Having Healthy Sex after Sexual Assault

mental health, Relationships, Sexual violence

The summer I was nineteen, I researched and wrote a travel guide to Italy, journeying from Venice to the Cinque Terre armed only with a sundress and my handy dandy Macbook.

It sounds pretty ideal, and it was—except for the constant, terrifying, enraging sexual harassment. From being groped on the train to being kissed non-consensually by hostel owners and bartenders, the summer left me tan, skinny, with killer calf muscles — and with a feeling of total disconnect from my sexuality. After months of constant, unwanted attention and physical violation, I felt that my sexuality had become a weapon used against me rather than something for my own pleasure.

My experience is not rare. From street harassment to rape, many of us, and particularly women and LGBTQ people, are affected by sexual violence. And because sexual violence is a violation of our right to make choices about our bodies, it can change our relationship to our own sexuality in complex and difficult ways.

Check out the full article on Talkspace.

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What Ethical Non-monogamy Can Teach us About Healthy Relationships

mental health, Relationships

Find the original article at Talkspace.

I’m not so hot on monogamy. It’s always been strange to me that society decides one way of doing romantic relationships: boy meets girl; boy and girl date; boy and girl marry; boy and girl never date or sleep with anyone else ever again. If we’re all unique, why should we accept a one-size-fits-all rule of monogamy?

I’m not the only one skeptical: Increasingly, many people are embracing ethical non-monogamy. In this model of relationship health, having a happy and loving relationship doesn’t depend upon romantic and sexually exclusivity. Rather, ethical non-monogamy emphasizes communication and consent.

Many psychologists argue that the skills people in ethically non-monogamous relationships develop to stay happy and healthy are important lessons for everyone. Here’s how to know if ethical non-monogamy is right for you — and what it can teach us all about mental health in relationships, however we choose to love.

Find the original article at Talkspace.

Broad City’s Amorphous Partiality

Culture, Relationships

Read the original article at The Advocate.

comedycentral-COMEDYCENTRAL_BROADCITY_SEASON_3-Full-Image_GalleryBackground-en-US-1484348607276._RI_SX940_Adrienne Rich was not writing in an age when women could video chat each other while riding their male partners cowgirl-style. But when she wrote about existence as a spectrum of decentralized pleasure—about the hands and the clit and the cunt, about the wrists and the toes rather than the vagina—she might as well have been writing about Broad City

Season One, Episode One: The opening image of the show. Abbi and Ilana—two young women whose codependent best friendship and stoned New York City adventures star in the Comedy Central series—are video chatting. Ilana bounces to music as the women plan their day. Or we think Ilana is bouncing to music. Suddenly, she adjusts the webcam, and we discover that Ilana is mid-intercourse with a man. 

“Okay,” says an exasperated Abbi. “I don’t want to see you have sex.”

“That was hot. That was cool. That was like a threesome,” Ilana says. 

Abbi and Ilana are partners. They spend each day together. They video chat in the morning and before bed. They are obsessed with each other. They are, for all intents and purposes, in love. But Abbi and Ilana never have genital sex. 

Other characters think that Abbi and Ilana have sex. Ilana wants to have sex. She routinely attempts to glimpse Abbi naked; she suggests they try a sexual position called the “Arc de Triomphe”; her world shatters, momentarily, when she learns that Abbi has made out with another girl. Abbi always turns Ilana down. 

Yet Abbi and Ilana’s relationship is intensely, even grossly, physical. Ilana stores the pair’s weed in her vagina. She manually moves Abbi’s poop when Abbi’s crush is over and the toilet is clogged. Even the more squeamish Abbi likes to call Ilana during hookups: post-sex next to a sleeping man in bed, or from the bathroom mid-sexual encounter to discuss the merits of anal penetration. The women want sex, they have sex, they talk about having sex, and they do all of it together.

The weird physicality of Abbi and Ilana’s relationship—the intensely intimate, yet non genital-sexual physicality—is more than a story of best friendship. It challenges the very dichotomy between genital and non-genital eroticism. In doing so, the show speaks for and to the ambiguous snugglers and the lip balm-sharers, to those of us in wild friendship. Broad City opens up new kinds of desire with our friends.

 What’s the difference between friends we do and don’t have sex with? 

Despite the moral uproar about millennials being a generation of friends with benefits, our thinking has maintained a fundamental dichotomy: There is friendship, and there is romance, and the two different kinds of relationships are distinguished by whether or not we have genital sex. 

This binary is hierarchical. Yes, we love our friends. Yes, we value them. But what we ultimately want—the climax of every marriage plot; the ordering logic of Sex and the City—are “significant others,” as though only our sexual relationships are significant. Or, as though sexlessness leaves us as unfinished Platonic bodies, “other halves.”

But in Broad City’s universe, Abbi and Ilana’s obsession with each other is the central story. And it’s pungently physical. Yes, the women have genital-sexual partners. But they are rapt with each other. Abbi watches erotic cupcake-eating videos with Ilana, not with her sex partner. And when Ilana goes into anaphylactic shock from a shellfish allergy, it is Abbi who, in the slow motion of a romantic hero, carries her out.

“We begin to discover the erotic in female terms: as that which is unconfined to any single part of the body…as an energy not only diffuse but, as Audre Lorde has described it, omnipresent,” writes Adrienne Rich in her 1980 essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.” Rich is one of a coterie of lesbian feminists, including the likes of Audre Lorde and Monique Wittig, who seek to liberate eroticism from the vagina. Though with diverse political and cultural affiliations, these theorists agree on one thing: Decentering the linear and patriarchal logic that privileges genital sex can reorder our relationships with our bodies and each other. This more diffuse eroticism is politically radical. Rich argues that non-linear lesbian pleasure challenges institutional heterosexuality. And in Wittig’s work, eroticism between women can reorder the very logic of the body.

 Abbi and Ilana’s relationship follows this alternate logic. It is not the neutered homosociality of demure lady friends, the female friendship carefully sanitized, the duo in a quest for men. Ilana telling Abbi, as they sip ice coffee on Ilana’s bed, that she’ll watch her give birth even if Abbi poops during the process (“Bitch, duh!”) isn’t exactly The Lesbian Body. But it’s close. 

In an essay on racialized sexuality published in The New Inquiry, Luke Pagarani argues for weird friendship as a political practice. For 2300 words he writes that Grindr culture creates a neoliberal grocery-store model of sexuality. And then he says, screw it.

 Forget sex. We live in a time when friendship can be more revolutionary than sex. Society seems to fear the transformative potential of friendship, that amorphous concept of partiality…Perhaps we should take that seriously and see love as that desire to discover new desires with our friends, the base unit of politics.

 

With their pseudo Skype sex and strange codependence, their knowledge of each other’s habits and excrement and hands, Abbi and Ilana challenge the dominance of sexual and narrative linearity. The intense physicality of their desire for each other—the intense physicality of our desire for each other—disrupts the tyranny of the genitals.

Broad City tells us that sexless, we are not half-absence, but full to the brim. We are collaborators in pleasure with our friends. comedycentral-COMEDYCENTRAL_BROADCITY_SEASON_3-Full-Image_GalleryBackground-en-US-1484348607276._RI_SX940_.jpgcomedycentral-COMEDYCENTRAL_BROADCITY_SEASON_3-Full-Image_GalleryBackground-en-US-1484348607276._RI_SX940_.jpg

Fucking with Feministing: Squirt-O-Rama, Redux

Health, Relationships, Sexuality

Check out the original article on Feministing.

Welcome to Fucking with Feministing, Feministing’s column about all things fucking and fucking-adjacent. Got a question about dildos? We’re on it. Want to explore fun, sexy sex outside of the realm of p-and-v intercourse? All over it, baby. Or maybe you’ve got a totally different question, which you can send in to reina@feministing.com to see answered on national television. Just kidding, it’ll be answered here, on the blog. 

I’m your host, Reina Gattuso, and if I’ve never done the thing you’re asking about, then I’ve at least spent hours looking at Google images of it for research purposes. Plus, our super rad partners (not, like, the physical sexual kind) at theCenter for Sex and Culture definitely have the answers you’re looking for. So send me your sexy q’s atreina@feministing.com

Welcome to today’s topic: SQUIRT-O-RAMA, REDUX!

We’ve actually run a satisfying column on squirting already from the lovely and every-sexy Sesali, but the questions about this alluring practice continue to gush forth. The people want to know about squirting — and we’re here for the people.

So let’s revisit the debate and have a handy how-to on how to bring forth your inner fountain!

Today our fabulous reader asks:

What’s the trick with squirting? Does it feel good? Should I aim to learn how to do it because it benefits my sex life or is it something people see in porn and therefore think it’s sexy? Maybe I could learn it, but not if it doesn’t improve the already good sex I’m having.

Squirting probably comes up so much as a topic because in recent years it’s been featured in magazines and the like as one of the great mysteries of human sexuality, alongside the classics: “Can anyone actually suck their own dick?” and “Why am I attracted to Nicolas Cage??”

Is squirting real? Is squirting fake? Is squirting a myth invented to oppress women?

Nah, lots of people say they’ve squirted so it’s definitely real. But sexologists continue to debate the issue. Stirring questions in the realm of squirting include such age-old dilemmas as: Is squirting triggered by stimulating the G spot or is the G spot actually just part of a whole clitoral compound? Is the fluid that comes out of people when they squirt some special squirty-cum or is it just pee? 

Never fear, dear reader, for you are not alone on your journey for answers. For the purposes of writing this column, I am a fellow traveler with you on the squirty path of life. Luckily, our dear friends at the Centre for Sex and Culture are experts on squirting, so we’re in good hands.

So let’s get down to business and, like the rigorous sexy voyagers we are, examine several aspects of the issue. Namely: What exactly is squirting? How do you squirt? And, if I’m not squirting already, am I now obligated to learn the art of the squirt or else I’m a sexual nobody? (Nah.)

A Squirty Controversy

The debate on squirting has divided sexologists, people who work at feminist sex toy shops, and people who wear white coats in pharmaceutical adds for centuries — or at least a few decades.

First, the basics: Squirting, also called “female ejaculation,” is when someone without a penis ejaculates a fluid from their urethra, generally following a lot of G spot stimulation. Of course, because we’re feminists we know that the “female” in “female ejaculation” is misleading, since just ‘cause you don’t have a dick doesn’t mean you’re female.

Researchers have different opinions on squirting, a result of the relative lack of research on female pleasure in general and squirting more specifically. A controversy recently erupted, for example, when a very small study concluded that the fluid ejaculated during squirting is actually urine, a conclusion which the squirting humans of Twitter have vociferously protested.

As far as we know, however, squirting totally exists, results from G spot stimulation, and the ejaculate that results comes from the Skene’s gland. This is a gland located on the upper wall of the vagina, part of the complex known as the “prostata femina,” or “female prostate” (which again, misleading, ‘cause not all people with vaginas are female!). When you get this complex really, really happy, it erupts.

Some of the controversy about this happy organ and its ejaculatory fun, our friend Carol at the Center for Sex and Culture has noted, is because it’s quite possible not all women actually have Skene’s glands. And it’s also possible that some women pee a little during sex. The body is strange and this is all normal and acceptable, so don’t panic!

The Squirty Journey

So, how do you squirt? It’s all about the g spot.

First off, if you’re embarking on a journey to squirt city, remind yourself that sex is not a goal-oriented endeavor and that even if you don’t squirt, you get to touch yourself/have a partner touch you for a long time, which is great in and of itself.

If you care about not getting your sheets wet and you’re feeling optimistic, put down a towel. Also, so that you’re not paranoid about peeing on said towel, pee before you begin.

Now turn yourself on, friend (or recruit an enthusiastic lover to help you). Whatever gets you going. Book, porn, National Treasure parts 1 and 2. Stroke where you want to be stroked. Light a candle like Our Body, Ourselves used to suggest, if you get off on scented candles. Go to town on yourself (clit’s a good idea!).

When you’re super turned on, try meeting the G spot, if you’re not already friends. The G spot is located a couple inches into the vagina, and feels like a ribbed or spongy place on the upper wall. If you can feel it, give it a good press.

Also, remember that everything is chill and that even if you don’t have a moment of G spot revelation where you’re like “IT HATH BEEN FOUND!”, you’re totally normal. For years I thought I had found my G spot until a girlfriend actually stimulated my G spot for the first time. It really can feel like you’ve got to pee, but in a sexy way.

Now is where we get into the sticky part: G spot pressure. Lots of pressure. Use your fingers or use a sex toy; most of all, use your imagination! 

I personally get this far in my squirting journey, feel super pee-tastic, and then get really tense about the pee thing, which totally prevents the squirt thing. So don’t be like me: embrace the pee, listen to Sesali and enjoy the ride!

Pro tip: If you actually do pee at any point in the squirting journey, that’s okay. This is why we have detergent and water to wash sheets. No one will perish tragically from exposure to squirting-adjacent urine and you will get a great sex story out of it.

Go you!

If I’m not already squirting do I have to go and learn squirting or else I’ll be a sexual nobody???

No!

If you are already a squirtin’ diva, that is awesome for you and I hope you are having lots of fun! Go you, human!

If you’re not already squirting like a water gun, but you feel that getting your ejaculation on would be a super fun experience that would up your general sexual hilarity, go for it! Try following the above advice, and hey — let me know if it works.

If you’re not a squirter and you feel that this particular piece of sexual trivia sounds meh/too complicated/or it is just not high on your priority list, you totally never have to read, think, or even utter the word “squirt” again. While we 100% respect the experiences of people who find that squirting is a great part of their sexual existence, we don’t all have to squirt ourselves. To each their very own, baby.

And as to whether porn has misled us as to the reality or desirability of squirting: People sometimes see things performed dramatically for a camera, are turned on by those things, and then want to replicate these things in the home bedroom and maybe even stake their sense of personal satisfaction on whether they can replicate said things. These attempts range from “borderline unrealistic” to “only safe for trained professionals,” depending on the activity. And also, of course, what mainstream pornography often does not adequately display is the wonderful variety of human sexuality.

So if you’re into squirty porn, that’s great, but don’t let it lead you to believe that you’re inadequate if you can’t squirt or can’t release, like, an entire bottle of whipped cream from your genitals. Also, if you find mainstream porn is giving you performance anxiety, might be a good moment to try out queer and feminist alternatives! At the end of the day, just remember that each human body is unique and does different things and that is why being a human is awesome.

Now, dear reader, we have come to the end. I wish you luck on your squirty journey, whatever form it takes. Enjoy, and remember — the journey, not the quantity of fluid ejaculated by your nether regions, is the real succor of life.

Fucking with Feministing: No Hard-On? No Problem!

Health, Relationships, Sexuality

Originally published at Feministing.

My question is: What are some ways to have great male to female sex without penetration/ with a male who suffers from erectile dysfunction (ED)?

My boyfriend was recently diagnosed with ED and its been really tough – that fucking patriarchal pressure for men to be ridiculous ultra-virile sex machines is hitting him very hard and, while there is some info out about ED there, it’s quite limited and we’ve been struggling to find new ideas about how to actually have fun and play without him being erect. I’m so excited to be making our sex less p-in-v centric regardless of the reason as I think its a really important move to make generally!

Oh, the tyranny of the hard cock.

The struggle is real and relevent to so many of us whose sexualities, gender identities, and genitals just don’t line up with the “cis dude jackhammering cis lady with SUPER HARD COCK” thing. I mean, hammering or being hammered with a SUPER HARD COCK can be fun! But it’s not the only fun or necessarily the most fun, and the idea that it is has been ruining sex lives probably since humankind has idealized hard cocks.

hard cock cave painting

Yes, that caveman has a hard-on.

This is a super relevent question not only for cis dudes who can’t get or maintain hard-ons for whatever reason. It’s also relevent for a lot of trans people, queer people, intersex people, and people with a diversity of penises which may or may not get hard. And honestly, as our friends at the Center for Sex and Culture reminded us, the messed-up sexual politics of our obsession with hard penises are already implied in the name “erectile dysfunction,” “dysfunction” implying that the whole point of dicks is hard-ons, and that not getting an erection is a failure. Sexologists, meanwhile, prefer to simply call this “not getting an erection when you want one.”

The paucity of info is real: Most of the articles online about having sex with ED are like, geared toward straight cis people from doctors who all seem to be operating on the assumption that p-in-v penetration is the only real deal. But we’re feminists and we know that just ain’t so.

So honestly, it sounds like you and your boyfriend are about to have a wild wonderful ride of pleasure in ways that maybe patriarchy has not previously allowed you to imagine!

And it sounds like you’ve taken just the right first steps in learning about ED (even though the farts on the ED websites seem to have very limited erotic vision), thinking critically about what sex even means for you guys in the first place, and opening up communication with your partner about what you’re both feeling and experiencing. A great first step for your boyfriend (if he hasn’t done this already) would be to make sure he’s communicating with his doc about what’s going on, since not being able to get an erection when he wants to can be a sign of another underlying medical problem.

Of course, as much as you can tell him that p-in-v is not the be all and end all of satisfying nookie, and as much as he might understand this mentally, the connection between masculinity and virility is a friggin’ scam and it’s probably gonna take some time for him to really internalize that he doesn’t need an erection to please you — or to experience a great sex life for himself.

So according to my research and *extensive personal experience having très fun sex that does not involve being hammered by a cis dude’s SUPER HARD COCK,* here are some myths and facts about society’s favorite topic, erect phalluses.

Myth: If the cock is not hard, the person with the cock is not turned on.

Fact: Nah. Listen, bodies are diverse and complicated, and penises are like Punxutawney Phil. Sometimes they peek their heads up, sometimes they don’t; some just never feel like it. People can have hard-ons when they’re not turned on, and they can be turned on without hard-ons.

Myth: If the cock is not hard, the person with the cock cannot experience pleasure or orgasm.

Fact: Nah. Orgasm is not actually the same thing as ejaculation, and a penis doesn’t actually need to be hard to ejaculate or for the penis-owner to experience orgasm. Just ‘cause someone’s penis is erect doesn’t mean they’ll ejaculate; just cause a penis is spasming and releasing fluid doesn’t mean the penis-owner is experiencing an orgasm. And someone can have an orgasm without being hard, or ejaculating at all. Wow!

Myth: If the cock is not hard, it can’t do fun things that please partners or the person with the cock.

Fact: Nah. A penis is basically a vaguely-cylindrical organ, often but not always with some tubes and some nerve endings. A lot of people with penises use them to have sex, but not everyone! A lot of the pleasure of penises comes from said nerve endings, and a lot comes from whatever mental and emotional associations we have about the penis and what it means to interact with said penis, which plays into identity in a variety of ways. So there’s a lot more to enjoying a penis than being able to make it hard or put it in a vagina.

Myth: If the person with the cock identifies as a dude, and the cock is not erect, the person with said cock is less of a dude

Fact: Nah. C’mon guys, you don’t have to have a penis to be a dude, and you can have a penis/cock/dick/phallus/honestly whatever you call yours and not be a dude. Soft, hard, medium-hard with no back support like my mattress, whatever. Being a dude is about what you feel, not whether you have a penis and what said penis does.

Myth: All people with vaginas are exclusively sexually pleasured and impressed by SUPER HARD COCK.

Fact: Nah.

Alrighty, now that we’ve worked through some myths and facts about penis machinery and identity, let’s take a fun walk through all the magical things we can do with ‘em, whatever their size or firmness!

Take a moment to check in about your contraception and STI scene. A penis that can’t get hard can still ejaculate and any kind of genital-genital or genital-oral contact can transmit STIs. If you use condoms, you get to have a fun time putting and keeping those babies on. Our friends at the Center for Sex and Culture advise using your hands to put the condom on or — fun added bonus — slipping it on during oral (suction helps). Since it’ll probably be loose, you’ll want to keep constant hand contact or perhaps elicit the help of a handy dandy cock ring (either of which, by the way, may be a fun extra for him).

Now let’s talk get into the nitty gritty of getting down, here. All the fuddy duddy doctors talking about Erectile Dysfunction are like, “your partner not being able to have an erection is a great opportunity for you to have lots of sweet intimate snuggle time!” This can certainly be the case, but this idea suffers from the strange misconception — which queer women and folks whose sex lives don’t involve penises deal with all the time — that sex without a SUPER HARD COCK is necessarily a super emotional snuggly spoonfest.

Of course there is nothing tastier than a well-timed spoon sesh, but you should also know that just ‘cause there’s not a SUPER HARD COCK involved doesn’t mean you can’t fuck. If you want to stroke each others’ bods with soft feathers til dawn breaks, do that. If you want to be pounded until you’re screaming the name of a relevent deity, that can also happen. Basically these doctors seems like misinformed bummers to have sex with.

Now lean in close, ‘cause I’m about to whisper the big secret about p-in-v intercourse. And here it is: P-in-v is not one, magical, un-reproducible experience that no other pleasure can equal.

P-in-v intercourse is a combination of different physical and emotional sensations. The mystique around it isn’t because nothing else feels like it (I mean, I can stick a cucumber in my pussy while hugging a teddy bear, you get the point). It’s largely a cultural and interpersonal mystique. So it’s helpful to think about the physical and emotional feelings you like to have with each other and in bed, and then fuck around until you find things that give you those feelings.

What are the feelings that he//his penis enjoy? Pressure? Wetness? The emotional rush of penetrating you? Those feels can all totes be experienced without p-in-v action. Here are some ideas, and I’m literally just getting started…

Oral: So I know some people dig it and power to them, but when someone is like “I’m going to shove my SUPER HARD COCK down your throat,” I generally feel like, well that’s nice but realistically I gag sometimes while brushing my teeth. So. If you and your partner like oral there is a whole universe to explore here. I think blowing smaller dicks/soft dicks is fun, ‘cause suddenly you feel like the deep throat champion. Play with all the magical things your mouths can do.

I, by the way, am a huge proponent of 69 and generally don’t understand why the internet hates it so much, though sometimes it can be logistically overwhelming if you’re doing it with someone who has a bigger/harder penis — so if you weren’t team 69 before, who knows, maybe this is your chance.

Penetration: If you are both like, wow I wish some penetration could happen here, good news: It can! Fingers are beautiful instruments. Dildos are heaven. Did you know that people have been penetrating themselves and others with root vegetables for literally thousands of years? (Wash it first/use a condom.) Anal beads if you and/or him are itching for some anal fun and want to check out Sesali’s fun guide to butt sex. Does your partner like being penetrated? Maybe this is his chance to find out.

L0033079 A woman using a dildo in the form of a root vegetable Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org A woman using a dildo in the form of a root vegetable suspended from the branch of a tree. Gouache 19th century Published: [18--?] Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Yum, root vegetables.

Do you like riding him? Get on top, he can penetrate you with a dildo and you can simultaneously touch his penis if you’ve got that amount of focus and determination (bless you). Fingers work too but the wrist angle may get tiring.

Do you guys like for him to be on top while he feels pressure on his penis and penetrates you (guess what, this is all that missionary position is)? Cool! Grab a nice dildo or break out those handy dandy fingers and he can get on top of you and penetrate you while you touch his penis.

Frottage: Frottage is both a visual arts technique in making charcoal rubbings and a word early-twentieth-century French people started using to describe people rubbing their genitals all up on each other, which is why I giggled compulsively through a recent art history lecture.

frottage art process

Frottage

sex frottage

Also frottage

You’ve got a body, he’s got a body. Rub ‘em together. Use your boobs if you feel like it! Does he miss feeling his penis all up in your junk? That’s fun, rub it around; he doesn’t have to go inside to get that signature pussy feeling. (If you use barrier methods, the wise humans from Center for Sex and Culture advise using saran wrap, with a little lube, to keep things safer here. Wow, kitchen tools are so multi-purpose!) Or go straight-up lesbian stereotype and try scissoring. Why not? You have the world to win. Oh, I’m jealous of your journey.

Toys toys toys: Get some stuff and fuck around. Does he like a vibrator on his penis? Only one way to find out!

Sweet Talk: Finally, ya know, words can hurt and they can also heal. Societal definitions of masculinity can squeeze the life out of us with a vice grip. If your boyfriend is a nice person he is probably concerned about your happiness, and if he’s like many of us he’s probably also concerned about his sexual pleasure.

Reassurance is important. Feeling comfortable and respected and appreciated is important. Remind him how hot and sexually talented you think he is and how good he makes you feel. Fantasy can be important — does he get off on imagining his penis is super hard or would he feel more comfortable thinking about the hot hot hot sex you’re having without his penis being super hard?

Well, that’s all for now, folks.

Wow, okay, deep breath, I apparently have a lot to say about penises and their hardness. But I think this is a super important question for everyone, whether we have penises or not, and whatever the firmness of said penises, in helping us question our own hetero, cis-centric idea of sex and of genitals more generally.

Basically my dear reader, it sounds to me that this crisis of society’s definition of masculinity presents you with an exciting opportunity to catapult yourself into the sexual stars. Go forth and frottage!

I’m an American woman living in Delhi. ‘Don’t date the locals’ is horrible advice.

India, Relationships

I first fell in love in Delhi three years ago, with an Indian classmate during a college semester abroad. The city and the relationship were new and exciting. We spent hours talking in the warm kitchen, a cigarette dangling from my girlfriend’s lips as she cooked. My budding relationships with her and with our new friends were sources of joy and support as I navigated being a bisexual woman in an unfamiliar culture.

That navigation isn’t always easy. As a college student abroad in India, I was told multiple times — even in official program handbooks — not to “date the locals.”

This deeply condescending advice was based on American stereotypes about gender-based violence and Indian men. After the 2012 rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey, a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, the Indian and international media covered the issue extensively. Of course, women and LGBT people — particularly those from oppressed castes, classes or religious groups — suffer horrific violence in India. Yet gender violence is global — a problem in New York as well as New Delhi — and much American reporting about rape in India lacks context, relies on racist stereotypes about Indian men and ignores the fact that Indian feminists have been fighting gender-based violence for centuries.

Read the rest of my article on the politics of dating as a white American in Delhi at the Washington Post.

Should I Harass This Woman on The Internet?

Culture, Relationships

These days, women have begun to use the internet. Like other highly sexual activities — bicycle riding and the showing of one’s ankles — this form of newfangled female audacity can drive a man mad. Faced with all those flirty emoticons and naughty statuses about “walking the dog” and “burrito-eating,” it can be hard for any red-blooded man to restrain himself. Unprompted sexual advances, repeated demands for attention, obscene commentary — in the face of profligate female posting, how’s a man to resist?

We get it: It’s hard to know when it’s appropriate to send a sexually explicit message to a complete and total stranger. That’s why for your convenience, we have put together this handy flowchart! Next time a woman’s existence online fills you with an irresistible urge to send her an unprompted and potentially sexually-explicit message, consult my handy dandy flowchart — availaable at The Tempest.

What I Would Have Said to you Last Night Had You Not Cum and then Fallen Asleep

Relationships, Sexuality

Alas, friend of mine, you have had an orgasm and are falling asleep. I have not had an orgasm and am not falling asleep, which means I am awake, which means I am now going to lecture you about feminism.

Who are you? (Big questions.) You are anyman, everyman, you are one of any number of lucky bastards with whom I have happened to roll into bed because baby, it’s been a few months and none of the cute activists are texting me back. Or maybe you are a cute activist who texted me back — in which case listen up, buddy, because this one’s for you, too.

Who are you? You’re a decent guy. You’re solid. I do not feel like you are going to rape me. (Yay! Let’s throw a party!)

No, you’re not a bad guy. The sex wasn’t particularly bad, either. And I know bad sex. I know sex that tastes like coercion and I know sex that tastes like endings and I know sex that tastes like hand sanitizer, which is a bad thing to put on your hands before you finger someone.

No, friend, it was not bad sex. It was normal sex. Normal, boring, vaguely dehumanizing hetero sex.

Which is precisely the point: The normalcy.

Believe me: I enjoy having someone mortar-and-pestle me for a few minutes as much as the next ornery bisexual. But friend, I feel that you can do better. I feel that we all can do better. Because there was something in the choreography of the whole thing that just struck me as, I don’t know — unsatisfying in a way only feminism can remedy.

Yup, I’m talking about the orgasm deficit.

Before we talk about orgasm, let’s talk about sex. What is sex?

Here, supposedly, is what you consider sex: We make out, you play with my boobs, I blow you, you do not go down on me even though I ask [*insert some bullshit on how “I only go down on women I’m in love with. Now put it in your mouth.”]. Penis goes in vagina, penis moves in and out of vagina, penis causes air to enter vagina and makes a lot of funny farting sounds, someone actually farts and pretends it is a funny vagina farting sound but it was totally a real fart, penis ejaculates.

You roll off of me, get up, take the condom off/pee/do whatever it is people with penises do in the bathroom immediately after they’ve come (world’s great, great mysteries), put your pants on, come back into bed, and fall asleep.  Sex is now over. Sex is now over because you have decided it is over. You have decided sex is over because you are a man, and because this choreography that favors men with penises — man becomes erect, man penetrates woman, man ejaculates — is what we have been told sex is.

Because we’re brainwashed.

Ever heard of a thing called patriarchy? It’s a handy, fancy name feminists (we beautiful, beautiful people) have invented for systems of power (= societies) that favor men.

Bear with me now. Patriarchy is a system that works at every level. It structures not only overt instances of gender discrimination, but also the way we understand the world.

It affects the way we are taught to act and exist in the world. It affects our behavior. It affects our behavior at levels we can’t see or understand because we take them for granted. It sets a pattern of beliefs for how we understand and interact with the world. Thus we can say it comprises or structures our behavior.

Patriarchy, or a system that privileges men, is like food for our brains and hearts and social experiences: We ingest it in our homes, in public space, in school, in pop culture, in relationships, through the media. We digest it, and it becomes the building blocks of our thoughts, our behaviors, our beliefs about what is right and wrong.

It also structures sex.

There are a number of different ways in which this structure-favoring-men affects sex.

One big way in which this structures sex is in how we talk about consent and sexual violence — that is, the question of whether is sex is welcome at all. We’ve talked about this a lot at Feministing, and this is super important.

But it also structures consensual sex: It helps determine what we believe sex is, and how we experience it. It helps determine who feels entitled to sexual pleasure and who doesn’t, whose desires are met sexually and whose aren’t, whose desires are even assumed to exist. We’ve also talked about this a lot, and this is important, too.

So now, with this framework in place, we can talk about the orgasm gap.

The orgasm gap is a real thing, and it is what it sounds like: When it comes to men-women sex, men have orgasms a whole hell of a lot more than women.

Okay, disclaimer: Orgasms are fun. Orgasms are super fun! I am all for orgasms. I do, however, think it’s important to remember that for lots of people, sexual pleasure happens beyond the orgasm, besides the orgasm. Focusing only on orgasms makes sex frustrating for people who orgasm infrequently or never despite the best of everyone’s abilities. And focusing only on orgasm can promote a goal-oriented-ness that I think is part of the problem: The idea that sex is a race toward a goal, that goal being male ejaculation. I like the hippy-motivational-poster approach to sex: It’s about the journey, not the destination. A journey of a thousand nerve endings begins with one caress. That sort of thing.

But it’s important to think about the orgasm gap because orgasm, and specifically the male orgasm, is more often than not assumed to be the defining aspect of male/female sex. That is: We fuck until you come, I do not come, you do not ask if I would like to come or if you can help make me come, and then we’re done fucking, because you have decided we are done fucking, and everyone is supposedly happy.

By lecturing you about feminism well into the night (you’re welcome), I’m not only concerned with the orgasm itself. If I were so obsessed with orgasms I could go have one. More so, dear friend, I’m concerned with injustice. I’m concerned with the frustration and subtle dehumanization of a sexual system that is so overwhelmingly geared toward the pleasure of the structurally more powerful party (…men), the definition of sex itself is geared around your pleasure — all while easily disregarding mine.

We can think of several explanations for the orgasm deficit.

1. Penises and vaginas/vulvas are different, and maybe it just actually is biologically harder for vagina/vulva people (most of whom are ladies) to orgasm.

Yeahhh, that doesn’t cut it. We know that women tend to come less than men during sex, but we also know that — for example — women come more during lesbian sex than during heterosexual sex. This indicates that the problem isn’t vaginas, but what we do with them.

2.  Penises and vaginas/vulvas are different, and the things people tend to do during men-women sex tend to be more compatible to male sexual pleasure.

This is more like it! To understand what I mean by this, we need to consider the fact that that definition I gave before of sex — this whole play with boobs/funny air farts/get up and do mysterious things in the bathroom business — is not inevitably what sex is. It’s not what sex is for many, many people; most of the time it’s not what sex is for me.

You see, when I’m not sleeping with numnuts like you, I’m usually sleeping with women. Lesbian sex and relationships have their own problems (oh buddy you better believe me they do), but we can think about the existence of lesbian sex (which often occurs without a penis or without the presence of a male) as disproving the idea that sex ends when men get off. One can have sex in ways that don’t inherently depend on male pleasure.

I don’t mention this because I think all women should just convert to lesbian, though by all means dear god do. I’m saying this because we need to know — you, human male lying next to me; you need to know — that the way you conceptualize pleasure and its choreography is not the way sex inevitably is. You can fuck differently.

You can fuck like a girl.

Because I don’t feel like the primary distinction between my lesbian sexual experiences and my hetero ones is a matter of anatomy. Rather, it’s overwhelmingly a matter of gender and the way we’re trained to get off. Women tend to be trained to think about other people more, to care for other people and to provide things to them, and to demand their own gratification less (this is why you think I currently sound like a selfish bitch for simply asking you to consider me your equal). The best partners I’ve had, of whatever gender (but step up your games, guys, because I mostly mean women) asked questions. They were creative. They were kind. They played with me. We collaborated. If one of us came and was so goddamn tired we needed to fall immediately asleep and could not bear to flick our wrists another moment, we said so, and that was okay, because it was not merely assumed as par for the course.

Dear friend lying next to me, drifting your pleasured way into dreamland, tomorrow I will leave your house.

Tomorrow morning I will take the metro home, and I will be very caught up in self-righteous orgasm anger and meanwhile there will be people all around me, laboring people, impoverished people. And it will feel ridiculous, then, to be a wealthy lady with freedom of mobility and an income and no pressure to marry whose biggest complaint is that dudes don’t give her enough sexual pleasure.

But here’s the thing: Gender ideologies, like other oppressive ideologies, work at every level. Because they structure or constitute our experiences of the world, we can see them in issues from basic right to food and shelter to these issues of sexual pleasure. We can understand them as affecting not only our right to life, but our right to beautiful life. Our right to pursue lives of richness, our right to embodiment, our right to lives wherein pleasure is possible.

Sexual equality is just one part of creating a world in which those with more power are trained to prioritize those with less power.

And now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go masturbate in the bathroom.

Check out the original piece at Feministing here

Me and the Feministing Crew in New York Mag’s “Why sex that’s consensual can still be bad”

Relationships, Sexual violence, Sexuality

The wonderful Rebecca Traister wrote a piece for New York Magazine on why we need to be setting the bar for ethical sex a lot higher than just consent. Check out quotes from my and more of the Feministing crews’ work on sexual pleasure, violence, and equality.

Last winter, Reina Gattuso was a Harvard senior majoring in literature and gender studies and writing a biweekly column for the college newspaper, the Crimson. She covered a variety of subjects, among them her sexuality (she identifies as queer) and Harvard’s byzantine class hierarchies, and she wrote a regular feature called “Four Dollar Wine Critic.” In February, she dedicated her column to the subject of sexist sex.

For more, check out the rest of the article.

Photo credit: Andrew Lyman

 

Why Monogamy’s Not for Me

Politics, Relationships

When I tell my parents that I wish I’d been less serious about my college relationships, they simultaneously snort into their spaghetti. Who, you? Our daughter who has publicly admitted to making out with half the lesbian, queer, bisexual, bicurious and questioning women at Harvard? Less serious?

They’ve read my sex writing.

But sex writing can be misleading. When I’ve fallen in love, I’ve fallen like a plane crash in slow motion. A long, drawn-out descent with an abrupt and blazing finish. The autumn I was 19, I was planning my work-life balance as a politician’s wife — only to break up with this future leader while arguing with him over bell hooks in a Chinese restaurant. The spring I was 20, I was Googling real estate prices in San Diego, then ducking out of parties to fight with this long-distance girlfriend over the phone.

Two years later, the whole family is gathered around the dinner table on a muggy July night in suburban New Jersey, debating my and my sisters’ love lives. 

I’ve just graduated from college and am in the middle of a romance that is both blossoming and necessarily ending as I prepare to spend a year abroad. My sister is also grappling with long-distance love.

“No, really,” I tell them. “Just because you don’t want to be with somebody monogamously forever doesn’t mean they’re not great for you — or that you don’t love them.

“I think different people can be right for you at different times in your life.”

“Well, I don’t believe that,” my father says emphatically. “When you find someone you work with, that’s a very precious thing. That’s not something to be taken lightly.”

He would know: He and my mother have been together for 38 years, since they were 15 and 16.

“I don’t know, honey,” my mother says. “It can be hard to know when you’re so young. It can be good to see other people.”

My mother is onto something. It’s not that I think monogamy is bad: For lots of people — like my parents — it’s great. But I’m not so sure I’m one of those people.

Read more in the Washington Post