug.org">Fight the New Drug</a>, an organization devoted to raising “awareness on the harmful effects of pornography,” said, “When it comes to addiction, they’ll compromise anything to be able to get their fix. So it’s their jobs, it’s their relationships, it’s anything in that moment they’ll compromise to be able to get that fix, because their brain’s been affected.”</p><p>Naturally, this leads to a lot of talk about porn as a gateway drug. Steven Crowshaw, an older gentleman sitting next to his solemn wife, tells the camera, “My escalation went from pornography and masturbation to adult establishments,” he said. “And the natural progression, after a period of time, by the time I was in my early 30s, I had found my way to seeking out prostitutes.” Another man says, “When I had discovered strip joints and modeling agencies, which are a front for prostitution, it opened up a whole new breeding ground for lies and secrecy.”</p><p>Another theme in the film is the idea of pornography as an escape — which sounds like a good thing to me, but it is a very bad thing, apparently. “When I found myself not involved in anything … or even stressed out, at times in life you just sort of looked for that escape,” says one man. Another: ”For me part of the allure was it represented something that seemed like freedom. I grew up in a home that there wasn’t much freedom. So seeing these people appear so free, there was a draw there.” And just in case you thought I was exaggerating that this was a theme: ”All those images were in my head and became a breeding ground, I think, for me to have a way of escape.” In some ways, the film does a better job of arguing for the merit of pornography than I ever could. Here is one guy on why he started watching it: ”It felt like a fun thing to do.” Bingo!</p><p>For all of its conservative prudery, the film has the occasional moment that actually feel kind of progressive. For instance, there are <em>women</em> in the documentary admitting not only to watching porn but to being “addicted” to it. Ladies! Vagina-havers! Can you believe it? Says one young woman, who explains that her gateway drug was cybersex, ”In the church there’s this overlying excuse that says well boys will be boys, men are visually wired, that’s why they struggle. When a woman hears that, it makes her wonder, well, then what’s wrong with me?” Yeah, gurl, just get rid of all that sexual shame and you can totally come hang out in San Francisco with me and all my progressive feminist friends!</p><p>My heathen’s takeaway from the film was that, yes, people can have very unhealthy relationships to both pornography and sex. But there’s one thing that’s more toxic than even that, and that’s sexual shame.</p><p> </p> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 11:47:00 -0800 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1026175 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Belief Sex & Relationships sex shaming porn Morality in Media addiction “A Billion Husbands Are About to Be Replaced”: Imagining the Wildly Effective Vibrators of the Future http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/billion-husbands-are-about-be-replaced-imagining-wildly-effective-vibrators <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In Chuck Palahniuk&#039;s latest, men are made obsolete by sex toys.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_203001034.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>“A billion husbands are about to be replaced.” That is the tag line of a brand of wildly effective vibrators in Chuck Palahniuk’s latest novel, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-You-Novel-Chuck-Palahniuk/dp/0385538030/saloncom08-20">“Beautiful You.”</a> After the release of these innovative pleasure products, female characters start to make stereotypical battle-of-the-sexes proclamations like, “Men are obsolete!” and “Anything a man can do to me, I can do better!” and “This hunk of plastic is more of a man than you’ll ever be!” Women line up for miles and camp out overnight outside “Beautiful You” stores, hoping to get the latest toe-curling product before it sells out. Everywhere, fashionable, metropolitan “Sex and the City” types stomp around town in their stilettos, boldly carrying a bag bearing the brand’s logo, white curlicue lettering on a pink background, the new symbol of female empowerment. It’s the ultimate horror story for wounded little man-boys everywhere.</p><p>But then things take a darker turn: Women begin to drop out of public life entirely, locking themselves in their rooms, diddling away the hours. Their voices become sore from endless yelps of pleasure, their eyes sunken from lost sleep and their bodies weak and emaciated from skipped meals. “Missing” posters are pasted around town, as scores of women — mothers, sisters, daughters — disappear from their homes, driven mad by previously unknown pleasure. In a characteristically Palahniuk gotcha, it turns out that Beautiful You products are actually designed to control women’s consumer decisions.</p><p>This is what all of Palahniuk’s novels have been building up to, haven’t they? After all of the tales of disaffected men with mommy issues, here we have arrived at the ultimate expression of male disenfranchisement in our supposedly post-feminist age: men being replaced by vibrators.</p><p>Palahniuk takes great joy in writing about this fantastical post-apocalyptic world in which women’s sexual liberation is ultimately disempowering. Witness, for example, that the world’s foremost feminist organization is “on the brink of nonexistence.” He writes: “For the first time in its history the National Organization of Women was canceling its annual conference due to lack of participants. Six weeks ago the roster had been almost filled, but in the days since Beautiful You had launched, all of the delegates had canceled their plans to attend. Some cited more personal interests they wanted to pursue. The rest claimed to be exploring alternative avenues to self-fulfillment.” This fantastical allegory is awfully reminiscent of a favorite insult of male, anti-feminist trolls: You just haven’t been fucked right! If you just got a good lay, all that angry activism would disappear!</p><p>What at first seems a male nightmare brought to life ends up feeling much more like a story of male vengeance. Since most women have disappeared from the streets, the fear of rape seems to lurk at every corner for the female protagonist, 20-something Penny Harrigan, a rare woman who isn’t in the grips of Beautiful You and dares to venture into the public sphere full of “furious, obsolete penises.” In fact, Penny <em>is</em> raped, multiple times. The novel itself opens with a rape scene in which she is assaulted in public — via a high-tech device — and no one intervenes to help, because there are only men around. (And apparently all men are so furious about their obsolete penises that they can only stand by and watch.)</p><p>Palahniuk has referred to this book as the female “Fight Club,” but in truth, there is no comparison. “Beautiful You” won’t resonate with legions of women the way “Fight Club” did with men. That’s because it doesn’t address a female desire — even though it is, ostensibly, at least at first, about female pleasure. Instead, it is centered — just as with “Fight Club” and most of Palahniuk’s books — around extreme male anxiety. This is his specialty: the neuroses experienced by supposedly feminized, emasculated men in corporate, capitalist and “post-feminist” America.</p><p>It appears as though he tried to extend to women the kind of mass gender-identity crisis that proved so successful with a certain set of men in “Fight Club”: Penny has chosen a law career out of what amounts to feminist peer-pressure: “A couple generations ago, society would’ve encouraged her to be a stay-at-home mom. Now all the pressure was to become a lawyer. Or a doctor. Or a rocket scientist.” Later, Palahniuk writes, “With apologies to Simone de Beauvoir, Penny didn’t want to be a third-wave anything. No offense to Bella Abzug, but neither did she want to be a post-anything. She didn’t want to replicate the victories of Susan B. Anthony and Helen Gurley Brown.” The women of “Beautiful You” feel burdened by the opportunities won for them by their feminist foremothers: “They’d all inherited a legacy of freedom, and they owed it to the future to forge a new frontier for the next generation of young women.” In the novel, the first female president of the United States had no interest in the role and only rose to the position at a man’s insistence (hahahahahalikethatwouldeverhappen).</p><p>Lucky for him and his fan base, the book only briefly explores these supposed female anxieties. Primarily, it pivots around male feelings of irrelevance and, notably, fears of female desire — in a vagina dentata sort of way. Like, actually: These magic sex toys secretly implant women’s vaginas with a device that impales penises! (There aren’t enough exclamation points in the world.) It is Oedipal and Freudian and <em>all the fucked-up things</em>.</p><p>Now, there’s no mistaking that “Beautiful You” is absurdist satire. But what, exactly, is its point? It’s very hard to read as a successful lampooning of toxic masculinity and male resentment. That’s especially true when considering that Palahniuk’s writing is wildly popular among men’s rights activists, whose own writing is often so extreme as to seem like parody when it is very much <em>not</em>. Complicating things is the fact that Palahniuk is gay. That’s right, the king of straight-dude-disenfranchisement literature is a gay man. It’s hard to say how aligned Palahniuk’s personal views are with the bro demographic and how much his writing is a parody of it.</p><p>Clearly, though, on some level Palahniuk himself relates to the male disenfranchisement narrative. In a recent Tumblr Q&amp;A he <a href="http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/chuck-palahniuk-dead-wrong-marginalization-men/">waxed</a> about “the dearth of novels that explore male issues.” When a reader responded with a tongue-in-cheek follow-up thanking him “for standing up for male writers, a desperately marginalized group,” Palahniuk <a href="http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/chuck-palahniuk-dead-wrong-marginalization-men/">responded</a>in earnest, apparently unaware that the remark was dripping with sarcasm. Or, for another example, take the following male rant in his 2001 novel “Choke”: “I mean, I’m just tired of being wrong all the time just because I’m a guy. I mean how many times can everybody tell you that you’re the oppressive, prejudiced enemy before you give up and become the enemy. I mean a male, chauvinist pig isn’t born, he’s made, and more and more of them are being made by women.” I won’t attempt to pin down Palahniuk’s intent with that passage, but I can confidently venture that his fanboys are not reading that as a satirical critique.</p><p>No matter what you make of Palahniuk’s actual artistic intentions, there is this: He has proven an uncanny ability to tap into the current mood of a very particular, alienated male demographic — and that’s what makes this book terrifying.</p><p> </p> Sat, 01 Nov 2014 10:52:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1025533 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Gender Sex & Relationships sex Love and Sex vibrators MEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVISM misogyny feminism gender BEAUTIFUL YOU CHUCK PALAHNIUK Why Do Women Guess Wrong About Men's Perception of Beauty? http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/why-do-women-guess-wrong-about-mens-perception-beauty <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Considering how much time we spend thinking about the opposite sex and their desires, we&#039;re awful at predicting them.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_173387159-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>My husband likes to squeeze onto what I’ve been taught to call my “muffin top,” the bit of “extra” flesh just above my hips. Recently, he planted a hand on it, squeezed and made a desirous grunting noise that made me think he might eat me alive. “Baby, no!” I protested, batting his hand away. “Don’t squeeze my fat.” His face softened. “But I love it. I love this juicy little oyster,” he said, referencing the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/chicken-oyster_n_2025359.html">tender, most delicious</a> part of a chicken. “It’s the best.”</p><p>Funny, I thought it was the worst.</p><p>This isn’t just a case of my particular insecurities and my husband’s sexual idiosyncrasies. Studies have shown that straight women overestimate the importance of thinness in heterosexual men’s perception of female beauty. That is to say, women think men prefer ladies much thinner — and “oyster”-less — than they actually do.</p><p>It started with a <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/abn/94/1/102/">study</a> in 1985, which had men and women use a set of figure drawings to indicate “their current figure, their ideal figure, the figure that they felt would be most attractive to the opposite sex, and the opposite sex figure to which they would be most attracted.” They found that “women thought men would like women thinner than men reported they like.” Similarly, men “thought women would like a heavier stature [in men] than females reported they like.” In other words, both sexes were wrong about what was attractive to the opposite sex — but this misperception only hurt women. That’s because men, unlike women, chose “current, ideal and most attractive” figures that were “almost identical.” The researchers wrote, ”Overall, men’s perceptions serve to keep them satisfied with their figures, whereas women’s perceptions place pressure on them to lose weight.”</p><p>Three years later, the same research team <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&amp;id=1988-35754-001">found</a> that “mothers and daughters believed that men (of their own generation) prefer much thinner women than these men actually prefer.”</p><p>This discrepancy has also attracted the attention of pseudo-scientific surveys. A headline in the Daily Mail <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2601389/Men-love-Kim-Kardashians-curves-women-want-Emma-Watsons-slim-hips-Infographic-shows-sexes-VERY-different-ideas-body-beautiful.html">captured it well</a>, “Men love Kim Kardashian’s curves while women want Emma Watson’s slim hips: Infographic shows the sexes have VERY different ideas about the body beautiful.” The emphasis isn’t always on the figure. In 2011, the media went nuts over a <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/perfect-female-face-2013-12">study</a> commissioned by a beauty retailer (ehem), which found differences between men’s and women’s perceptions of the ideal female face.</p><p>These findings make headlines because they’re surprising: Given the enormous industry around self-improvement, shouldn’t we have an accurate sense of what the opposite sex wants? It also seems to go against what evolutionary psychologists like to call “mate selection theory,” which suggests that women should have an accurate perception of what men find attractive, so as to judge their relative “mate value” (which is such a depressingly dehumanizing term, isn’t it?).</p><p>Psychologist David Buss, author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Evolution-Of-Desire-Revised/dp/046500802X">“The Evolution of Desire,”</a> tells me, ”Why women are a bit off in what they think men want is a weird modern phenomenon,” he told me. “My speculation is that it is distorted by media images of repeated exposure to ultra-thin female models that have even been photoshopped to make them look thinner than they really are.”</p><p>It is possible to explain in evolutionary terms, though. “One ‘input’ into women’s mating psychology is rival women in their ‘social environment,’” he said. “Ancestrally, of course, women would not have been exposed to hundreds of images of these ultra-thin women; small-group living meant that women had perhaps a dozen or two other women of reproductive age that would have effective same-sex mating rivals.” He speculates that “the thinness oddity” began with “the notion that clothes on models ‘hang better’ if the models are thin.” He explains, “Once the models started to get thin, this provided weird, modern, novel input that hijacked women’s sense of who their effective mating rivals were.”</p><p>That is to say, “If women perceive their competition to be multitudes of thin models, or their psychology tricks them into thinking that these are their effective rivals, then that could cause this female misperception of what men find attractive.”</p><p>There’s another element here, which is the whole “women dress for other women” thing. A 1986 study reported, “For some women, the anticipated reactions of same-sex peers may be of greater importance in their pursuits of slimness than are the anticipated reactions of male peers.” Interestingly, research has shown that women also overestimate the thinness of female peers’ sense of the ideal body. Buss adds that “women compete not just to attract men but also for a position in women’s status hierarchies.” So, it isn’t all about the guys.</p><p>Even if straight women could accurately predict what most hetero men find attractive, it would only be true for the average man — and who wants “average,” anyway? For that matter, who wants to live in a world where we are no more than our evolutionarily defined mate value?</p><p>There’s evidence to back up Buss’s theory of media brainwashing. Earlier this year, a <a href="http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0086302;jsessionid=754F835FA2016A50253EBE0718299DF4">study</a> found that women’s perception of female beauty varied depending on the images they were exposed to beforehand. Women who were exposed to photos of attractive plus-size models before being surveyed chose a higher BMI as ideal than those who were exposed to attractive “lightweight” models. Men’s perceptions, on the other hand, were not affected by what they were exposed to prior to being surveyed. Simple acts, like publishing plus-size models in advertisements, could actually change women’s bodily ideal — and, as a consequence, move their perception of straight male desire closer to reality. In that case, everybody wins, right?</p><p>Well, everyone except advertisers who want to maintain an unrealistic ideal to which women can strive via purchasing an endless array of products.</p> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 19:05:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1023959 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships relationships men women attractiveness The Strange World of Safe-for-Work Porn http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/strange-world-safe-work-porn <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A peek inside the online communities devoted to the art of making X-rated images hilariously PG.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_179677679.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Just when I thought I’d found the outer limits of the Internet, I stumbled across safe-for-work porn. It’s X-rated material that’s been edited and crudely drawn upon so as to appear G-rated. Thus, a penis becomes a bottle of Ensure, a vagina a corncob — oh, you’ll see, soon enough.</p><p>There are <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/sfwporn">discussion threads</a> and <a href="http://pornsfw.com/">entire websites</a> devoted to this genre. The creative minds behind the curious art form work tirelessly to reimagine the male member as a candy cane, a soda can, a very large pencil — you name it. (I have one sole artistic critique: No one eats a banana like that.) Their creations are posted with remarks like, “<a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/SFWporn/comments/2eg655/she_really_likes_ice_cream/" rel="nofollow" tabindex="1">She Really Likes Ice Cream</a>” or “<a href="http://i.imgur.com/6Wq3qJm.png" tabindex="1">Just enjoying a popsicle</a>.” Commenters then weigh in with kudos (“this is pure art”), a link to the original NSFW image or video and sometimes harsh critique (“I get the idea but this kinda misses the SFWporn mark”).</p><p>The overall effect is of making you believe that there might be some innocence left in the world. Although, a funny thing happens after you view enough SFW porn: Everything begins to look like undercover smut. Microphones, ice cream cones and hot dogs start to look real suspicious. Melons and bowling balls leave you thinking, “Pssh, yeah right!” Suddenly you’re editing in genitals everywhere you look. Also, be forewarned: Despite the name, these are not exactly safe for work. Sure, you can try telling you boss, “Look, he’s just performing the heimlich!” or “Those spherical objects that he’s placing on her face are cucumber slices, for a facial!” But I wouldn’t recommend it.</p><p><a href="http://cdn.acidcow.com/pics/20101207/sfw_33.jpg">10.) The puppet show</a></p><p>Those buff, shirtless men gathered in a circle with their hands at crotch level? They’re just performing a marionette show!</p><p><a href="http://cdn.acidcow.com/pics/20101207/sfw_100.jpg">9.) Waterslide!</a></p><p>I  mean, why else would someone assume such a position?</p><p><a href="http://thechive.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/sfw-porn-cartoon-4.jpg">8.) 2 guys, 2 bouquets</a></p>That was so nice of her to bring those men flowers. Hooray for gender reversals!<p><a href="http://cdn.acidcow.com/pics/20101207/sfw_34.jpg">7.) Legs spread, hand between her legs</a></p><p>But get your mind out of the gutter! She’s only DJ-ing.</p><p><a href="http://www.memecenter.com/fun/858614/sfw-pron-compilation">6.) That ball gag in her mouth?</a></p><p>She’s wearing it to participate in a political protest against censorship.</p><p><a href="http://cdn.acidcow.com/pics/20101207/sfw_68.jpg">5.) The snake charmer</a></p><p>Enough said, right?</p><p><a href="http://cdn.acidcow.com/pics/20101207/sfw_24.jpg">4.) Knife fight</a></p><p>Looks like his armor blocked a deadly blow to the genitals.</p><p><a href="http://cdn.acidcow.com/pics/20101207/sfw_77.jpg">3.) The sexy miner</a></p><p>She doesn’t quite have a grasp on how to use the pickaxe, but she’s certainly show commitment with her two-handed grip.</p><p><a href="http://cdn.acidcow.com/pics/20101207/sfw_74.jpg">2.) The seamstress</a></p><p>It’s an unusual approach, mending a friend’s pants while they’re still on, but whatever gets the job done!</p><p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m86z_480bqo#t=43">1.) Who knew sex was so similar to playing musical instruments?</a></p><p>It is safe to say that this video is the apotheosis of the genre. It deserves a goddam Academy Award.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><div class="media-youtube-outer-wrapper" id="media-youtube-1" style="width: 312px; height: 222px;"> <div class="media-youtube-preview-wrapper" id="media_youtube_m86z_480bqo_1"> <object width="312" height="222"> <param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/m86z_480bqo" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="wmode" value="transparent" /><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/m86z_480bqo" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="312" height="222" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object> <script type="text/javascript"><!--//--><![CDATA[// ><!-- if (Drupal.settings && Drupal.media_youtube) { Drupal.settings.media_youtube = Drupal.settings.media_youtube || {}; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_m86z_480bqo_1"] = {}; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_m86z_480bqo_1"].width = 312; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_m86z_480bqo_1"].height = 222; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_m86z_480bqo_1"].video_id = "m86z_480bqo"; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_m86z_480bqo_1"].fullscreen = true; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_m86z_480bqo_1"].id = "media_youtube_m86z_480bqo_1_iframe"; Drupal.settings.media_youtube["media_youtube_m86z_480bqo_1"].options = { autoplay: 0 }; Drupal.media_youtube.insertEmbed("media_youtube_m86z_480bqo_1"); } //--><!]]> </script></div> </div> </div><p> </p> Sun, 12 Oct 2014 12:55:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1022862 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships video porn pornography sex Love and Sex nsfw SFW Life News Ben Affleck's Full Frontal in "Gone Girl" May Be All the Rage—But Here Are 9 Male Stars Who Bared All First http://www.alternet.org/culture/ben-afflecks-full-frontal-gone-girl-may-be-all-rage-here-are-9-male-stars-who-bared-all <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Male nudity on film is memorable because it&#039;s still rare.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/ben.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>These days, it seems everyone’s <a href="http://www.vulture.com/2014/10/how-to-see-ben-affleck-nude-penis-gone-girl.html">talking about</a> <a href="http://gawker.com/ive-seen-ben-afflecks-dick-and-this-is-what-it-looks-li-1641209342">Ben Affleck’s</a> <a href="http://www.usmagazine.com/entertainment/news/ben-afflecks-penis-in-gone-girl-us-weeklys-film-critic-missed-it-2014210">penis’</a> ever-so-brief appearance in the new film “Gone Girl.” So much so that you would think he was the first big-time male star to go full-frontal. Far from it, though! Granted, it is all too rare, but  several leading men have come (ugh) before him and, unlike Affleck, some have offered more than a was-that-what-I-thought-it-was glimpse. You know what that means: time for<a href="http://www.salon.com/2013/11/03/the_10_strangest_facts_about_penises/">another</a> <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/07/23/10_more_strange_facts_about_penises/">penis list</a>.</p><p><strong>Leonardo DiCaprio, “Total Eclipse”</strong></p><p>This one often escapes attention because it happened before “Titanic” turned Leonardo DiCaprio into a leading man. You can thank 12-year-old me — creator of a DiCaprio fan-site and daily newsletter — for catching the full Leo back in the day. In this film about the tumultuous relationship between French poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud, Dicaprio, playing the latter, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vALJ0Dec1E">climbs naked onto a balcony</a> (around 6:29). Blink and you’ll miss it, but my pubescent self hit rewind, play and pause enough times on that VHS to know that there’s peen there — and enough to permanently damage the tape (sorry, Blockbuster).</p><p><strong>Kevin Bacon, “Wild Things”</strong></p><p>I mean, obviously, this has to be on the list. It’s obligatory in any discussion of male nudity in movies, but I just don’t get the hype. In the 1998 film, Bacon flashes his penis for but a fraction of a second. I’m too old — and free Internet porn is too accessible — now to play the rewind-and-pause game.</p><p><strong>Jason Segel, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”</strong></p>The penis has long, ehem, been a, um, tool for comedy — from destroying a homemade dessert in “American Pie” to getting caught in Ben Stiller’s zipper in “There’s Something About Mary” to masquerading as a tiny mushroom in “The Hangover 3.” But no one has done so as bravely as Jason Segel in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” When his character, fresh out of the shower, is unexpectedly dumped by his girlfriend, he drops his bath towel in shock — and <a href="http://www.omgblog.com/2008/11/omg_hes_naked_jason_segel.php#.URqWwkpAS4c">refuses to cover up</a>.<p><strong>Bruce Willis, “Color of Night”</strong></p><p>In the 1994 film “Color of Night,” Bruce Willis and co-star Jane March get busy in a pool and we get a clear underwater shot of the action star’s <a href="http://manhuntdaily.com/2011/07/celebrity-skin-bruce-willis/">action figure</a>, if you know what I’m sayin’. It still can’t compete with the vision of a bloody and sweaty Willis in a tank top in “Die Hard.”</p><p><strong>Harvey Keitel, “The Piano”</strong></p><p>I could probably compile a list solely of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lqcd1IiEUhE">Harvey Keitel’s nude scenes</a>, but perhaps his most memorable is in “The Piano,” while naked and cleaning the aforementioned piano — as one does. Four words: That light, those muscles.</p><p><strong>Shia Labeouf, Sigur Ross’ “Fjögur píanó”</strong></p><p>This <a href="http://vimeo.com/45185028">music video</a>, with its interpretive dance and body painting, is the most annoying, but at least Shia Labeouf is briefly naked in it. It’s a de-sexualized, matter-of-fact nudity — so much so that it almost doesn’t even belong on this list. It is just that unremarkable, andthat is oddly refreshing.</p><p><strong>Viggo Mortensen, “Eastern Promises”</strong></p><p>In this David Cronenberg film, a naked Viggo Mortensen is <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/10/07/the_real_star_of_gone_girl_ben_affleck_and_the_art_of_the_male_full_frontal_scene/%E2%80%9Dhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cSP8u9N1Vg%E2%80%9D">attacked in a bathhouse</a> by knife-wielding Russian mobsters. There are broken bones, bucket loads of blood and a knife stabbed in an eye. It is incredibly disgusting. But, Viggo Mortensen, you guys.</p><p><strong>Tom Hardy, “Bronson”</strong></p><p>Tom Hardy has done his fair share of nude scenes, but while playing a prisoner in “Bronson” he is arguably nuder than nude. I’m talking naked prison fights galore. As the blogger Melissa McEwan <a href="http://www.shakesville.com/2012/11/hardy-boy.html">told</a> her husband after watching the movie, “I saw body parts on him that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen on you after ten years of marriage.”</p><p><strong>Michael Fassbender, “Shame”</strong></p><p>This isn’t a teasing flash. Michael Fassbender gets out of bed and <a href="http://ahlicake.tumblr.com/post/21281579584/shame-blu-ray-today-let-us-be-blessed-with-a">leisurely strolls to the bathroom</a>, and the camera all the while lingers — nay, luxuriates — at crotch-level. Never before has a limp dick inspired such excitement: It prompted George Clooney to joke that Fassbender could play golf with his hands behind his back. Size aside, this scene deserves to be celebrated for this comment alone from Fassbender: “It just baffles me: Women can parade around naked all the time, but the guy conveniently has his pants on. I remember my mom always complaining about that to me, saying, ‘This is such bullshit, it’s always the women who are naked’ … so I did this one for you, Mom!”</p><p> </p> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 10:29:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1022359 at http://www.alternet.org Culture Culture Gender Sex & Relationships Ben Affleck Ben Affleck's penis Gone Girl male nudity in movies double standard of nudity in movies Jason Segel bruce willis Harvey Keitel Leo DiCaprio I Played Japan’s Best-Selling Dating Simulator -- and Loved It http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/i-played-japans-best-selling-dating-simulator-and-loved-it <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">These anime novels are being customized for American women, and could give &quot;Fifty Shades&quot; a run for its money</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-09-29_at_11.28.20_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Don’t ask how I ended up an accidental stowaway on a pirate ship — long story. What’s important was that I had been threatened with being blindfolded and forced to walk the plank. But after rescue by the dark-haired captain, I was allowed to stay on the ship — so long as I chose to room with one of the men  – all strapping, young and decidedly metrosexual, <em>especially</em> for pirates. Would it be Christopher, the kindhearted doctor with a buzz cut? Eduardo, the one with the eyepatch and slicked-back hair? Morgan, the captain with the alluring bed-head and cleave rivaling most women’s?</p><p>Just as I made my decision — the captain, obviously — the game came to a screeching halt. Did I want to buy an expansion for $3.99 so that I might see what happened next? Why yes, yes I did. I clicked “purchase” before I could even register what I was doing.</p><p>How, you might ask, did I end up not only playing but <em>paying for</em> <em>extras</em> on the iPhone app “Pirates in Love”? Great question. You see, last week when I read a <a href="http://www.wired.com/2014/09/love-sex-tokyo-game-show/">report</a> on Wired.com about the Japanese explosion of romance video games for women, I knew I had to try some out — <em>for my job</em>. Strictly professional. Lucky for me, and my sorry handful of Japanese phrases, countless games have been translated into English — and these companies are even creating games to be marketed specifically to American women. They were a mega-hit in Japan, so why not try to broaden their reach, right? They’re known as “otome” games, or “girl” games; sometimes they’re called dating simulators, which pretty accurately communicates what these games are all about: flirting, courtship and lots of blushing.</p><p>That is how I’ve found myself in a situation in which I never quite imagined. If my husband read my inbox right now, he might think I was having an affair with some creepy narcissist with a yacht. That’s because currently I have open an email with the subject line, “Don’t fall for me; you might burn yourself.” The body of the email reads: “You sneak onto my ship, and then you sleep sprawled out on my bed. Geez, what a woman! … Your name is … Tracy, right? I like it. Since you picked my room, I’m sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. I’ll take good care of you, baby.” He’s bossy, patronizing and dark — basically Christian Grey in anime form. Similarly, the sexual tension escalates ever so slowly through insinuations and very little action — at one point the Pirate King says, “Go ahead and sit anywhere, including the bed.” Good one, bro! (But seriously, good one.)</p><p>I tried out nearly a dozen of these games, just, you know, to be <em>thorough</em>. I found that they are only “games” in a very loose sense of the word: They’re more like visual erotic novels that you click through with the occasional choose-your-own-adventure element (à la deciding which pirate to bunk with). Another favorite game of mine: “Roommates,” which I played on my Mac. I decided to play as Anne, a college coed busting out of a completely voluntary schoolgirl uniform. She moves in with a handful of fellow students and high jinks follow. Notably, there is Max, the spikey-haired guitar-playing bad boy, and Isabella, the busty flirt. It’s a pansexual world where everyone flirts with everyone and anyone is a romantic target. Basically, it’s the drunkest season of “The Real World” in video game form.</p><p>It’s also highly attuned to female fantasy, drawing on the tradition of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yaoi">yaoi</a>, or “boy’s love,” a homoerotic Japanese genre directed at women. At one point, two of Anne’s male roommates are forced to kiss as punishment during a drunken card game and she admits, with an exaggerated blush, “I may have thought about boy stuff occasionally.” Female players can also go through the game as Max and seduce any of his buff male roommates, who, it should be noted, make a hobby out of slowly walking from the shower to their rooms with a towel cavalierly draped around their waists.</p><p>That isn’t to say that the genre is enlightened or progressive — and that’s putting it very lightly. I played one game called “My Forged Wedding,” in which the female protagonist is bribed by her uncle into marrying a man she doesn’t know — but, naturally, she ends up falling for him. There are also plenty of pretty-princess games involving balls at the royal castle, mysterious princes and overprotective parents. The romantic leads are often patronizing, and in at least one game I played the female protagonist was referred to as a “child” — which, creepy. But for every retro scenario, there is a more modern one, like “Metro PD,” in which a woman joins a team of ace male detectives and both romance and crime-fighting ensue. All of which is to say that the otome genre is a lot like the romance genre at large — some of it is smart, a lot of it is super-troubling, but many women love it.</p><p>Eventually, I told my husband all about the Pirate King, even showing him screen captures of the shirtless, and weirdly nipple-less, outlaw. He exclaimed, “You love it!” “No, no. It’s just that it’s so <em>ridiculous</em> that it’s awesome,” I said, like a hipster defending his ironic mustache. He saw right through me. “I guess it makes me feel like a preteen again, in a good way,” I admitted.</p><p>Later, I realized that there was a bit more to it. I felt like a preteen because that was the last time — with the possible exception of, say, “Magic Mike” — that I’d felt like a mainstream product had truly relished in the lustful, delirious objectification of men. I haven’t encountered that since I was a teenybopper reading Tiger Beat with all of its glossy Leonardo DiCaprio pinups or watching one of the Backstreet Boys hump the stage in concert. It’s no accident that it is once again with a product that is decidedly juvenile, because that, my friends, is how we view female sexuality.</p> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 20:26:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1021264 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships Anime dating How Big Is the Average Penis? You Might Be Surprised http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/how-big-average-penis-you-might-be-surprised-0 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A study tries to find the real answer to that question and discovers men have been telling the truth all along.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_159587795-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Let’s just get this out of the way up front: 14.15 cm (or 5.57 inches). That’s the mean length of an erect penis, according to a new study. I’ll wait here while you break out the measuring tape.</p><p>Finished yet? OK, with that out of the way, we can get to the more interesting stuff (said like a true vagina-haver). The study out of Indiana University, “Erect Penile Length and Circumference Dimensions of 1,661 Sexually Active Men in the United States,” is just what it sounds like. The main, ahem, thrust of the research was to get men to accurately measure their own penis length — in other words, to cut through the cultural BS (and, OK, <a href="http://www.salon.com/2013/04/09/this_just_in_women_prefer_well_endowed_men/">proven preference</a> for larger members) that might encourage a man to inflate his number. Despite worries about inaccurate reporting, the researchers went with a self-measurement approach. That’s because many men have trouble getting fully aroused, or maintaining an erection, in front of a researcher with a measuring tape.</p><p>As for why the measurements were taken of erect penises, which introduces its own complicating factors, the paper explains that this is “largely regarded as the least biased” method. As “growers” are quick to explain, stretching out a penis gives a more accurate measurement of its erect dimensions than simply measuring as it hangs flaccid — but stretching someone’s penis out to measure it “may introduce bias if experimenters vary in the amount of force used to stretch the penis.” The problems introduced by having men wield the ruler privately are preferable.</p><p>The data was taken from a larger study on condom fit — in other words, the research wasn’t framed as being about penis length, per se. The participants were told that they had to accurately measure their member in order to “receive condoms sized to fit their own erect penis.” What they found was surprising: ”The mean erect penile dimensions in our study were consistent with the range of mean erect penile dimensions presented in previous studies, suggesting that men likely self-report data accurately — or at least reliably — to research teams.” Penis measurers the world over, you have been vindicated.thing that did influence penile measurement was — you’ll be shocked to hear — oral sex. “Men who reported that their partner stimulated their penis orally in order for him to get an erection reported a significantly longer penile length than men who reported using only fantasy,” says the study. Most men in the study, however, measured their junk by their lonesome while using their hand (insert sad trombone).</p><div data-toggle-group="story-13364376"><p>You might wonder why any of this matters. Why are scientists spending precious research time measuring dicks? For one, sharing the fact that 83 percent of men have an erect penis length of 16 cm or less “may provide reassurance to men who worry that their erect penis should be longer,” says the study. Second, penis measurements can tell us more about vaginal dimensions, which can be even more complex to measure. ”Third,” says the study, “knowledge of erect penile dimensions may provide helpful information to individuals who design vaginal dilators for clinical application or sexual enhancement devices, such as vibrators or dildos.” And if those don’t seem like a legitimate reasons? Well, then I’m afraid we just can’t be friends anymore.</p></div><p> </p> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 17:27:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1021242 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships sex penis What It's Like to Come Out as Asexual in Our Hypersexual Culture http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/what-its-come-out-asexual-our-hypersexual-culture <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Why is identifying as asexual seen as such a shocker in America?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/3726354896_8a2f8d3d34_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>At age 14, Julie Sondra Decker found herself delivering the cliché line “It’s not you, it’s me.” Only, she meant it. She wasn’t attracted to her first boyfriend but kissed him anyway “because I was expected to,” she says. People told her she'd like it one day, and she believed them. <span style="font-size: 12px;">But by age 16, nothing had changed.</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">“I simply had a complete lack of interest in sex and anything related,” she writes. “I’d just never been sexually attracted to another person. Not my boyfriend, not the hottest people in school, not the heartthrob movies stars. I wasn’t interested. Period.” Her high school boyfriend nicknamed her “Miss Non-Hormone” and she began referring to herself as “nonsexual.” That’s when people started offering their opinions, things like, “That’s not normal. You need to get checked out,” “You’re going to die alone with a houseful of cats” and “Shut up and admit you’re gay.”</span></p><p>Shortly after Decker graduated from college, David Jay founded the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network in 2001 and media attention soon followed. “I started describing myself as ‘asexual’ instead of ‘nonsexual’ to connect myself with the awareness efforts,” explains Decker, 36, who lives in Tampa, Florida. Now she’s taken it a step further, writing a book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Invisible-Orientation-Introduction-Asexuality/dp/1631440020">The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality,</a> to demystify the overlooked orientation. She spoke with Salon about our hypersexualized culture, masturbation and what non-asexuals have to learn from asexuals about love and relationships.</p><p><strong style="font-size: 12px;"><span style="font-size: 12px;">Tracy Clark-Flory: </span></strong><strong>Let’s start with the most basic thing here: How do you personally define asexuality?

</strong></p><p>Julie Sondra Decker: Asexuality, most broadly, is a lack of sexual attraction. However, it’s a pretty diverse spectrum, and some people prefer to say they aren’t interested in sex, don’t like sex or feel that sex isn’t intrinsically rewarding. Many asexual people, including me, will describe it as nobody seeming sexy to them or nothing happening in reaction to someone being sexy.</p><p><strong style="font-size: 12px;">TCF: </strong><strong>When did you discover that you were asexual?

</strong></p><div data-toggle-group="story-13773461"><p>JSD: I was about 15 years old when I first started calling myself “nonsexual.” That was in the mid-1990s, before there were Internet-based asexual communities — well, really before there was much of an Internet. For me it was almost a joke term at first; everybody else I knew found sex intriguing and had their own complicated relationship with it, but to me it seemed like a complete non-issue. I could tell if people were physically attractive in a normative way, but that didn’t inspire any reaction for me or any desire to be closer to them, possess them somehow or touch them. I had no fantasies that involved sex or physical intimacy, no dreams that I could recall on the subject, and certainly didn’t enjoy the overtures others made toward me in that regard. So I used the “nonsexual” term with the full understanding that I was fairly young and with an expectation that I would grow and change. I did grow and change. But that part of me didn’t.</p><p><strong style="font-size: 12px;">TCF: </strong><strong>Have you had romantic relationships?

</strong></p><p>JSD: Just a couple, both in high school. I dated two boys —one in ninth grade, one in 11th. The first boy was basically an experiment, I guess, because I’d never been asked out before and I figured I’d see what it was like, but all I found out was that we didn’t have much in common and I didn’t like French kissing. The second boy, who was older, pursued me relentlessly for a year or so before I finally agreed to date him — my naive little 16-year-old heart thought letting him date me might boost the poor guy’s self-esteem — but he turned out to be the type who thought he could change me and believed it was his own failure when he couldn’t. Dating him involved some unpleasant experiments that he more or less pressured me into, and I went through with more physical intimacy than I was comfortable with, though we did not have sex. I — again, naively — thought “keeping an open mind” would only require trying something once and then he’d have to leave me alone since I’d given it a shot.</p><p>I learned through that experience that no amount of entertaining others’ expectations is actually enough unless I change. They’ll always say I didn’t give it a chance, or ruined it by expecting to hate it, or didn’t try with the right person, or with the right gender, or at the right time. I decided since then to trust myself as the arbiter of what’s “enough” and have turned down plenty of offers since, and because I have yet to feel any sexual attraction to anyone, I have never allowed anyone else to talk me into anything I know I don’t desire. I think I’d recognize it if it happened to me. Most other people find it unmistakable. If a food smells delicious to everyone else but bland or bad to me, I don’t owe anyone the demonstration of actually eating it before I’m “allowed” to say I don’t want to eat the dish.</p><p><strong style="font-size: 12px;">TCF: </strong><strong>Was there a coming-out process?

</strong></p><p>JSD: Not really. I tell people I’m asexual all the time, so I suppose each of those has been a mini coming-out, and sometimes people have a slew of questions that I’m usually happy to answer if they’re presented in an appropriate context. But everybody who knew me when I was dating in high school knew I wasn’t into it, and everybody who’s known me since has seen me demonstrating my happiness with my situation even when I didn’t have anything to call it, so there was never any kind of official “coming out” to close people in my family and friend groups. I know plenty of asexual people who have had coming-out experiences, though.</p><p><strong style="font-size: 12px;">TCF: </strong><strong>I know many asexuals masturbate, correct? How do you differentiate between sexual desire and the desire for physical release? 

</strong></p><p>JSD: Some asexual people masturbate and some don’t. It’s about the same as in non-asexual populations. Because we don’t always have the same experiences as other orientations even when we date and have sex, we tend to pick things apart so we can analyze what we’re experiencing and what we’re not.</p><p>In this case, we describe a difference between sexual arousal, sex drive and sexual attraction. Sexual arousal suggests a physiological response, sex drive suggests a desire to respond to arousal or a desire to pursue sex, and sexual attraction suggests an experience of finding someone sexually appealing. An asexual person might have a libido and be able to get aroused, but not have those experiences directed at anyone. 

It’s fairly common knowledge that very young children often masturbate, and they are not “thinking about sex” just because they’re enjoying touching their genitals. They don’t even know what sex is, they just know it feels good. A maturing or mature asexual person will have a more complicated understanding of masturbation if they’re engaging in it — so this is not to imply that they necessarily masturbate the same way an infant might — but I’m saying it because it’s one very obvious example of how masturbation can be “not about sex.”</p><p>In short, enjoying a physical sensation is not the same thing as finding other people sexually attractive, and it’s attraction, not behavior, that defines this orientation.

 We hear “But masturbation by definition <em>is</em> sexual!” all the time from detractors, usually followed by some pseudo-scientific twaddle about why we can’t be asexual if we “are sexual” through masturbation, but the very simple fact is that we don’t care if some of us “count as sexual” by some incredibly broad definition. It doesn’t change anything about what we’re describing as our experience.</p><p><strong style="font-size: 12px;">TCF:</strong><strong style="font-size: 12px;"><span style="font-size: 12px;"> </span>What’s the worst thing about being asexual?</strong></p><p>JSD: For me, the worst thing about being asexual is other people trying to fix me all the time. They develop this completely inappropriate obsession with my sexual and romantic life, which can manifest as anything from aggressively propositioning me for sex to searching for what’s “really” wrong with me through invasive questions. Some of them maintain that these attempted interventions are about my health and happiness, apparently unaware that they’re compromising both by refusing to respect my identity.</p><p><strong>TCF: What’s the best thing?</strong></p><p>JSD: For me, the best thing about being asexual is getting to meet other people on the asexual spectrum and offering them support while learning about how they navigate their lives.</p><p><strong style="font-size: 12px;">TCF: </strong><strong>What’s it like being asexual in such a hypersexualized culture?</strong></p><p>JSD: Sometimes being left out of an experience that’s considered by so many to be central to life is isolating and a little lonely, but only in a sort of distant sense, because I honestly do not wish I was like everyone else. Sometimes sexually motivated advertising seems ridiculous to me — though I understand a lot of people think so too despite not being asexual — and if a movie or television show relies on the sexual attractiveness of its actors to magnify its audience’s appreciation, that will be lost on me. 

It really only gets to me when people fixate on changing me and pressure me to “try” to be something — anything! — else.</p><p>I’ve had wannabe partners condescendingly mutter about what a waste I am or whine unattractively about how unfair it is that I won’t give them a shot — how close-minded I must be to deny myself the supposed pleasures of sexual relations with someone who’s literally as sexually attractive to me as a turtle. This preoccupation others sometimes have with “converting” me — and their belief that it would be for my own good, not their own benefit — is a symptom of a hypersexualized culture in which they literally cannot imagine a sexless or unpartnered life being fulfilling. I wish they’d just stop projecting once in a while.</p><p><strong style="font-size: 12px;">TCF: </strong><strong>Do you ever feel left out of pop culture? Do you wish to see asexuals better represented?

</strong></p><p>JSD: Asexual people are not commonly featured in media. It would definitely be nice if more celebrities frankly acknowledged their asexuality — though you see it once in a while with folks like Janeane Garofalo or Paula Poundstone — and it would be great if more mainstream media included asexual characters. The fact that we never see ourselves represented in the wider world is a contributing factor to our isolation and difficulty coming to terms with our identity.</p><p>We need both stories that blatantly feature asexuality and its discovery — like a subplot of the New Zealand soap opera “Shortland Street,” in which a biromantic asexual man found his label on the Internet and explored what it meant — as well as stories that feature asexuality incidentally, like a one-off mention of asexuality spoken by a minor character on the American drama “Huge,” in which a camp counselor casually identified as asexual while watching a movie and described her aromanticism. We need “issue books” as well as asexual best friend characters and incidentally asexual romantic partners and specific but normalized inclusion of asexuality in all venues where sexual diversity would normally be discussed.</p><p><strong style="font-size: 12px;">TCF: </strong><strong>Often enough, I think people feel helplessly at the whim of their sexual desire. When you don’t have sexual desires driving you in that way, is there some other force that replaces it?</strong></p><p>JSD: I can only speak for myself here, but I don’t see my passions as driving me “instead of” sexual desire. I think everyone chases their passions. I’m an artist, a singer, a reader and a passionate writer, but I don’t feel I do those things as a substitute for sex any more than an Olympic skier attacks those slopes “instead of” playing basketball. I’m happy to say that I’m a fulfilled and productive person, but there are plenty of asexual people with no so-called extraordinary passions or achievements, and it’s also true that non-asexual people are responsible for most of the world’s innovations and accomplishments even though they also have sexual passions that drive them. It’s really not a tradeoff.</p><p><strong style="font-size: 12px;">TCF: </strong><strong>Does the asexual community have any particular political causes — like recognition of non-traditional families or something along those lines?</strong></p><p>JSD: Absolutely! Sorry, but this is going to get long.

 Some of our political causes are along the same lines as any typical LGBTQ group, since a huge percentage of asexual people are also LGB+ and/or trans or non-binary, we of course would benefit from marriage equality and broader gender recognition and protection. And even those who are cisgender and heteroromantic or aromantic may be affected negatively by heteronormative expectations. For instance, there are still some places that have consummation laws. In these places, a partner who desires sex can legally annul a marriage if the expected intercourse is not allowed or not possible, and this affects sex-repulsed and sex-reluctant asexual people, among others.</p><p>Similarly, since sex is expected for a marriage to count as “real,” it can cause problems for international couples. Invasive questions about a couple’s sex life are sometimes brought up in interviews to help determine whether a marriage is falsified to let one person stay in the country. And since some people insist that marriage must always include sex, this prejudice has even gotten in the way of adoption attempts by asexual people. In one anecdotal case, an asexual couple reported that they were adopting partly because they did not want to have sex to conceive a child themselves, and they were told they were not eligible to adopt because “if you’re asexual, you’re not fit to be married.”</p><p>Asexuality is explicitly listed as a protected orientation in New York State — we’re protected from hate crimes, discrimination, et cetera, through this mention, and supposedly if we were wrongly fired or discriminated against because of our orientation, we could invoke this law. We would like to get asexuality listed as a protected orientation anywhere that lists sexual orientations, and we have taken steps to make this happen through our interaction with the lawmakers of ENDA — the Employee Non-Discrimination Act — which is federal legislation.</p><p>We’d also like to see better anti-rape legislation. Especially in spousal rape cases, asexual people are at a much higher risk for being coerced or forced into sex by a partner only to be told that being in a relationship or being married renders them in a constant state of consent and that <em>they</em>, not the assaulting partner, are “abusing” their mate if they withhold sex. Because societal expectations will often back up the more sexual partner’s desires and insist that they are deserving of sex, asexual people often feel no power to report or win cases involving their rape.</p><p>And finally, we experience discrimination from mental health professionals. This is changing somewhat since recent lobbying from our community and championing by some asexuality researchers managed to get us somewhat legitimized in the DSM-5. But mental health and even physical health practitioners are prone to assuming that asexuality is only understandable as a disorder, and vulnerable asexual people who do not have their own terms and knowledge for it yet have often been subjected to medical treatments — testosterone supplements, for instance — and psych professionals urging them to experiment with, embrace or tolerate sexual encounters under the mistaken assumption that no one is healthy unless they are sexually active.</p><p><strong style="font-size: 12px;">TCF: </strong><strong>Do you think there’s anything non-asexuals could stand to learn from asexuals? About sex, relationships or anything else, for that matter?

</strong></p><p>JSD: Because asexual people may feel some types of attractions but not others, we’ve created or adopted existing terminology to better describe what we are experiencing. For instance, some of us are romantically attracted to people even if we’re not sexually attracted to them, and some of us may experience sensual or aesthetic attraction, among others. We’re not the only ones who experience these things; non-asexual people generally have a romantic orientation too, but since their sexual attractions so often correspond to their romantic ones, they can just say “attracted to” and expect that phrase to stand for a whole host of feelings. We don’t have that shorthand. The result has been discussion and language that can certainly be used outside asexual circles. For instance, there have been straight people who feel very confused about the fact that they may be sexually and romantically attracted to different-gender partners but seem to also be experiencing a romantic attraction to someone of their own gender. Wondering if that means they’re therefore gay or bi, they don’t know what to call it, but with terms like heterosexual biromantic, they can have words for their feelings.</p><p>Asexual people are also more likely than non-asexual people to have what’s called a queerplatonic partner; people of any sexual orientation might have someone in their lives to whom they feel committed and close but wouldn’t call that relationship either “romantic” <em>or</em> “friendship.” Our distinction between sexual arousal, sex drive and sexual attraction has been useful to some, and we’ve even had some great discussions about decoupling BDSM and kink from necessarily “sexual” associations; there are kinky asexual people whose satisfaction does not depend on sexual attraction to partners, and sometimes through use of the vocabulary popularized in our communities, non-asexual people can further understand and guide their less typical fetish experiences.</p><p>And of course, if any non-asexual person would like to have a romantic relationship with an asexual person, they will learn more about compromise — notably, that compromise isn’t entirely about whether and to what extent they can get their asexual partner to tolerate or engage in sex. Along with negotiating sexual activity, some “mixed” partnerships have adopted non-monogamous lifestyles, as well as focused more on other intimate activities that make a romantic relationship the exclusive and beautiful partnership it is.</p></div><p> </p> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 10:16:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1019836 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships asexuals sexuality julia sondra decker Sexual attraction discrimination How Women REALLY Talk About Men's Penises http://www.alternet.org/how-women-really-talk-about-mens-penises <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Don&#039;t worry men, it&#039;s not all about size. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-09-11_at_3.47.53_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>“He has an uh-mazing dick.” Those were the words of Michelle Money — yes, that is her real name — on this week’s season finale of “Bachelor in Paradise.” She was referring to the appendage of Cody, her now-boyfriend, with whom she had just had an overnight date. Even before she saw the aforementioned member, she told the camera in a pre-date interview that she was excited to see what she would find that evening. “Like, sometimes I get the impression that guys with that big a body have a small dick,” she said, her mouth blurred on the final word, on top of an obscuring bleep. “But I could be totally wrong. Maybe his dick is very muscular, like the rest of his body. Like the hulk.”</p><p>I must admit, when she said this, I pumped my fists in the air. That’s not because I enjoy seeing men, or women, reduced to their genitals — quite the contrary! I don’t like it when sexual aptitude is conflated with penis size, either. I’m very pro-“motion of the ocean” thinking, for the record, and to any straight man concerned that his penis is not large enough, allow me to direct you to <a href="http://ib.berkeley.edu/courses/ib140/berkeley%20female%20vagina%20uterus%20ovaries_files/image008.jpg">a diagram</a> of the vagina and, importantly, the G-spot. But it was refreshing to see sex talked about so blatantly on a TV franchise that historically has only allowed allusions and metaphors — and a whole lot of slut-shaming. But beyond all that, here was a woman talking about a penis in public like I’ve only heard women talk in private.</p><p>That wasn’t the only time that happened in the show’s finale. Following an overnight date during which her beau Robert wore his jeans to bed, contestant Sarah told the camera, “I don’t even know if he has a penis.” In that two-hour-long season finale, we saw the polar extremes of how women talk about a man’s dick — in praise of his virility and masculinity, and as a form of total and complete emasculation. It also happens that this week Jared Leto inspired a bunch of penis-fawning by grabbing his junk during a performance, which Lauren Yapalater broke down <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/lyapalater/what-the-hell-is-happening-with-jared-letos-bulge-here#az32q9">on BuzzFeed</a> via several stills and commentary such as, “WHOSITSWHATITSBALLOOGAAAHELGSKHGLSNDGMSD?????!!!” Just to fully convey her enthusiasm, know that I had to cut off the latter part of the exclamation points, along with special characters, to fit the quote on this page.</p><div data-toggle-group="story-13768910"><p>We’re used to hearing the kind of despicable “guy talk” that evaluates women according to their bra size or even … interior dimensions — but not so much women. So all these ladies talking about peen made me proud, it made me ashamed — and then I decided to talk to some of my lady friends about how we talk about penises.</p><p>My friend “Susan” says she started her sex life fooling around with guys who all had what she described as “very standard-issue schlongs.” Then in college, she started sleeping with men of all different sizes and shapes. ”It was neat, actually — a lesson in the depth of human variety,” she said. “I started to realize that the way people talked about penises — bigger is better, basically — was a symptom of shallow and unimaginative sex.” She did sleep with one man with an especially large penis and says, ”He practically broke my cervix. Oh god, it hurt. There is nothing good about a cervix-banger.”</p><p>Small penises are not an issue for her, she says. “I think that becomes more of a problem in a very standard, missionary-style sexual relationship. I know I’m old-fashioned, but I do think that good sex is less about genitalia and more about the way you feel when you’re together — your ability to let go, to surrender, to connect. The soul stuff.”</p><p>As for the recent reality-TV dick talk, Susan says, ”I find it funny how women have adopted the objectifying language that is so crude in men. The idea that a woman is ‘a good piece of ass’ or ‘a nice rack’ is pretty diminishing, but somehow, when I turn on reality TV, it seems to be crammed with women who want to ogle a guy’s six pack and talk about his junk.” And now I feel ashamed for cheering them on.</p><p>Another friend, the phenomenal sex writer <a href="http://annapulley.com/">Anna Pulley</a>, is bisexual and in a committed relationship with a woman. “My straight friends always tell me about the penises of the guys they date,” she said, noting that I am the exception (leave it to someone who writes publicly about her sex life to be demure in real life). “‘He had a nice dick,’ has been used more than once as the sole reason to keep sleeping with someone, regardless of personality. Other friends have held up pinkies to illustrate their displeasure with a dude’s size.” Ah, the ol’ pinkie move!</p><p>What about men who are not well endowed but have the right moves, though? “I’ve literally never heard ‘he was small but knew how to use it,’” she said. “I think women are a lot more size-ist than they want to be.” Real talk from this one! Although now is a good time to mention that another friend of mine did enthuse to me about her boyfriend, ”It’s small but he knows how to work it!” Pulley added: “I personally enjoy smaller wangs because I am hella tight.” All around, good news for all sizes.</p><p>My friend “Georgia” tells me, “When I’m describing a man’s penis to my friends, I often find girth more impressive than length. Curve is often the thing that makes the penis unique. Does it curve up? To the right a little? All of these thing contribute to the experience and are important notes to be shared.” Usually she employs the measuring stick of “thick, thin or average.” A couple of women weighed in on my inquiry via Twitter: One said she once described a penis as “serviceable,” while another told friends of a particularly “huge” member, “I almost died when I first saw it.”</p><p>On the harsher side of things, my friend “Mary” tells me that she had a friend who broke up with her boyfriend and then began referring to him as “needle dick.” “We laugh every time,” she says. “She was, like, at one time describing it to me and she said she remembered thinking, ‘Is it in?’” On Facebook, responding to my call for women’s firsthand accounts of how they have talked about penises, a woman wrote, “Stubby. Sorry, Rob, but I was waiting for you to penetrate me and, um, you already had. Then you said your oral capabilities made up for it. They didn’t.”</p><p>I suppose it’s fair to conclude that the reality of how women talk about penises is both men’s best fantasy and worst nightmare.</p></div><p> </p> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 12:46:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1018959 at http://www.alternet.org penis Why We’ll Never Stop Taking Naked Photos http://www.alternet.org/culture/why-well-never-stop-taking-naked-photos <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The theft of celebrity pics highlights how essential nude selfies have become to sexual self-expression.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_10.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>One thing brought up by this theft of celebrity nudes is the question of why we take naked photos in the first place. I don’t mean that in the victim-blaming sense of “that’s so dumb, why would you ever take a naked photo because obviously everyone will see it.” Although I do think it’s remarkable that naked photo leaks and thefts have seemingly done little to deter this impulse; clearly, taking naked photos is an important part of many people’s sexuality. We’ve taken, and allowed other people to take, naked photos of ourselves since long before the age of the smartphone or the portentous “cloud.” For as long as photography has existed, so too have nude photographs. But why?</p><p>In part, it can feel like a truer way of seeing yourself, says <a href="http://www.thesexmd.com/">Madeleine Castellanos</a>, a psychiatrist specializing in sexuality. “There is a universal curiosity to be able to see ourselves as other people see us,” she says. “By taking a picture, we can get a more objective and removed view that, at least in our mind, might come closer to what another person sees when they look at us.” She adds, “In the same spirit of seeing ourselves as other people do, taking pictures of yourself also helps feed this urge to constantly compare yourself to others to see if you are as attractive or sexy.” With the explosion of online porn, there is just so much more to compare yourself to.</p><p>The cultural critic John Berger once wrote, “To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognized for oneself.” <a href="http://www.iankerner.com/">Ian Kerner</a>, a New York sex therapist, says of this line, “He was speaking of societal objectification of the body, but when we take a nude photo of ourselves and share it with a lover we are recognized for oneself sexually and that’s extremely powerful and arousing. The power of exhibitionism lies in being seen and being appreciated and to experience this recognition at a sexual level is intensely stimulating.” But when these photos are shared in a less intimate way — and certainly in a non-consensual context — “the more one is nude in the sense that Berger meant,” Kerner argues.There’s also an element of submission in sharing a naked selfie, he says. “To be able to share a sexy photo with a partner can be an expression of the safety and security in a relationship, which makes them all the more arousing,” he explains. If only it was as simple as having a trustworthy partner. Kerner adds that “nude photos can be a kind of sexy secret between two partners, a token and totem of the intimacy between two people.” When you share a nudie pic in the context of a relationship, it’s both a pledge and leap of faith that nothing will go wrong in the relationship. No cheating, no lies, no betrayals, no heartbreak — nothing that could fracture trust or inspire revenge. A naked photo is a virtual promise ring.</p><div data-toggle-group="story-13762809"><p>Of course, on the most basic level, naked photos are about sexual performance, even when they’re intended for an audience of one. ”When working with patients on their fantasies, exhibitionism is high on the list, and taking or sending photos is a fairly normalized, and culturally accepted, version of exhibitionism,” he says. “It’s a way of dipping a toe into the shallow end of sexual adventurousness.”</p><p>Kerner makes another point that might be especially relevant in the case of female celebrities’ nudes: “We live in an age of sexual objectification, and taking a sexy selfie or allowing a partner to do so is a way of taking control of the objectification process and feeling sexually empowered, or enjoying that objectification through the eyes of an intimate partner.”  A naked selfie might be a powerful way for a female star, whose career is built around her physique and sex appeal, to reclaim her body — which just makes the recent photo thefts that much more of an insult.</p></div> Sun, 07 Sep 2014 11:29:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1018378 at http://www.alternet.org Culture Culture naked photo celebrity sex SELFIES selfie sexting nude photos nude selfies Editor's Picks Life News How I Felt When I Looked at Those Hacked Celebrity Nudes http://www.alternet.org/gender/how-i-felt-when-i-looked-those-hacked-celebrity-nudes <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">I clicked, then hated myself for it. Why do so many of us, even women, feel entitled to female bodies online? </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/jlaw_0.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>I did it. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I did: I searched for the celebrity nudes stolen by a hacker over the weekend. It was an almost unconscious reaction, like pulling away when touching something hot — only the opposite. There are celebrity nudes? Rush toward them. </p><p>It wasn’t sexual; I wasn’t looking to get turned on. I just wanted to know. What were these photos? How “bad” were they? As a woman in the world, I am all too aware of the perpetual possibility of being shamed or violated myself. It’s hard not to take such newsmaking events — regardless of whether they happen to a celebrity — as a warning. Besides, unless I searched for the images, I wouldn’t know whether they showed Ariana Grande delicately wrapped in a bed sheet or spinning sequined nipple tassels while juggling baby monkeys. My curiosity and concern, I told myself, shouted down the other voices in my head — the ones saying that these photos were stolen, that it was a violation of their privacy, that these women were being victim-blamed and slut-shamed for having taken these private photos in the first place. Sisterly solidarity, right? No — basichumanity.</p><p>I did it anyway.</p><p>“Oh, she’s so gorgeous!” I said out loud, when I came across the stolen images of Jennifer Lawrence. As though complimenting a woman while violating her privacy makes the thing any better. Her poses were all so familiar, seemingly the result of the directions of a man behind the camera, not to mention decades of indoctrination about what sexy looks like. Arched back, parted lips. Suddenly I was seeing myself in the photos — my younger, carefree self that posed for similar shots for now long-gone partners. The photos were relatable, but even still — or perhaps because of it — I kept looking. Lawrence’s body became the body of all women — me, my friends, the women at the gym and professional naked women alike. We all shared this dangerous condition of being female. This paradoxical plight of having bodies that are both worshiped and derided; desirable and dispensable; remarkable and interchangeable.</p><div>I don’t think I’d realized until then just how inured I’d become to the female body — and, frankly, violations against it. The very foundation of the Internet is built upon the endless availability of partially clothed or naked women — many willing, some not. I’m not just talking about what is traditionally considered porn — take the creepshots, the upskirts, the ex-girlfriend photos and sex tapes, the revenge porn. When it comes to women, sex and the Internet, there are so many “gotchas” and so much resentment. The violation of women’s consent is a favorite genre of titillation online and off; the thrill is in seeing what they don’t want you to see — or getting them to do what they don’t want to do. Some of this is overtly staged — particularly in the faux reality porn that is so popular these days — and so it becomes easy to excuse even real violations as harmless make-believe.</div><div data-toggle-group="story-13761789"><p>It’s also just too easy to forget that what happens online is real. We’re granted so much anonymity and privacy — unless, of course, you’re a woman on the Internet — that it’s difficult not to become lesser people online.</p><p>When you’ve explored the darkest corners of the Web — whether driven by strictly, ahem, personal interests, or like I have for my job as a sex writer — women’s naked bodies become somewhat unremarkable. This might be a good thing if it meant a more enlightened attitude toward nudity and sexuality, but it is just the opposite. Nudity is so ubiquitous online that it requires something more to spice it up, and often that’s a notable lack of consent. It’s the believable ex-girlfriend snapshot, the leaked sex tape that thrives online.</p><p>You see enough of that stuff and looking at stolen nudes of Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t seem like such a big deal — but it is. As Scott Mendelson <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2014/09/01/jennifer-lawrence-nude-photo-leak-isnt-a-scandal-its-a-sex-crime/">wrote</a> on Forbes.com, “It is a crime that has turned the entire online community into potential peeping Toms with little-to-no accountability for the consumers of said stolen property/invasion of privacy,” he wrote. “It is a crime of theft with the intent to exploit its victims as punishment for the unpardonable sin of being female.” It’s also a crime that turns plenty of women like myself into their own oppressors.</p></div><p> </p> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 11:58:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1018176 at http://www.alternet.org Gender Civil Liberties Culture Gender Media News & Politics Sex & Relationships naked celebrity hacking scandal the female body voyeurism consent 5 Weirdest Places People Have Had Sex http://www.alternet.org/5-weirdest-places-people-have-had-sex <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">After a woman was arrested for filming a porn in a church, we take a look at infamous sites of X-rated shoots.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-08-27_at_4.31.46_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>As a sex reporter, you begin to notice weird iterations of the same news story. One of those is the scandalized revelation of a porn shoot that happens sneakily or brazenly in a public place, even a historical landmark. Most recently this happened at a Catholic church in Hoersching, Austria. A young woman was arrested for filming at least two naughty videos in the church. As Gawker <a href="http://gawker.com/woman-caught-filming-porn-in-church-after-viewer-recogn-1621538633">reported</a>, “A churchgoer who saw the video recognized the interior of the building, then notified a priest, and after a clip was played on local news, a second viewer — apparently a big fan — identified [the actress'] boobs and notified the authorities.” Luckily, the local diocese determined that the church does not need to be reconsecrated. You can’t make this stuff up.</p><p>Anyway, over the years, I’ve collected a mental tally of these stories, and it’s about time I narrowed that list down to the very best and most outrageous — all for your enlightenment. Surely, there must be some deep, great truth about the human condition to be gleaned from all this — something like, “If it exists, we will have sex on it.”</p><p><strong>1. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum</strong></p><p>The coliseum is, <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-coliseum-porn-20120530-story.html">in the words</a> of the Los Angeles Times, “the place where the USC Trojans play football, two Summer Olympics were staged, John F. Kennedy accepted the Democratic presidential nomination and Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass.” And, in 2001, it became the setting for “The Gangbang Girl #32.” When the news broke, more than a decade later, it stoked outrage. Thing was, it turned out the filmmakers <a href="http://www.scpr.org/blogs/news/2012/05/31/6403/permit-coliseum-porn-failed-identify-nature-shoot/">had a permit</a> for the shoot, it’s just their application wasn’t exactly forthcoming about the nature of the film — as in, sex was never mentioned.</p><p><strong>2. The lawn of the Westboro Baptist Church</strong></p><p>OK, so they didn’t actually make it inside, but a punk band by the name of Get Shot! managed to <a href="http://gawker.com/punk-band-shoots-porn-film-on-front-lawn-of-westboro-ba-1440680143">film a video</a> of their female bass player masturbating on the lawn of the famously homophobic church. The aforementioned diddler was quoted in a press release as saying, “The Phelps family and Westboro Baptist Church are ridiculous and do nothing except spread hate and cause controversy. As a bisexual woman and the bass player of a ridiculous punk band, I wanted to spread my legs and cause controversy.”</p><div data-toggle-group="story-13757304"><p><strong>3. Cornell University library</strong></p><p>A <a href="http://gawker.com/5948213/colleges-still-good-for-something-cornell-library-serves-as-setting-for-porn-video">video</a> titled “She Wanks &amp; Masturbates in the College Library!” — which show exactly what it sounds like it shows — was posted to a Cornell message board in 2012. It took, like, zero time for students to recognize the library as their own. It was discovered that the cam girl in question filmed at least two other videos in the library. A university spokesperson called the videos “pretty sick” and said, “When I was a kid, my mother said some people will do anything for attention, and 50 years later, I’m still amazed by how low people will go.”</p><p><strong>4. Los Angeles Fire Engine 263</strong></p><p>Outrage erupted when it was discovered that Los Angeles Fire Engine 263 was captured in a porn movie. In the film, actress Charley Chase can be seen flashing her breasts while posing on the truck, which is parked near a public beach. NBC reported that firefighters facilitated the shoot, knowing fully that Chase was intending to set a pants-fire, but the actress insisted that the firemen were oblivious.</p><p><strong>5. The HMS Bounty</strong></p><p>The regal ship is described by the Tampa Bay Times as one of “St. Petersburg’s most family friendly landmarks.” But in 2006 it became the set of “Pirates,” one of the best-selling adult titles ever. In requesting the shoot, the film studio described the movie as “a comedy Sinbad type of film in quest of a magical scepter with lots of special effects and sword fighting with skeletons,” and assured, “As far as rating I would say PG-13.” The owner of the ship, Bob Hansen, told the Times, “They told us the story, we took them at face value, and they lied. What are you going to do? It happens.”</p></div><p> </p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 13:29:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1017059 at http://www.alternet.org sex porn Meet the Man Who’s Promised to Sleep With 365 People in a Year http://www.alternet.org/meet-man-whos-promised-sleep-365-people-year <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">As performance art, that is. Mischa Badasyan tells Salon what&#039;s really motivating this controversial project.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-08-26_at_11.47.15_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Mischa Badasyan is lonely. The Russian-born performance artist has used gay hookup apps. He’s cruised parks late at night and met guys in clubs. But he’s never had a “love relationship,” as he puts it. So, the Berlin-based 26-year-old is doing what probably no one else in the world would do in such a predicament: He’s committing to dating and sleeping with a new person every day for a year — for art. And a filmmaker will be documenting the whole process.</p><p>The project, which begins Sept. 1 and is titled “Save the Date,” is intended to be an exploration of hookup culture and the paradoxical loneliness that can arise from casual intimacy. Badasyan certainly knows how to raise eyebrows with sexually charged projects. A previous performance piece saw him wandering through various European cities with a digital advertisement covering his crotch. Another project, titled “Porno Chic,” invited visitors to sit and watch a pornographic film with him. The description of that project reads in part, “Why do people watch porn films? Do they want to get out their fears and aggression? Or do they only do it when they are bored? What does ‘porn’ actually mean?”</p><p>I spoke with Badasyan by phone about love, definitions of sex, and the death threats his latest project has inspired.</p><p><strong>Why are you doing this project?</strong></p><p>Different reasons. The biggest one is I decided to make personal performance art. Before I was working on political and social issues. Now I decided to bring attention to my story, to my private life. This is about loneliness and love relationships, because I’ve never been in a love relationship so far. I’m going to share my love with the people that I meet.</p><p><strong>You said you haven’t been in a “love relationship”?</strong></p><p>Never in my life.</p><p><strong>Why do you think that is?</strong></p><p>Oh my god. That’s a question for the next three years. I grew up in Russia and I didn’t come out, I never met any gay people — oh yeah, I’m gay, by the way — and I never met any gay people. Then in Germany I decided to have the freedom to be free and to come out. Once I came out I met a lot of people and it was a nice beautiful time, but still there wasn’t a guy that I would like to be with or people didn’t like me. It’s always either I like someone or nobody likes me. It just hasn’t happened yet.</p><p><strong>Will you tell your partners about this project?</strong></p><div data-toggle-group="story-13755122"><p>No. Although people are starting to send me messages on Facebook and email [about the project], so it’s hard to keep a secret. Those people who contact me I also ask if they want to be in the movie. Basically if I am going on a date or looking for someone on the Internet I’m not going to tell them.</p><p><strong>So you’re not just sleeping with a new person every day for a year, you’re also going on a date with a new person every day for a year?</strong></p><p>Yeah, that is the idea. Life is unpredictable, though. I don’t know what is going to happen in six months. I might find some people who only want to be into group dating or there might be a lot of different stuff. People are contacting me from all over the world. From Brazil, London, Sri Lanka, Tunisia.</p><p><strong>Where will you meet your partners? It sounds like you’re already having people contact you, but how else will you find people?</strong></p><p>It could be parks, on the street, bars, clubs, whatever.</p><p><strong>Are you at all worried about not finding enough people that you’re actually interested in sleeping with?</strong></p><p>Yeah, it will take time. Maybe I won’t find someone that I really like at first and get a little down and try to get anyone that is just online. The idea is not the sex. Sexual intercourse is just the expression of the idea. My idea is about meeting people. I feel kind of lonely, so this is about making a relationship with the people I meet. That’s the basic idea, and the important idea.</p><p><strong>It’s really about the loneliness, not the sex.</strong></p><p>Yeah. Just having sex with people, it is not a big deal.</p><p><strong>The media has been very interested in that aspect of the project.</strong></p><p>Yeah, I know. That’s why it became so popular on the Web. Of course it’s a hot topic and everyone wants to know what’s going on.</p><p><strong>So are you really going to sleep with a different person every day?</strong></p><p>Of course, I wouldn’t joke. It’s performance art, it’s real life.</p><p><strong>You’re really going to do it?</strong></p><p>[Laughs] Yeah, are you kidding? I wouldn’t make a joke about it.</p><p><strong>What if you feel an emotional connection to someone? Will it be difficult to continue doing the project?</strong></p><p>Yeah, of course. Everybody asks me now what will happen if I fall in love. That’s the biggest danger. I might meet people that are very nice that I want to meet again. It may be hard to say goodbye to go to another one. I’m not going to say goodbye and break all contact but I will keep [doing the project]. It’ll be very hard to keep energy for everyone I’m going to meet.</p><p>It’s not just about the gay community. It’s also about society and how people deal with each other. There are a lot of different issues. It’s getting political now because I’m getting a lot of harassment messages. One neo-Nazi wants to kill me, some messages say they will kill me in 30 days if I will not stop my performance. One Russian gay website, they put a survey that asked people if they want to sleep with me and the choices where “yeah I want to sleep with this guy just for the art” and the second one was, “no, he’s just ugly, he’s not beautiful.”</p><p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none;">It must be scary getting those death threats.</strong></p><p>Yeah. Of course, most of the comments are positive, they like me and support me.</p><p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none;">Where you surprised to get death threats in response to this?</strong></p><p>Yeah! I gave only one interview and now I’m all over the world. Just this morning I gave an interview for TV Channel in South African and then for the a guy from Gay Pride in Copenhagen and now I’m talking to you. Every day it’s like this.</p><p><strong>Do you think the attention can be sustained throughout the year of the project?</strong></p><p>I’m not sure. I think in a few months people will forget why I’m doing this, I might disappear from all the media.</p><p><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style: none;">What if you feel sick one day? Will you push yourself to sleep with someone?</strong></p><p>I define sex differently. For me having cyber sex is the same as having sexual contact with someone in private. Sexual contact for me is like emotional contact. It’s the emotional high. That’s the most important part.</p><p><strong>Will any of your sexual encounters actually be in the film?</strong></p><p>I’m not sure. My director would like to film some explicit scenes. It’s not a porn movie. You might be able to see a body and some contact between two people, but I want to do it in an art way.</p><p><strong>This sounds like an exhausting project. Are you worried about burning out?</strong></p><p>Yeah, for sure. That why I wanted to do [it for so long]. In this amount of time I can change myself, I can change my mind. If I did it for just a couple months nothing important will happen.</p><p><strong>So what are you looking for in a “love relationship”?</strong></p><p>I don’t know. I’m not looking for any love relationship because I’m scared about meeting other people and knowing that I love someone else. For me, the most important part of a relationship is that we can create together, and someone I can emotionally be on the same level with.</p><p><strong>What statement are you trying to make with this project?</strong></p><p>It’s about me. I’m not doing it for the whole world. This is about me and my loneliness.</p></div><p> </p> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 08:41:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1016888 at http://www.alternet.org sex Why Everyone Freaked Out Over a Book Teaching Kids About Sex http://www.alternet.org/why-everyone-freaked-out-over-book-teaching-kids-about-sex <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">As a physician who has routinely delivered babies to teens, Sara Mackenzie is sadly unsurprised by the uproar.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_127482728.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>As we <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/08/15/california_schools_pull_controversial_sex_ed_textbook/">reported</a> last week, a California school district pulled a health book featuring a chapter on sex after parental protest. A <a href="http://www.thepetitionsite.com/591/723/720/remove-your-health-today-textbook-from-fremont-schools/">petition</a> with more than 2,000 signatures claimed that the book “exposes youth to sexual games, sexual fantasies, sexual bondage with handcuffs, ropes, and blindfolds, sexual toys and vibrator devices, and additional instruction that is extremely inappropriate for 13 and 14 year-old youth.” To be totally clear, the edgiest passage in the book, which had been approved by the Fremont school board for ninth-graders, simply acknowledges that sexual fantasies, sex toys, phone sex and bondage exist.</p><p>For reals, this furor is actually happening in the age of “Fifty Shades.”</p><p>With the story getting play nationally and internationally, I decided to contact one of the authors of the book to get her response to this brouhaha. “I am forever optimistic that the world is changing and so these types of responses do catch me off guard,” said Sara Mackenzie, assistant dean at the University of Washington School of Public Health. “However, being an adolescent physician who has delivered many babies to 13- to 18-year-old women, nothing surprises me too much.” Mackenzie says that as a culture we love to talk about, sell and even watch sex, “and yet to actually provide factual education about our physical anatomy and physiology of ‘private parts’ becomes pornography.” Ugh, sigh, yes. <em>Exactly.</em></p><p>Mackenzie points out that it’s not a “sex book,” as it’s commonly been referred to in the media. Only one of its 18 chapters focuses on sex. She also doesn’t buy the argument that the book isn’t age appropriate just because it’s targeted to college freshmen. “At least at my university, college freshmen can range in age from 16 to 20 and so it is certainly age-appropriate material.” Mackenzie says she gave copies of the book to her own daughters at age 13, but adds, “Of course, they have also grown up with dinner conversations about pregnant middle school students!” Lucky them. Seriously.The parental outrage can be in part blamed on a misinformation campaign that persists even in the face of compelling proof that comprehensive sex education has a hugely positive health impact. “The evidence supports that education does not encourage youth to become sexually active — it just improves rates of planned pregnancy and STI reduction if a youth decides to be sexually active,” she said. “Youth need facts, and need to have reliable sources of information and learn health literacy,” she argues. “They certainly have access tolots of information and parents need to understand that even with the most engaged parenting and parental control technology their kids are going to get information about sex.”</p><div data-toggle-group="story-13752896"><p>It seems a lot of these objecting parents could stand to closely read the book themselves. “A strong focus of the book is encouraging people to consider public health and its role in improving the health of our country,” she said. And part of that message, she says, “is that our environment and communities play a big role in health outcomes for communities and by limiting information and health literacy, a disservice is being done."</p></div><p> </p> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 15:09:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1016520 at http://www.alternet.org Education Sex & Relationships sex education children schools The Best Sex Tips You’ll Ever Hear — From a Man With No Penis http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/best-sex-tips-youll-ever-hear-man-no-penis <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">This guy is proof you don&#039;t need to be fixated on a certain body part to have great sex.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_151167647-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Leave it to a man with no penis to school the Internet on sexual intimacy. That’s what happened when a man who allegedly lost part of his genitals in a childhood accident took to Reddit to <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/2dtv5y/iama_male_who_lost_his_penis_and_is_getting_an/">answer questions</a> about life without a phallus.</p><p>Under the evocative screen name “penisindoor,” he claimed that at age 12 he put his erect member through a door crack to tease his buddies and one of them — a friend who was, in “penisindoor’s” words, unfamiliar with the basic laws of physics — slammed it shut. After a trip to the hospital, he says he was left with just the stump of his penis, fully intact testicles and a rerouted urethral opening. (He provided <a href="http://imgur.com/a/dhhi3">photographic evidence</a>, if you’re interested.) The 30-something-year-old is fully capable of orgasm and ejaculation, he says. And, no, the absence of a penis does not prevent him from having sex with his girlfriend.</p><p>This last bit came as a shocking revelation to some redditors. <em>How</em>, they wanted to know. <em>Sex equals penis in vagina, right? How can you have sex without a penis?!</em> “I still have part of my shaft under there which still has nerve endings,” he wrote in response. “Use your imagination for the rest.” He added, importantly, “Any loving couple can be intimate.” Those just might be two of the best sex tips around: 1) Use your imagination, and 2) Any loving couple can be intimate. Seriously, sit with that for a minute. So much energy is spent trying to gather wisdom on being “good at” sex. From puberty on, we develop encyclopedic knowledge of all the many positions and moves two or more people can do. We agonize about our anatomy: Is my penis too small? Is my vagina tight enough? Are my boobs big enough?</p><p>Great sex is so much simpler than all that — and “penisindoor” has that figured out. Don’t get me wrong: Penises are great. They’re super awesome. Indeed, “penisindoor” misses his enough that he’s hoping to get an experimental and risky penile transplant — and best of luck to him. But his story shows that sexual pleasure and intimacy are way bigger than any dick could ever be. Relatedly, <a href="http://www.torontosun.com/2014/08/18/orgasms-come-more-often-for-men-and-lesbians-study">a study</a> just came out finding that lesbians and men of all sexual orientations experience more orgasms than heterosexual women. (We needed science to tell us this?) It just goes to show that penis-in-vagina sex is just one kind of sex, and that it certainly isn’t inherently the most mutually pleasurable kind.</p><p>Sex therapist Ian Kerner told me, “As a culture, we are very much caught up in the ‘intercourse-discourse’ which privileges penis-vagina sex over other forms of sex-play, but there are many pleasure-paths worth exploring,” he said. “Between a creative, caring sexual mind and a fully functional penis, the former will more consistently generate orgasms than the latter.” And, for the record, sexual pleasure is not all that uncommon in extreme cases of injury like this one. “Orgasm and ejaculation are separate processes and even men with severe spinal injuries are known to experience the former, so it’s not at all unlikely that this man would be able to experience the pleasurable sensations of gratifying sex in his own particular way,” says Kerner.</p><p>I showed the AMA to Debby Herbenick, a sex research at the Kinsey Institute, and she loved “penisindoor’s” perspective. “We all have things we cannot change in life whether it’s our body shape or our age, or that we’re all aging, or our breast asymmetry or an STI or a special interest,” says Herbenick, author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Sex-Made-Easy-Questions-Answered%C2%97-ebook/dp/B009G1WAGQ/ref=la_B001TLHXYA_1_3?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1408481581&amp;sr=1-3">“Sex Made Easy: Your Awkward Questions Answered — For Better, Smarter, Amazing Sex.”</a> “Whether we approach this feeling ‘stuck’ or from a perspective of possibility is a huge part of it.” She added, “Knowing that openness and imagination are important is valuable, as is understanding that intimacy is about more than parts. Arousal is about more than parts.”</p><p>Speaking of intimacy, “penisindoor” honored his girlfriend’s request that he keep the details of their sex life private. He gamely answered redditors questions unless they veered into territory his girlfriend was uncomfortable with. What a man, eh?</p><p>Now, all this comes with a great big caveat: His story has yet to be verified, his original post has been taken down and he didn’t respond to my requests for an interview — so who knows just how legit it is. But whoever “penisindoor” is, he exhibited a startlingly enlightened view of sex, the kind you rarely ever see in online forums filled with identity-obscuring screen names. It’s a welcome reminder in our dick-obsessed culture that sex can happen without a penis. Oh, also? <a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/07/17-lies-about-sex/">Not all men have penises.</a></p><p> </p> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:03:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1016243 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships sex intercourse The 9 Smartest Relationship Tips Ever http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/9-smartest-relationship-tips-ever <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Forget the relationship help aisle, this is the best advice the world has to offer. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_139129913.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Next to my desk there is a fallen pile of relationship-advice books. It looks like a miniature city of ruins, a very pink Parthenon. I can’t even begin to fathom picking up all the rubble — mostly because I’m not sure if there’s anything worth saving in there. It’s a shame. The sheer volume tells you just how much demand there is for advice on sustaining relationships.</p><p>Ahead of my approaching nuptials I’ve been wondering about our collective wisdom on marriage and how to find advice that escapes the usual traps of cliche, triviality and overgeneralization. (Not to mention Pepto-Bismol book covers.) Something smarter than, “Never go to bed angry.” Something that doesn’t read like the latest diet fad. Maybe even something that has, I don’t know, any evidence or research behind it? I decided to go to the people I trust most on the topic – from respected sex researchers to … my grandma. The result? A messy collection of marriage tips that you will only find here.</p><p><strong>Compliments complement</strong></p><p>For nearly three decades, relationship expert Terri Orbuch has conducted a research project following 373 married couples. She’s found that couples who regularly give each other “affective affirmation” — meaning “compliments, help and support, encouragement and subtle nonsexual rewards, such as hand holding” — are the happiest. Orbuch, host of the upcoming public television special, “Secrets From The Love Doctor,” says a key finding is that “men crave affective affirmation more than women, because women typically get it from people other than their husbands.”</p><p><strong>Forget about the dirty dishes</strong></p><p>Orbuch has found that the happy couples in her study “talked to each other frequently — not about their relationship, but about other things.” Orbuch recommends setting aside ten minutes every day to talk about “anything other than work, family, the household or the relationship.” Pretend the cable bill has already been paid, the inlaws already called — just for ten minutes. “Ask her what her favorite movie is, and why,” she suggests. “Ask him to recall a happy memory from childhood. Ask her what she’d like to be remembered for.” This small change “infuses relationships with new life,” she says.</p><p><strong>Stay on your toes</strong></p><p>“In my study, when couples said they were in a relationship rut or felt bored, they were less happy over time,” says Orbuch. So escape the rut by mixing things up. “The changes can be small, but they have to upset the routine enough to make him or her sit up and take notice.”</p><p>Similarly, anthropologist Helen Fisher suggests that couples “keep doing novel things together,” she says. “Novelty drives up the dopamine system in the brain and can help to sustain feelings of romantic love.”</p><p>Marriage is like a credit card</p><p>Helen Fisher, author of “Why Him? Why Her?: How to Find and Keep Lasting Love,” recommends sustaining “your ‘positive illusions’” about your significant other. “When you begin to feel irritated at your partner, instead of reviewing everything you don’t like, turn your thoughts to all the good things about him or her.”</p><p>Psychologist Harriet Lerner agrees. “Newlyweds automatically know how to speak to the positive and make each other feel special and valued,” says Lerner, author of ”Marriage Rules, A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up.” “But the more enduring the marriage, the more you’ll find yourself noticing and speaking to what you don’t like.” Lerner offers this maxim: “No one can survive in a marriage, at least not happily, if they feel more judged than admired.”</p><p>Relatedly, Stephanie Coontz, author of <a href="http://www.salon.com/2011/07/03/monogamy_3/">“Marriage, a History,”</a> says that “relationships, like the economy, run on credit.” By that she means both “giving credit, or expressing gratitude, for the things your partner does that make your life easier, things we often take for granted” and “advancing credit by assuming that your partner has good intentions and would like to step up to the plate, rather than assuming that you need to ride herd on him or her in order to get what you need.”</p><p>Look for the soft emotion</p><p>“One of my favorite pieces of advice come from an observation I once heard from two fellow Council on Contemporary Families board members, psychologist Philip and Carolyn Cowan,” Coontz tells me. ”They said to always look for the soft emotion that lies beneath the hard one.” She explains, “Since then I’ve tried to respond to the soft emotion — the fear, anxiety or embarrassment that is hiding behind the anger or accusation — rather than to the hard one. It helps in all sorts of relationships, not just marriage.”</p><p>Live your own damn life</p><p>Lerner emphasizes the importance of independence. “Connect with friends and family, pursue your own interests and be of service to others,” she says. “If your primary energy isn’t directed to living your own life as well as possible, you’ll be over-focused on your partner in a worried or critical way.”</p><p>Don’t wait for the mood to strike</p><p>“Have sex regularly, even if you don’t feel like it,” advises Fisher. Now, this does not mean: Have sex with a person who doesn’t want to have sex with you. Nor does it mean: Tell your partner that it doesn’t matter that they aren’t in the mood. Instead, it means: Don’t always expect to be overcome by desire before deciding to have sex.</p><p>“Sexual stimulation of the genitals stimulates the dopamine system to sustain feelings of romantic love,” she says. “And with orgasm, one gets a flood of oxytocin and vasopressin, neurochemicals that give you feelings of attachment for your partner.” That’s not to mention that “seminal fluid is a good antidepressant, full of chemicals that lift optimism.” (Which reminds me of that <a href="http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/lizphair/hwc.html">Liz Phair song</a>.)</p><p>But first, pick a good lover</p><p>As my grandma once told my aunt, “The best I can wish for you is a lover as good, as well as kind and considerate, as your grandfather.” (Oversharing runs in the family.) This bit of advice is only useful pre-vows — and it’s important to note that a good lover is not necessarily someone who has the entire Kama Sutra memorized, but someone who brings the right attitude to sex (“good, giving and game,” as Dan Savage puts it).</p><p>Let go of the fantasy</p><p>For his book “You Can Be Right (or You Can Be Married): Looking for Love in the Age of Divorce,” Dana Adam Shapiro traveled across the country asking divorcées for marriage advice. After all, who better to offer insight into why relationships fail? “There were so many little tidbits, like how to fight fairly and productively,” he says, but his favorite piece of advice came from an interviewee who went by the pseudonym “Jim.” He said:</p><blockquote><p>There is something absolutely divine — I mean, literally, the breath of God — in the ability to put someone else in your heart, to think of them first. But from the time of the greatest pornographer who ever lived, Shakespeare, we’ve demanded that love be something more. … And what happens is, the utter grandeur and magnificence of what love actually is gets overshadowed by this disappointment that it’s not the way we fantasized it should be.</p></blockquote><p> </p><p>Jim, who is now 55 and happily married to his third wife, added, “The very best you can hope for is that you’ve got somebody who’s gonna respect you enough to go through the day-to-day bullshit and be honest with you,” he said. “That’s the most romantic thing in the world.”</p> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:37:00 -0700 Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon 1015369 at http://www.alternet.org Sex & Relationships Sex & Relationships marriage sex Love and Sex Editor's Picks celebrity Life News