Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Recommended: Sex Is Fun Holiday Buyers' Guide

I've been a very lazy blogger recently -- and I'm just going to go with that, 'cause it's working so well for me. As long as other people have great content on their sites, my blog will seem interesting if I post a link and send you to them!

But seriously... A week or two ago, Sex Is Fun released their Holiday Buyers' Guide, an hour and a half of sex toy reviews to help you pick out the perfect gift for your loved one(s).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Top Ten Sex Books of 2009

No need for a lazy blogger like me to make his own list: Violet Blue is all over that in her latest SF Chronicle column. It's not to late for some last minute Christmas shopping!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Maybe I *DO* Give a Shit

Leave it to Susie Bright to find something in this whole Tiger Woods thing that is actually entertaining: Tiger's fantasy of being forced to watch one of his mistresses have a threesome with Derek Jeter and David Boreanaz. Susie Bright has used this revelation as a jumping off point for a very interesting post about cuckold fantasies on her blog.

Susie Bright covers to topic pretty well but she doesn't ask what I think is the most interesting question: What made Tiger choose these two guys? I mean, if he said Brad Pitt and George Clooney that would make sense to me. Those are two people a straight guy's mind immediately jumps to when he thinks of attractive male celebrities because he's always hearing women talk about how hot they supposedly are. A man spinning out a generic cuckold fantasy of watching his partner cheat on him would be likely to pick them. But Derek Jeter and David Boreanaz? Those are two very specific choices. Tiger has put a lot of thought into that. I'm not saying this to make fun of him -- this is the first interesting thing I've heard about his entire sex life. His cuckold fantasy isn't just about watching his mistress "betray" him with whatever stud is available, it has something to do with these two particular guys too, or else why go to the trouble of being so specific?

So what could it be? I mean, neither of them are unattractive but they aren't exactly smoking hot either. It could be significant that Jeter is one of the few sports stars who approaches being as talented as Tiger himself. But Boreanaz? What's the connection? He's just a B-list TV star who plays a goofy, affable FBI agent on a foresnics procedural and a vampire (with a soul) on a cult WB fantasy show. Why did Tiger pick these two and not, say, Lance Armstrong and Nathan Fillion? Clearly there is more going on in Tiger's fantasy life than the blasé desire to cheat on his wife with nominally hot babes, which means that for the very first time I'm kind of interested in this "scandal."

Thanks, Susie Bright, you pulled me in. I finally feel included in America's new obsession.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Wasn't Going to Mention It, But...

...after seeing one story dominating the front page of the New York Post and New York Daily News for almost a week I have a confession to make:


I would threaten to boycott those publications until they stop reporting the story but I don't think anyone would seriously believe I ever buy them in the first place.

UPDATE: As usual, Annabelle has something more interesting to say on the subject.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sex Is Fun AIDS Show

I don't write about STIs much on this blog. That's a conscious decision. I figure that ninety percent of all frank discussion of sexuality is about the terrible diseases you can catch by having sex and I want to offer a different perspective... or, when I'm lazy, link to people who will give you a different perspective.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that there's so much information out there about some the dangers of sex and I think we should all do our best to educate ourselves and learn about those dangers. All I'm saying is that there's tons of sites that fill that niche (links to some good ones are in the right-hand column) so I can focus on good, clean, geeky fun.

But in the interest of educating yourself, I recommend that everyone go listen to last week's episode of the Sex Is Fun Podcast.

The thing about AIDS information is that it is always changing as researchers discover more things, and it can be difficult to keep track of what information is current and what information is out of date. Gay Rick, one of the hosts of Sex Is Fun, works as an HIV educator. He's up on the latest info and he shares his knowledge at length in this podcast.

Here's two things I didn't know that I learned from listening:

1. People are most likely to pass on HIV before they test positive for the infection. People are most infectious two to three weeks after exposure, when the virus has multiplied in their system but before they've started to produce antibodies. HIV tests detect antibodies, so they only become effective two to three months after first exposure.

2. There's a drug that you can take one to three days exposure that greatly cuts down your chances of being infected by HIV. Because of its side-effects and expense ($800 to $2,000 for the entire one month course) emergency rooms will usually only perscribe it if you've had unprotected sex with a person you know is infected.

If you didn't know about this (or, hell, even if you did) imagine all the other fascinating and potentially life altering things you could learn by listening. Check it out.

ALSO WORTH CHECKING OUT IN PODCASTS LAST WEEK: Mistress Matisse guest-starred on last week's Savage Lovecast. Matisse and Dan Savage are a fascinating combination and this time they float a fascinating theory about why geeks/nerds gravitate towards BDSM. If you're interested, you can listen here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's Hard Being More Enlightened Than Everyone Else

A few weeks ago I had a visit from my partner Annabelle and her husband. They are a polyamorous, kinky, sex-positive, politically liberal and totally awesome couple and they have a habit of saying, "It's hard being more enlightened than everyone else."

Ninety percent of the time that's a joke but there's also some truth to it. Of course, they aren't the type who would just come out and say that their sexual choices (kinky, poly, open-minded) make them somehow more enlightened than someone who makes different choices. Nor am I. But, speaking only for myself now, sometimes it's difficult not to think it. It sounds unbelievably smug, superior and condescending to think that one is more enlightened than other people, but on the rare occasions that I start to feel that was it's usually accompanied not by smugness but by despair.

To point out a (not very personal) example, I want to mention a recent This American Life show -- the title and topic of the episode was "Infidelity" (listen here). The episode begins by talking about the Mark Sanford scandal and spins off from there into several tales about people cheating on their partners.

You might think that, as a nonmonogamous person, I'm probably a smug bastard about the fact that I've never cheated, not because I'm so high and mighty but because I've never really had to -- and you'd be right. I can be very obnoxious. I made a regrettable inappropriate joke at a party recently that drew some sharp glances. For the most part, however, I'm out of the stage that comes early in a person's polygamous life where they feel the need to proselytize for nonmonogamy. But the one time that I honestly do start to think, "It's hard being more enlightened than everyone else," is when I hear stories infidelity in supposedly monogamous relationships create such misery in so many lives. This American Life came out back in October and I decided to listen to it for this blog but it took me a month and four tries to finish it because it was so difficult to listen to stories about that kind of pain.

It depresses me so much to hear about John Edwards, Mark Sanford and Tiger Woods, not to mention This American Life or a friend of mine who just went through a break-up full of unfounded jealous accusations, that at my lowest moments I do sort of wonder why people put themselves through it again and again and never start to question the idea of monogamy. I mean, I assume it's because of that comforting feeling that your partner loves only you, that you fulfill their every need, that you complete them in every way and therefore have total control over their sexual and emotional desires. I can see how that would be attractive but isn't it totally impossible? Shouldn't people get comfortable with the fact that it's totally impossible and go from there?

I don't know, but when I hear about the wreckage infidelity leaves in so many lives I get depressed enough that I'm tempted to say yes. And I don't want to be that guy who actually thinks he's more enlightened, who actually thinks he knows what's best for everybody else. Those people are almost invariably so far behind they think they're first, and I don't want that to be me. Sometimes it's just kind of depressing...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Recent Updates

Not a lot of posts lately, I realize, and I'm sorry about that but I've been super busy with the rest of my life (also seasonally depressed, but the first excuse sounds better). However, I have updated some of the links in the right-hand column lately.

You know, when I first started writing this blog the right-hand column was kind of the entire point. I wanted a list of links to all of my favorite sex-positive websites in one place on the Internet, sort of a crossroads for accessing cool sites with fun and geeky info about sex. What started as a few dozen links has now grown to 126, including about a dozen added in the last couple days.

So if you're reading this blog on Google Reader or through an RSS feed or something, you're only getting half the picture. You might want to click here and browse some other great sites.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I Met Dr. Ruth

Tonight at a party I was introduced to Dr. Ruth. I didn't get to talk to her or anything. I didn't get to tell her I write a sex blog. I didn't get to tell her that, although I don't always agree with her attitudes about sex, I think it is impossible to overstate how much good she has done for my generation's ideas about sexuality. It was a loud party and I am about two feet taller than her. I couldn't say all of this into her ear so she could hear me and, anyway, she probably has heard it a million times. But it was a special thrill to shake her hand. It was like meeting not only my ancestor but the Mitochondrial Eve of everyone who writes about sex today.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My Take On the Abortion Restrictions In the Health Care Bill

It just goes to show that Congressional Democrats love America so much that there is no sacrifice that they wouldn't force vulnerable, marginalized, poor women to make for their country.

Yes, these poor women are true American heroes. Many of them are minorities, some speak very little English, most are in desperate situations and have nowhere to turn, and almost none of them know anyone with any influence in the American government who gives a shit about what happens to them. But despite all of that, there is no price too high for them to pay for their country, whether they want to or not. God bless them.

Friday, November 6, 2009


A reader just forwarded me this interesting article from the Sex Is blog about what is and isn't vanilla sex. It's interesting to read, but maybe it would be good not to start categorizing every sex act and just stick to the ones we like, rather than trying to conform to a label.

Also, I disagree with the author about one thing. I think anal sex is definitely vanilla for gay men. Strap-on sex seems vanilla for lesbians, but I'm not a lesbian so I might be wrong.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Words, Part 1: Filthy or Clinical

A few weeks ago, I joined a group that meets every two weeks and discusses sex. That's no big deal for me -- I've gone to a lot of groups that have frank discussions about sex and most of them are very interesting.

However, this group is a little different. This group meets at a church and teaches comprehensive, sex-positive sex ed to adults, age 18-30. When I first heard about it I thought I would need to see it to believe it. I went for the first time a few weeks ago and it was as good as advertised, but what made me decide to register for the full course and go back was the fact that many of the members of the group grew up in religious environments some of them have some hang-ups talking about sex. This was fairly clear on the day where the discussion topic was sexual pleasure -- while no one had trouble discussing STIs and safer sex at a different meeting, even the group's organizers seemed a little bit at a loss for a natural way to discuss pleasure.

It strikes me that part of the difficulty is a question of vocabulary. The fact is no vocabulary exists to discuss sex in a frank and open way. Every word we have has some sort of unwanted connotation. For example, say you want to tell someone you had vaginal intercourse with another person. You could say, "I had vaginal intercourse with him," but that sounds clinical and not very enjoyable. It gives an overall negative impression, since it sort of sounds like a disease. To fight the strange hospital smell wafting from those words, one could try something a little more direct like, "I fucked her." To a lot of people, that would come across as extremely profane. It might be considered disrespectful, even misogynistic, by some. Sayings like "I screwed her," "I got some," "I scored," or "I got laid" are a surefire way to get asked which frat you pledged in college.

Most people, to express this idea, would simply say, "We had sex," which is a horrible expression because it enshrines vaginal intercourse as literally the defining act of heterosexual sex while belittling other sex acts. That idea has sunk in. You will hear people say, "We didn't have sex, I just blew him." It's difficult to imagine that most people think that putting someone's cock in their mouth until that person cums down their throat doesn't count as having sex but that is the reason that virginity-crazed Christian teens have been blowing, eating and saddlebacking each other guilt-free throughout recent history.

We could try making up a word that wouldn't have an unwanted connotation, I suppose. Polyamorists especially have tried this. The term "polyamory" itself was coined by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart in 1990, by most accounts, to disassociate that kind of nonmonogamy from the creepy connotations Mormons have heaped on "polygamy." But, seriously, who can keep up with the new vocabulary. Frubble, compersion, polyfidelity, polymophic, solo polyamorist, triad, quad, tribe, constellation. It's not a great idea to use any of these in a sentence if you want the average person to understand it.

My personal opinion is that we should go with the gutter. Words like fuck, cock, pussy, cunt, tits/titties, boobs, ass, blew, ate and buttfuck are efficient, evocative and they actually sound hot. It's easier to discuss sex when you can say (and hear) these words unabashedly.

But that's harder than it sounds. A few years ago I decided I didn't want to equate "have sex" with vaginal intercourse anymore. I was having sex with a girl at the time but vaginal intercourse wasn't a part of it. I made a conscious decision to start using the word "fuck." It turns out it was really hard. I remember standing in a room alone practicing saying sentences that employed the word "fuck" descriptively rather than as an insult. I had no difficulty saying "fuck you" or "I'm so fucking tired" in company, yet when I was all alone it was next to impossible for me to choke out the sentence, "Mary and Steve fucked each other three times a day on their honeymoon."

As a writer I'm very interested in the way our thought patterns are influenced by language. Every word we have comes with baggage, sex words most of all. When all the words you have to discuss sex are so medical that they evoke disease or so colloquial they evoke obscenity, it is difficult to think of sex as a hot, fun, positive activity that will make you feel good about yourself. Unless someone makes up some new words for what we need to say, we have got to learn to think of the words we have in a more positive light or we are never going to be able to think of sex in a positive light. Fortunately, you can learn with practice.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the vampire Fleshlight. For those amongst you who have dreamed of being blown by a bloodsucker.

Happy Halloween, kids!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Annabelle River -- Now a Blogger!

It gives me great pleasure to present to you my wonderful partner Annabelle's new blog, Annabelle's Manifesto. Annabelle has been writing for Sexgenderbody.com for nearly a year and is now making the leap into running her own blog. There she will share her rather amazing insights into BDSM, polyamory, sexuality and feminism with the world, despite being cursed with a very midwestern modesty that has her mystified that anyone would care what little-old-her has to say. Annabelle, you're awesome, and frankly your sex writing is way more interesting than mine. (Ha-ha! Now who has more midwestern modesty?! In your face!)

In honor of Halloween, you might want to start with a post she wrote a few days ago called In Praise of "Dress Like a Whore" Day.

It's almost Halloween again, which at least in the United States means it's time for the annual panic shared equally by the right and the left: Girls' Halloween costumes are too slutty.

Surely An Historic Moment

Dan Savage writes about touring the Kinsey Institute over on Slog.

UPDATE: Kinsey Institute researcher and sex advice columnist Debbie Herbenick also has an interesting account of Savage's visit to the Institute, including his encounter with her vulva puppets.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

900 Dudes

Sify news has an article up right now called: Sex Mad Oxford Graduate Has Slept With 900 Men. Despite its sensational title the story itself doesn't condemn the woman. It just quotes her extensively on how she slept with 900 men in nine years by swinging, sharing partners with her friends and picking up guys for one night stands. But a lot of people commented on the article to accuse the woman of being a slut or a sex addict.

There's already a great commentary by my friends over at the Revolving Door Commune Blog but I'm going to add my two cents anyway.

1. Is this woman have a truly insane amount of sex?

No. To have sex with 900 men in nine years, mostly in one night stands, you'd need to fuck about twice a week. If a woman had sex with one partner -- say, her husband -- twice a week or even a bit more I don't think anyone would think it unhealthy. People aren't shocked with how much sex she had, they're shocked by how many partners she had.

2. Is this woman a sex addict?

No. First of all, sex addiction doesn't exist. It is not recognized by psychologists. That's because you get addicted to a substance -- like drugs or alcohol. When behavior gets out of hand it is a compulsion. The term "sex addiction" was coined by some sex-negative crusader because "sex addiction" conjures up more negative imagery than "compulsive sexual behavior."

So, now that the simantics are taken care of, was this woman sexually compulsive? I don't think so. Since it isn't possible to scientifically define how much sex is too much sex, the definition of sexual compulsion centers around one important criterion: did the person engage in the behavior because he or she liked it, or was the person unable to stop themselves from engaging in behavior that brought them no pleasure. When the woman in the article talks about her experiences she says things like "we just made sure we all had fun and enjoyed ourselves" and "it was the most thrilling, satisfying, fulfilling thing I've ever done." If you take what she says at face value she's not sexually compulsive.

3. Did this woman take unreasonable risks?

Even the writer at Revolving Door Commune has a tone of disapproval about the number:

That many people definitely increases your risk for all sorts of STDs and pregnancy no matter how much protection you use, or what kind of pill you’re on. I mean, that’s just a matter of numbers.

Prompting me to ask: Really? How so?

The failure rate of nine years of birth control pills is the same no matter how many people you have sex with in that period. The failure rate of nine hundred condoms is the same whether they were all worn by one man or by nine hundred different men. And, hypothetically at least, someone who knows they are taking a risk is more likely to be careful.

4. Is what this woman did therefore a sex-positive thing?

I don't know. I can't say it is, I can't say it isn't. On one hand I don't believe this woman is mentally ill and I completely support her right to do what she wants with her sex life without being judged. I believe sex is fun and good for you and as long as you're enjoying yourself I don't think there's a limit to the number of people you can fuck.

On the other hand she clearly has a reason for doing what she is doing. I don't think it's compulsive sexual behavior or any other kind of mental illness but she must have a reason because if she just wanted to have a ton of sex it's easier to find 40 people and have sex with them 25 times each than to have sex with 900 people.

Now maybe she's just one of those people who gets obsessed with numbers -- like a collector trying to collect 900 shot glasses or action figures is something. In her case it's sex partners. If that's the case I think this woman subscribes to the idea that more equals better which isn't necessarily true.

She also talks several times about how she doesn't want to have a serious relationship, just fun sex. Many people -- dare I say most? -- believe sex breaks down into two categories: serious long term relationships and one night stands. She knows she doesn't want a relationship, so clearly one night stands are the only choice. Like a lot of dichotomies people believe in without ever examining them (sweet and sour, good and evil, Democrat and Republican) the false choice automatically rules out an entire universe of other possibilities. When I read about her I found myself wondering if she had seriously consider the possibilities of having a group of sexual friends.

But who am I to say that's the case. Maybe she has looked at the entire spectrum of possibilities and decided that one night stands are the way to go. As long as she's happy about her choice, everybody -- including me -- should shut the hell up.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Feminism in Dollhouse and Mad Men

There is a fascinating article by Emily Nussbaum on the New York Magazine website about the exploration of sexual consent in recent episodes of Dollhouse and Mad Men. I'm a huge fan of both shows and I think one of the reasons that both of them are so compelling is that both explore sexuality in compelling and sometimes disturbing ways that. The only show on television that can really compare is HBO's Hung.

This article is noteworthy because for the most part critics haven't really had the guts to talk about the way these shows deal with sex. Critics of Dollhouse usually limit themselves to expressing distaste of the show's "prostitution" subject matter, while only the sexism of Mad Men's male characters. As Nussbaum explores in her article, both shows have very complicated sexual dynamics where the supposed victims are often so morally compromised as to be complicitous with the victimizers.

If you're a fan of either show the article is worth reading.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fuck Religion

Last night I was having a very interesting conversation about all of the things religion has to offer. Today I read this statement put out by the Catholic Archbishop of Guam.

Islamic fundamentalists clearly understand the damage that homosexual behavior inflicts on a culture. This is why they repress such behavior by death...It may be brutal at times, but any culture that is able to produce wave after wave of suicide bombers... is a culture that at least knows how to value self sacrifice.

Basically a Catholic bishop in the United States (for those of you who aren't so good at geography, Guam is a US territory) just held up Islamic fundamentalist suicide bombers as examples to which we should aspire because they have no qualms about using murder to repress gay people.

The statement was made in response bill in the Guam legislature which would legalize same sex domestic partnerships. The effort to pass the bill is led by B.J. Cruz, an openly gay legislator who was – wait for it – abused by a priest when he was a child.

Un. Fucking. Believable.

Via Andrew Sullivan, via Slog.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Finally, A Reality Show I Would Watch!

I'm back! Loyal readers, thank you (both) for waiting patiently during my blogger lapses. Sometimes my real life gets crazy and I stop posting. The crux of the matter is I don't really regret having a real life that can interfere with blogging. That may mean I'm not a very good blogger...

A little more than a month ago I laid into Mistress Matisse for being dead wrong about vanilla sex so I think it's only right that I point out when she is dead right about something. In her Control Tower column in this week's Stranger, she is reviving an idea she has mentioned before -- creating a reality show called America's Next Top Dominatrix. It was a funny joke before but this week she goes into some ideas for the structure of the show and what the challenges would be and, I've gotta say, not only is this a reality show that I would watch, I think it has the makings of a crossover hit that would unite the BDSM community (a small group), people with an interest, expressed or unexpressed, in kinky shit (a much larger group), people who want to watch reality show contestants do strange and humiliating things (nearly everybody), and gawkers (probably a bunch of shitheads but they can pad the Neilsens and spend money on the advertisers' products too so I guess we'd better let them watch). I think this idea really has legs and I think Matisse might well the the perfect host -- she's kinda the Tyra Banks of pro dommes. Now where is a producer with the stones to finance this surefire hit?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why I Don’t Have Time to Blog

I’ve been really busy lately and I haven’t had time to update this blog. And it’s a real bummer too because I have so many things I want to write about. I’ve been meaning for ages to review the excellent film Humpday, and to write about the recent article on polyamory in The Independent, or the polyamory documentary on MTV’s True Life, and I wanted to write about the most recent installment of the In the Flesh Reading Series that I attended last week, or my first party at the NYC kink club Paddles on Saturday. But I’ve been really busy at work—nine, ten, eleven hour days—and I’ve been seeing someone new and I’ve been going to a bunch of things in the evening (I was there in person to see Ira Glass interview Joss Whedon last night, beat that!) and I’ve just had absolutely no time to write about any of it.

I’m afraid it isn’t going to let up either. This week I’m doing something every night of the week. Then, on Friday, I’m flying to San Francisco to go to the Folsom Street Fair with my partner Annabelle and her husband. Those two are completely responsible for getting me to acknowledge my kinky side so sharing this experience with them is very exciting. Skimming the blogs and listening to the podcasts, I’m surprise to learn how many people are going to be there. Matisse and Monk from Mistress Matisse’s Podcast (and their respective blogs) will be there. So will Gay Rick from Sex Is Fun. I may even get to meet Lochai, artistic director of Hogtied.com, since he’s acquainted with my traveling companions.

Then I promise I’ll come back and write all the updates I have stored up in my brain. ‘Cause there really isn’t that much space in there, I need to get them out.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How Sweet It Is...

Recently it's been kind of "all polyamory, all the time" on this blog. I'm sorry for that. Maybe it's because Poly Pride is coming up, but it just seems like there has been a lot of poly stuff to comment on.

Well, here's a news story from Talking Points Memo that has absolutely nothing to do with polyamory!


Newt Gingrich's 527 group sent a letter to porn exec Allison Vivas Wednesday telling her she'd won their "Entrepreneur of the Year" award and inviting her to an "intimate event" with Gingrich.

"I'm honored, and more than a little surprised, to receive this prestigious award," Vivas said today in a cheeky press release. "Rest assured, I'll take the opportunity to inform Mr. Gingrich of some of the major challenges facing the adult entertainment industry in the current market .., from obscenity prosecutions to content piracy, I'll make sure he walks away from that dinner educated about the realities of the online porn market."

Every once in the while, the universe proves that it really does love us.

Via Susie Bright's Journal

Monday, September 14, 2009

Polyamory Featured on MTV Tonight

I just got an e-mail from Poly NYC saying that tonight the MTV series True Life is doing an episode about polyamory in New York City. It is at 10 PM this evening. I've never watched the series before -- in fact, I haven't watched anything on MTV in years. However, even though I could fairly be described as "wiped out" by work this time of year, I'm going to be my best to stay up late enough to tune in tonight. Failing that, there's always DVR.

So I'll give you my thoughts on that soon -- assuming the show is actually capable of provoking any thoughts. But I do want to stop and take notice of how much press polyamory has been getting lately. Starting with the New York Times coverage of Poly Pride last year, continuing with the recent Newsweek article and all of the press surrounding the books Opening Up, Open, and the new edition of The Ethical Slut. (For news stories on polyamory, I highly recommend the Poly in the Media blog.)

And, the most dubious and most significant badge of honor: polyamory has an enemy on the Christian Right now. Patrick Fagan, Ph.D., delivered an anti-poly speech at the World Congress of Families in Amsterdam last month, and although his condemnation seems to mostly apply to cheaters in his own monogamous circles rather than ethically nonmonogamous polyamorists, his decision to use (or, misuse) the term "polyamory" has definitely raised the profile of a movement that is probably nonmonogamy's best face.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Interview With Some REAL Polyamory Experts

I'm happy to answer some questions now and then, but some real poly experts are weighing in on Briar Patch Magazine's site. Be sure to check out the joint interview with Jenny Block and Tristan Taormino, authors of Open and Opening Up, respectively.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Susie Bright on "Bloodballing" and Other Fun Activities

Watching the first episode of the second season of True Blood, my friends and I particularly remarked a scene where vampire Bill Compton drinks Sookie Stackhouse's blood, then spits it into her mouth while kissing her. Of course this reminded us of the snowballing (essentially the same practice but with cum instead of blood) and the term "bloodballing" was coined.

This week, Susie Bright has written a long article for the Huffington Post about the link, both historical and contemporary, between sci-fi/fantasy/horror and erotica. She takes both genres back to the dime store days of censorship, follows the rise of Anne Rice-type vampire stories during the AIDS crisis, and then tells us which writers of True Blood published stories in her own Best American Erotica series.

If any of you doubted that sex was indeed geeky, this article should set you straight.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Apparently I'm Some Kind of Polyamory Expert

A weird thing has been happening for the last week or so. I'm a member of an online dating site where I have a profile that says I'm polyamorous. I've never been remotely successful at using this site, by the way. Luckily I'm slightly better at meeting people in real life.

Suddenly, in the last little while, people have been contacting me and asking me questions about polyamory. Which I have been happily answering because I think it's great that people are considering polyamory and I want to help them along. Friends have accused me of believing that everyone would be happier if they were polyamorous and that just isn't true. However I do believe that many people are conditioned to believe nonmonogamy can't work in serious relationships and so, while they might be kind of turned on by the idea, they never give it a chance. I live in hope that I'll answer a question someday that will make a difference to one of those people because I used to be one. So, even though I'm no Dan Savage, feel free to write me if you have a question. You can reach me at geekysex@gmail.com.

In case anyone was wondering about the same thing these people asked, here are the questions I've answered so far.

So I went to a womyn's retreat last weekend where we talked a lot about polyamory, and I also have a friend who is also polyamorous ... this concept intrigues me. What is the difference between open relationships and polyamorous? I'd like to learn more. I'm def open to open relationsips but can't get into this hierarchical ranking of "primary" etc partners. Any advice in exploreing this arena would be appreciated...
There isn't really a big difference between polyamory and open relationships. Polyamory is a semi-organized movement these days, so people who call themselves polyamorous are more likely to be following a set of very strict ethical rules, while people who say they have an open relationship may be flying blind a little bit more. But not always. Not even close to always, in fact.

There are a whole lot of books about polyamory these days. I would recommend The Ethical Slut, by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, which has been the poly "bible" for more than a decade; or Opening Up, by Tristan Taormino, which talks about all sorts of nonmonogamous relationships other than polyamory (swinging, for instance). If you're more in the mood for a testimonial/memoir then Open, by Jenny Block, isn't bad. You can get these books at an independent bookstore like Bluestockings or frequently at Babeland. There are also a few poly groups in the New York area -- Polyamorous NYC and Tri-State Poly (a Yahoo! group). I don't attend those very much myself -- I'm more of a Christmas and Easter type, so I show up for Poly Pride, which is Friday 10/9 and Saturday 10/10 this year. Finally, I'd recommend the Polyamory Weekly podcast, by Cunning Minx.

I'm interested in knowing who was proselytizing for polyamory at the womyn's retreat you went to. I'm not surprise to learn that polyamory is being talked about there -- it is a movement that's definitely being run by women (for instance, all of the authors and the podcaster I mentioned are female). Anyway, I'd love to know exactly how you got interested, and why it appeals to you.

In theory I'm poly, but at the moment I'm still sorting it out. I just met someone for whom my feelings are so passionate and strong that it's making me question polyamory. Scary stuff. Have you been able to make multiple serious relationships work? I thought I could, but now I don't know.
Unlike mono relationships, which have some set rules, poly relationships are kind of anything goes (as long as everyone agrees). It's difficult to say when one is successful except that you're happy with it at the moment. I am right now, but that doesn't really make me an expert. Multiple serious relationships CAN work -- I've seen it happen and I've been a part of it. But it definitely doesn't always work for everybody.

As someone who considers herself poly "in theory," I don't think it's wrong for you to get into a monogamous relationship. It will give you a chance to really commit to each other. Then, if you want to open the relationship down the road, you'll do it with a really strong foundation to build from. Or maybe you'll stay happily monogamous forever. That's cool too. So if I were in your position -- in love and drawn towards monogamy (congratulations, by the way!) -- and didn't have a number of other relationships at that moment, I would definitely go with my gut and begin a mono relationship. But the first thing I would do is check with my partner to make sure it really is monogamous because a lot of people take that for granted at the beginning of a serious relationship and sometimes there's a misunderstanding. And while I was having that conversation I would say something like, "I'm asking 'cause I don't think a relationship necessarily needs to be monogamous to be serious. I want to commit to a monogamous relationship with you but if somewhere down the road you ever think you want to try an open relationship I'd be open to discussing that."

polyamory is stupid. stupid stupid stupid and its just a reason to put your dick in as much vagina as possible. just stay oh i dont know single?
Ok, thanks for your opinion. You have a nice day now.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Aunt May in Love

In Amazing Spider-Man #592, a couple months ago, Peter Parker (that's Spider-Man to you less geeky Geeky Sex readers out there) went to visit his Aunt May at her house after a particularly long absence and received a bit of a surprise -- he found his septuagenarian aunt in bed with the father of his newspaper editor boss/nemesis, J. Jonah Jameson! (The image above is the property of Marvel Comics and used totally without permission but hopefully in a way they would approve of if I had asked them.)

Like most comic books Amazing Spider-Man has a letter column and like most comic book fans its readers had strong opinions about what happens in its pages. Those opinions hit in last week's Amazing Spider-Man #603.

Ric Davies of Sterling Heights, Michigan, writes:
That last page of issue #592 made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. What were you guys thinking? Seems like Aunt May has gone into the wayback machine and is in her 50s-60s again. For cryin' out loud, she's like 1,000 years old!

I definitely don't like imagining May Parker having relations... and if you guys want my eyes to continue to be able to read your fine comic, I would suggest no more of this. What happens in Aunt May's bedroom should stay in Aunt May's bedroom.

'Nuff seen and 'nuff said!

Steve Delaney of Knoxville, Tennessee, put it even more concisely:
About ASM #592, specifically the last page, only one word comes to mind: AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Now, without a doubt, the writers of the comic book were playing the scene for laughs, not to confront any sex-negative attitudes in their audience. It was indeed a funny moment. But what really tickled me pink was the fact that the writers (who recently reinvigorated this ailing series) had decided to give Aunt May, a sexless old lady for most of Spider-Man history, a sex life that is as explicit as these things get in superhero comic books. And I was tickled even pinker when I saw Peter Parker's reaction in the next issue. After a few moments of embarrassment, our hero tells his aunt, "Pretty lady, whatever makes you happy makes me happy. This guy's a catch. Hang onto him. As you were, you two."

So I was surprised by this violent reaction from the fans. (To be fair, a third letter commended Peter's levelheaded reaction.) I mean, I know that our culture has trouble talking about sex and doesn't consider a person attractive unless they're in their twenties, which is going to be an obstacle to any attempt to portray an elderly couple having sex. Nonetheless, the reaction seemed a little over the top. Do we really begrudge older people -- even fictional older people like Aunt May -- the occasionally fun and healthy roll in the hay? I just wanted to shake these fans and say, "Old people have sex too! Get over it!"

So instead I did something I've only done once before in twenty years of off-and-on comic book readership -- I wrote a letter to the editor. And since it will probably never see print I'd just like to say thanks to the writers of Amazing Spider-Man for making their (evidently ill-prepared) readers face something that is a normal part of everyday life. As you were, you guys.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Defending Vanilla Sex

I just read Mistress Matisse's latest Control Tower column from The Stranger. I read every edition of Matisse's biweekly column, follow her blog and listen to her podcast and this is the first time I've found myself completely disagreeing with her.

The premise of her column is this: Matisse is kind of a celebrity in the Seattle kink and poly communities. She thought it would be fun to go on a few dates "without the backstory" so she dated several guys through a social networking site and found herself having vanilla sex for the first time in a long time.

Quoth she:
I went out with several pleasant, good-looking guys from a social-networking site. I told them all, "I'm pretty kinky." They all replied, "That's cool." But the sex was all pretty unkinky—and not terribly successful. I have skills and confidence in bed, but I came away from those encounters thinking, "I do not understand how to be sexual like this."

Now, one can debate endlessly about what qualifies as kinky sex. But I've figured out exactly what makes sex vanilla. The defining feature of vanilla sex is this: You communicate about it using only mental telepathy. Or so I'm forced to assume, because nonkinky people don't talk about fucking. Not before they fuck, and definitely not while they're fucking. With every kinky person I've ever dated—which is a lot—there was some conversation about "So, what are you into?" And during kinky sex, it's normal to give overt instructions: "Lick me there. Higher—yeah, like that!" Or ask questions: "Is that good? Faster or slower?"

I don't use this blog to write about my own sex life much but I will divulge that at various times I have sex that is kinky and at various times I have sex that is vanilla too. I think I've experienced what Matisse is describing. When I've gone a long time without having vanilla sex it will sometimes seem like kind of a letdown -- like it's less exciting than the kinky variety. But I've experienced the opposite too -- gone a long time without kinky sex and missed some of the tenderness or felt unsure of myself in the dominant or submissive role. That's because being vanilla and being any one of the different kinds of kinky are skill sets that require practice. You have to relearn them after too much time away.

Matisse is oversimplifying dramatically when she says that people don't communicate about their vanilla sex. She's probably right, however, that vanilla people communicate less. Vanilla sex does not always require the same amount of conversation. Vanilla is ONE of the 31 flavors, which makes "kinky" everything else in the metaphorical Baskin Robbins, including the frozen yogurt and the ice cream cakes. When you embark on kinky sex one of the first things you have to do is talk to determine what's on the menu and what isn't -- if someone tells you they're kinky you can't be sure they're into bondage, electo-stim, pegging, worshiping your feet, dressing up in a fur suit or even getting fucked. You have to ask.

When you decide to have vanilla sex, on the other hand, you can be relatively sure that certain things are on the menu. You've basically got making out, caressing each other's bodies, kissing, nibbling, sucking, manual and oral stimulation of various erogenous zones, oral sex and vaginal sex in a wide variety of positions (or anal for a lot of vanilla gay guys), possibly some light spanking -- other things too, but you get the idea. Vanilla sex doesn't always have to include all these things but, if you're not told otherwise explicitly, you could be forgiven for assuming. Knowing beforehand approximately which activities are involved doesn't eliminate the need for communication but it cuts down the amount of ground that needs to be covered. Since the key to vanilla sex isn't so much knowing what your partner wants you to do but knowing how and when you should do it, a lot of the remaining communication takes place through body language. You try something out and pay attention to your partner's reaction for guidance.

This isn't a bad thing. Being in tune with your partner's reactions is the source of a lot of the intimacy in vanilla sex. With no dominant-submissive power dynamic, the subtlety of nonverbal communication -- when it's working well -- is a fabulous way to feel like the evening's activities are taking shape organically and in a way that is controlled equally by both partners. Then, if the train goes off the tracks, or if you suddenly have a desire that you know you partner won't be able to intuit, you can give verbal instructions too. You only run into trouble when one of you, due to shyness or cultural inhibition, can't give verbal instructions when necessary. But just because you're vanilla doesn't mean you're inhibited -- an assumption a lot of kinky people are always making, myself included when I'm not careful. When Matisse says that vanilla people don't communicate she's essentially implying just that -- they're too inhibited to communicate. To support her implication she's forgetting about all the people who do communicate verbally, then grouping all the people who communicate mostly nonverbally, but successfully, together with the people who really don't communicate at all. Not fair.

Reading Matisse's column, I had to wonder if her vanilla skills have atrophied from lack of use. It has happened to me in the past. Going from kinky sex to vanilla is like listening to quiet classical music when you're used to blasting punk. It takes a little while to stop missing all that raw power you're used to feeling and re-learn how to appreciate the nuances. If she was appreciating those nuances she may have noticed that some of the communication she sought wasn't required -- or she might have realized that the guys she were sleeping with were just awful in bed (sounds like at least one of them was) and gone looking for someone with a more complete set of vanilla skills. Having vanilla sex well is, after all, it's own unique group of skills, and it requires every bit as much skill and finesse as being a good bondage top or delivering a good spanking. Sometimes you need to shop around.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Stacks - Brokeback Mountain

“Brokeback Mountain,” from Close Range: Wyoming Stories
by Annie Proulx
Scribner, 1999

A few weeks ago I was reading the Spring ’09 issue of The Paris Review (yes, I do read things that aren’t about sex). It features an interview with Annie Proulx, writer of “Brokeback Mountain” and The Shipping News and in that interview I there was a passage I found extremely surprising and though provoking.

INTERVIEWER: You’ve said that the characters of Jack and Ennis from “Brokeback Mountain” were the first two characters that started to feel “very damn real” to you. (…)

PROULX: (…) I think it happened with “Brokeback Mountain” because it took me so long to write that story. It took at least six weeks of steady work, which is not my usual pace. So yeah, they got a life of their own. And unfortunately, they got a life of their own for too many other people too.

INTERVIEWER: What do you mean?

PROULX: I wish I’d never written that story. It’s just been the cause of hassle and problems and irritation since the film came out. Before the film it was all right. (…) But the problem has come since the film. So many people have completely misunderstood the story. I think it’s important to leave spaces in a story for readers to fill in from their own experience, but unfortunately the audience that “Brokeback” reached most strongly have powerful fantasy lives. And one of the reasons we keep the gates locked here is that a lot of men have decided that the story should have a happy ending. They can’t bear the way it ends—they just can’t stand it. So they rewrite the story, including all kinds of boyfriends and new lovers and so forth after Jack is killed. And it just drives me wild. They can’t understand that the story isn’t about Jack and Ennis. It’s about homophobia; it’s about a social situation; it’s about a place and a particular mindset and morality. They just don’t get it. I can’t tell you how many of these things have been sent to me as though they’re expecting me to say, Oh great, if only I’d had the sense to write it that way. And they all begin the same way—I’m not gay but… The implication is that because they’re men they understand much better than I do how these people would have behaved.

The first thing that occurred to me is that Annie Proulx, as a literary author, leads a pretty sheltered life compared to some writers with a wider following in pop culture. It’s sort of funny to imagine her curiously reading the mountains of slash fiction arriving at her Wyoming ranch. A different writer—say, Joss Whedon, who created the lesbian couple Willow and Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, equally influential to a certain group, in their own way, as Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, and also controversally doomed—would never look at these fan stories. Whedon probably has an assistant whose job is to round file that stuff. You have to feel a little sorry for Annie Proulx, who was not prepared for the consequences of a couple of her characters accidentally becoming pop culture icons.

But, on the other hand, Proulx is right. "Brokeback Mountain" is not a novel. The fantastic film by Ang Lee significantly expands the scope of what is, after all, a short story. Not just a single short story but an installment in a collection of short stories about Wyoming cowboys. Annie Proulx is a very geographical author. The books and stories she writes are about the places the stories occur, not the characters. Proulx characters are frequently the inevitable product of the places they live more than autonomous human beings.

The beauty of "Brokeback Mountain" the short story, as opposed to the movie, is the sense of longing Proulx captures. "Brokeback" the story lacks the movie's grandiose dramatic moments. Proulx tells us little about Jack Twist's life when he's outside of Ennis's company, instead focusing on Ennis, the patient cowboy who over the course of the story watches his entire life pass by as he floats from job to job, living only for the occasional fishing trip with his lover. The story, like the movie, is a tragedy but it is a quieter, more desperate kind of tragedy. It is the tragedy of a man who embodies the socially conservative, homophobic Wyoming cowboy lifestyle in every way except that he happens to be gay -- a fact that his place and time will never allow him to acknowledge and embrace.

Proulx brings up the fact that she is a woman in the interview, and I think that is one of the greatest things about this story. It has really earned a place as one of the watershed pieces of gay literature, yet it was written by a straight woman. In my opinion, we shouldn't be so surprised. It would take an outsider to take this story about an oppressed minority and make it so universally powerful.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fet Life Interview

I have been a lazy blogger lately. My apologies about that. What have I been up to? Enjoying the summer, reading some good books, going on a few dates, traveling quite a bit and trying to be a bit less technological. But now it's nearly September and the deep seated memory of getting ready to go back to school in the fall is kicking in. I'm getting back into the swing of things. I've been working on a few posts that will appear here pretty soon and I've been catching up on all the great sexy stuff I've been missing -- like my favorite podcasts.

I just listened to a very interesting one. It's an episode of The Ropecast from way back in June where Gray Dancer interviews John Baku, the founder of Fet Life. If you're not familiar with the site, it's like a kinky Facebook and it has been taking the kink community by storm, according to a couple of my friends. I'm not personally a member but two people have asked me if I'm a member on one of the dating sites I do frequent.

I've never joined Fet Life because I've never really felt all that comfortable in the BDSM community. I'm a fairly kinky -- or at least fairly experimental -- person but I always feel a little intimidated at kink events. They are so single minded. It is sex geekery in its most concentrated form and even though I write a blog called Geeky Sex it's a little too much even for me sometime. However, the interview with Baku has changed my mind about giving Fet Life a try. He describes himself as someone who was kinky mainly in his own bedroom and who got kicked out of kink events in Toronto and Montreal for not having the correct fashion sense. He also talks about how he still has trouble reconciling his feelings for his girlfriend with his desire to inflict pain upon her. In short he was someone that I could identify with. In the interview Baku says he created Fet Life to include people like himself. According to the interview there are now 177,000 members, which is pretty incredible, and a very hands-on staff of volunteers.

Sounds like it's past time that I join. I guess you'll be reading my first hand opinion in later posts.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Polyamory in Newsweek

Hi everyone. I'm back, more or less! Just in time to see that polyamory is getting some love in Newsweek!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Vault - Shortbus

Shortbus (2006)
directed & written by John Cameron Mitchell
starring: Raphael Barker, Lindsay Beamish, Justin Bond, Jay Brannan, Paul Dawson, PJ DeBoy, Sook-Yin Lee, Peter Stickles

The Internet has made film images of sex so commonplace that in this decade several independent filmmakers have declared that they were going to take the next step -- bring real sex scenes into legitimate cinema. But every time a filmmaker claimed they were the one who had finally integrated sex into storytelling I was disappointed. In Vincent Gallo's Brown Bunny the blowjob scene seemed like a tacked-on stunt to get people to see an otherwise banal movie, and the French film Baise-moi was an atrocious nightmare filled with violence and negative, self-destructive sex. Those films flirted with the barrier between porn and independent film. The film finally tore it down was John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus.

The film is set in a post-9/11 New York. It's ensemble cast is an attractive yet real-looking group in their twenties and thirties that represent most of the sexual spectrum: straight, gay, vanilla, kinky, monogamous, polyamorous, sex workers, voyeurs and genderqueers, all present and accounted for. The one constant in this rainbow of sexual diversity is that all of the characters are looking for something from sex that will complete them. To find it they converge on Shortbus, a idiosyncratic club in Brooklyn that celebrates art and sex by blurring the line between them. Based on the real-life Dumba (now defunct), Shortbus is the place to go for everything from pretentious film festivals to joyous orgies.

The central storyline -- Sofia, a sex therapist in her thirties, has never had an orgasm and is on a quest to get one -- is a bit of a cliché but that doesn't matter so much since this is a film one watches for the characters and atmosphere. The gays are up to more interesting hijinks. James, who is secretly depressed and suicidal, is trying to create a triad with Ceth so his boyfriend Jamie will have support after James dies; all the while they're being followed by Caleb, a voyeur. And Severin, a pro domme who is miserable because her need to control every situation keeps the whole world at arms length is tormented by an impish client as she tries to form a real friendship with Sofia. All this frustration and sexual energy builds up through the movie until it literally blows a fuse, metaphorically resulting in the 2003 New York blackout.

The movie is set up to give us a peak into the lives of these characters rather than to fully explore their background. A tantilizing hint is dropped that Sofia's unability to orgasm might be related to her strict Asian father, but the film doesn't pursue the matter. We also never find out why James is suicidal. His history as a young prostitute may have something to do with it but when he talks about those days it sounds like he was already depressed. The video he's shooting as an explanation/suicide note (which seems to be based on Jonathan Caouette's Tarnation) is full of interesting images but I wasn't able to glean any clues. The first time I viewed the film I felt John Cameron Mitchell's ensemble cast, who helped write the movie, had gotten lazy with their character work. On further viewings I realized the point wasn't to plumb the depths of these people but rather to meet them in passing as you might in the real world.

But this movie's greatest achievement is to integrate sex into storytelling in as just another human activity. It's difficult to de-emphasize the fact that the actors are actually performing sex acts on each other because it's such a novelty in movie making. John Cameron Mitchell manages it by keeping his sex scenes short and often playing them for humor: straight people trying unsatisfying sex in every position of the kama sutra, a gay man singing the national anthem into his partner's ass, a submissive ejaculating on a Jackson Pollack painting, etc. This film makes sex seem normal, ironically, by playing up the one aspect that is normally left out of porn or Hollywood sex scenes -- the fact that sex is frequently ridiculous as well as hot.

In other words, the sex in Shortbus is sex we recognize from our own lives, shown on screen for the first time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

EMERGENCY! I Need Your Help

I've been on vacation for the past few weeks and I wasn't going to post on this blog (I hope you have all been enjoying the book reviews I have pre-scheduled).

However, an emergency has come up and I desperately need your help. I'm asking anyone who is reading this to donate some money -- doesn't have to be a lot -- to a very worthy cause. Liz, a friend of mine, recently broke her leg falling down some stairs. It's a compound fracture. She's out of work and uninsured and she's going to need surgery. Her housemates in the Revolving Door Commune for Itinerant Artists have started an online fundraiser to pay for her medical and living expenses while she is recovering.

Please, please, PLEASE... visit the Revolving Door Commune blog and donate whatever you can afford. At the moment, I think they're matching whatever anyone donates so your money will go twice as far. The Commune is also going to have an in-person fundraiser in the next few weeks at The Albatross, a gay bar in Astoria (Queens, New York City) where Liz is a regular. It's located at 24th Avenue and 37th Street. Since I'm on vacation I won't be able to post again about that so keep checking the RDC blog or join the Facebook cause if you want to go. (You can probably meet me in person if you come.) And if you would like to do something in person a little more immediately, I will be at the Albatross tonight with the Commune-ists begging for money at the weekly karaoke night that Liz seldom ever misses.

After you have donated, comment on this post so I can send you a small thank you gift after I've returned from vacation.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Vault - Secretary

Secretary (2002)
directed by Steven Shainberg
written by Erin Cressida Wilson, based on a short story by Mary Gaitskill
starring: Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Spader, Jeremy Davies

Before you see it you expect the clichés: leather, whips, corsets and high-heeled, knee-high boots. You won't see those things at any time in Secretary. What you will see in the film's hypnotic opening shot is Maggie Gyllanhaal slinking gracefully through the office in a normal, if slightly old fashion, skirt and blouse and -- oh, yes -- her wrists restrained at the ends of a positively dainty spreader bar linked to her leather collar.

Secretary is a romantic comedy about a dominant-submissive relationship that forms between the titular secretary, Lee Holliway (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and her shy, sensitive lawyer boss, E. Edward Grey (James Spader). Miss Holliway and Mr. Grey's relationship doesn't involve much violence, aside from one fairly memorable spanking scene. What is on display in this movie is the care and attention to details necessary for one person to sweep another away in a healthy, loving power dynamic relationship.

I recently rewatched the movie with a group of friends, including one who had never seen it before and wasn't much for BDSM. This friend's discomfort was palpable all the way through the movie. Men and women alike, we have become feminists. We like our women empowered. That's why the paradox posed by Secretary fucks with our heads the way that it does. Should women be so empowered that they have the right to give up that power to a man they trust? If you think the answer is yes, you're probably in the minority, sadly enough. The beauty of Secretary is that it posed as a harmless little romance and put that question out there for a mainstream audience. It's also difficult to deny how hot it is to watch Lee and Mr. Grey's little pas de deux, so if you are one of those who think what they're seeing is wrong the filmmakers have pretty successfully implicated you in the crime they're staging.

The characters in this movie are probably the world's perfect dominant and perfect submissive, which is a credit to both the screenwriter and the actors who bring them to life. Lee comes from a dysfunctional family. She has developed a deep need to please those around her and the unfortunate tendency to punish herself with pain when she can't. In Mr. Grey she finds someone who will always appreciate her efforts to please him and who can change the punishment from a ritual of self-loathing to an erotic and pleasurable activity. Mr. Grey, meanwhile, is an intelligent man who is very anal about details and hates himself for using these two characteristics to imagine elaborate tortures to show his affection for the people he loves. In Lee he finds someone who enjoys his affections and really wants to know the side he has kept hidden from everyone.

If the ending is a little unrealistic -- Lee's public act of self-humiliation would probably ruin Mr. Grey's law practice in the conservative suburb they inhabit -- you can't blame a romantic comedy for concluding with melodrama. And don't make any mistake, this is definitely a romantic comedy, complete with the cliché of the woman in the wedding dress running to the one she actually loves in one final, desperate attempt to win his love. Except that in this movie her beloved orders her to stay perfectly still for three days and she ends up urinating in the wedding dress. That's not such a big difference, right?

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Stacks - SM 101

SM 101, 2nd ed.
by Jay Wiseman
Greenery Press, 1996

So, you like rough sex. You want to explore it but you have this nagging feeling that it could be... oh, I don't know, a little bit unsafe. Jay Wiseman to the rescue! In just over three hundred pages Wiseman gives you a basic rundown on the safe and responsible ways to incorporate pain and power exchange into your sex life.

The book is perfectly titled -- if your college had offered a freshman seminar in BDSM this is exactly what would be covered. After dispensing with the basics Wiseman touches on how to find partners, rope bondage, non-rope options for restraint, how and where hit a submissive to cause pain safely, different flagellation instruments (hands, floggers, paddles, crops, whips, canes and the like), how and where to use clamps, a whole plethora of sensation play, humiliation, how to train a submissive, how to have a BDSM relationship, and how to find the BDSM organization in your area or create one if it doesn't already exist.

All of this information is first rate. As a former paramedic Wiseman always errs on the side of safety. He believes (as most responsible S&M players do) that if what turns you on is particularly dangerous there is probably some way of at least simulating your kink safely. As a decent human being he advocated doing BDSM with respect for everyone involved. That means negotiating your scene in detail with your play partner ahead of time. Throughout his book Wiseman makes sure that his reader never forgets that even if the violence is real (though carefully controlled) the power inequality of BDSM is entirely pretend. Even if one person acts dominent and another acts submissive they are both equals who should never confuse the roles they play with reality.

The main criticism I've heard of SM 101 in kink circles is that Wiseman is just too cautious. I see why people say that. It was a little surprising to me that Wiseman introduces his intricate "silent alarm" technique (wherein if a third party isn't contacted by the submissive by a prearranged time the third party calls the cops) before even covering the idea of a safeword. At another time in the book Wiseman suggests that all responsible dominents should keep emergency lights and full size fire extinguishers in their playroom. Valid safety concerns, without a doubt, but most of us don't even have a playroom. For most of us, it's just our bedroom and we have a small stash of kinky stuff in the closet that we'll take out if a willing person happens to wonder in. Despite what Wiseman says, most people just steer clear of open flame and play the odds that there won't be a blackout. I don't think that's blatantly irresponsible. And a scene negotiation would take years if you really covered all the things he's suggesting be covered in detail. However the point of these parts of the book is more to instill a deep respect for safety than to require the reader to follow the instructions to the letter, so Wiseman's overzealousness is easily excused.

The one criticism I will add -- this book is badly in need of a third edition. Since 1996 the kink community has largely moved onto the Internet. This book's discussion of the kink community mainly focuses on alternative papers, bulletin boards in sex-positive stores, newsletters and getting a PO Box to protect your privacy. The only time Wiseman mentions the web is to suggest a couple of newsgroups (remember those? me neither) that might have information. An SM 101 that urges readers to take full advantage of online communities like Fet Life would be a much more helpful book for newbies who are looking to make a connection with the kink community, especially if they don't happen to live in New York or San Francisco.

Despite these problems I would absolutely recommend this book. Experienced players may learn a thing or two about safety. For beginners, this should be the first book they read.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

On Vacation... But Never Fear!

Hi Everyone.

I'm on vacation for the months of July and August and I'm cutting a lot of my ties to projects that I usually work on. That includes, unfortunately, this blog.

But never fear! I've been holding out on you!

You see, when I first started this blog last September one of the things I was most excited to do was review some books and movies that look at sex in a positive way. I've always liked this kind of material but it has always been a struggle for me to find it. Over the years, mostly through trial and error, I've found some good stuff. It's a work in progress but I've started to build a library and I wanted to review some of it (mostly positively) so the readers of this blog would know it was out there.

Alas, life intruded into this plan. More immediate things kept coming up and distracting me. Frankly, it's easier to post a link to a juicy piece of news or an interesting article than it is to write a book review, and I took the easy route.

Well, last May, when I realized I was going to be away for awhile I decided the perfect way to maintain the blog in the meantime was to review some of those long neglected books and movies and schedule the occasional automatic update. Maybe you will find something fun to read at the beach or in the hammock!

I hope everyone has a wonderful summer. Enjoy your summer reading. I'm going to enjoy mine!


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Isn't Polyamory Easier?

Sure it is. It's also more honest and more ethical than cheating. But it doesn't have its own iPhone app.

From Time Magazine:
Two-timing politicians, take note: Cheating has never been easier. AshleyMadison.com, a personals site designed to facilitate extra-marital affairs, now boasts slick iPhone and Blackberry versions that help married horndogs find like-minded cheaters within minutes. The new tools are aimed at tech-savvy adulterers wary of leaving tracks on work or home computers. Because the apps are loaded up from phones' browsers, they leave no electronic trail that suspicious spouses can trace.

Even as public outrage boils up over the infidelity of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and Nevada Senator John Ensign, millions of Americans are sneaking online to do some surreptitious cheating of their own. (...)

The formula is working. AshleyMadison's membership has doubled over the past year to 4 million. (...) Over the past month alone, 679,000 men and women have used the service to contact a cheating partner. According to their profiles, 92% of males on the site are married or otherwise attached, as are 60% of female members. No word on how many politicians have signed on.

Humpday in SoHo

I haven't been doing a lot of Geeky Sex stuff recently, as you might have noticed. In the past month I've had a very busy time at work, had a death in the family, finished a non-blog writing project, started a bigger non-blog writing project and gone on at least one pleasant date. But I can't stay away for that long.

So last Thursday I headed down to the SoHo Apple Store to get the skinny on a new movie from filmmaker Lynn Shelton, Humpday. It's an independent film -- not one of those indie studio pictures, but a real indie made with digital video, improvisation, few actors, fewer locations, a lot of love and very little money. It's basis (and title) comes from Seattle's Hump Film Festival, Dan Savage and The Stranger's amateur porn festival which famously attracts a lot of talented newcomers by publicly destroying the tapes at the festival's conclusion.

Shelton's story is about two straight men played by Mark Duplass (director of The Puffy Chair) and Joshua Leonard (from The Blair Witch Project). They are old college buddies whose lives have taken them in different directions. During a night of heavy drinking at a Seattle party they hear about the Hump festival and plan to make a movie where the two of them have sex. The next morning neither man wants to go through with it but the competitive side of their friendship won't let either one of them back out first.

"It's about and for straight guys," said Lynn Shelton, who appeared at the Apple Store with Duplass and Leonard, adding, "It's a great date movie!" She explained that she is bi (though now married monogamously) and has always been fascinated by the fluidity of sexual orientation. In this movie she's trying to explore straight male anxiety about gayness. "I was not setting out to make a comedy," said Shelton, explaining that she and her two lead actors had had numerous conversations about the ways close platonic male friendships are limited by homophobia while they developed story. They were also not setting out to make a political statement. Rather they were trying to question the identities of the two main characters and let their concept unfold in the most natural way possible.

The movie has played at a number of film festivals, including Sundance and Cannes, and opens in a limited release on July 10 (here in NYC it will be playing at the Angelika). I'm going to be on vacation then and therefore not blogging but I promise to give you my take on it as soon as I get back.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sleeping With the Enemy

This morning Mistress Matisse posted a very interesting letter on her blog. The letter is from a gay guy who regrets having recently slept with another gay guy who has decided to remain partially in the closet so he can continue to play a major role in church programs that are important to him. The letter writer asks whether Mistress Matisse also feels bad about offering aid and comfort to the enemy, as it were -- many of her clients are also closeted and publicly come down on the sex-negative, anti-sex work side of things. Have a look at Matisse's very interesting response.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

One Night Stand, by Garfunkel and Oakes

I saw this video by Garfunkel and Oakes on Slog this weekend.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dr. Ruth!

Today is the 81st birthday of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, one of the preeminent sexperts of our grandparent's generation. Her life story is also rather interesting -- she was the only survivor of a German Jewish family killed in the Holocaust, was wounded in action during the war for Israeli independence, became a psyciatrist in the 1950s and finally a sexpert thanks to a late night radio show she began hosting in the 1970s.

Dr. Ruth doesn't get a lot of love from the sex-positive community these days. Although she is probably as responsible as anyone for promoting the idea that sex is healthy and spreading correct sexual information in her radio shows and books, I've always found her to be slightly biased against sex that doesn't happen in long-term monogamous relationships. Still, everyone's entitled to an opinion. While I might prefer Dan Savage or Susie Bright or Betty Dodson, it's inexcusable that this is the first time I've ever written about her here. I'll remedy that in the relatively near future by reviewing one or two of her books. For today I'll just say, Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Hampsire Approves Marriage Equality

New York Times:

BOSTON — The New Hampshire legislature approved revisions to a same-sex marriage bill on Wednesday, and Gov. John Lynch promptly signed the legislation, making the state the sixth to let gay couples wed.

The bill had been through several permutations to satisfy Mr. Lynch and certain legislators that it would not force religious organizations that oppose same-sex marriage to participate in ceremonies celebrating it. Some groups had feared they could be sued for refusing to allow same-sex weddings on their property.

Mr. Lynch, who previously supported civil unions but not marriage for same-sex couples, said in a statement that he had heard “compelling arguments that a separate system is not an equal system.”

“Today,” he said, “we are standing up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear that they will receive the same rights, responsibilities — and respect — under New Hampshire law.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Internal Clitoris, by Betty Dodson

Audacia Ray, who runs Waking Vixen, teaches a class on human sexuality on Rutgers in Newark, New Jersey. She has recently posted her new syllabus which makes maximum use online material. That's how I found this fantastic video on the internal parts of the clitoris by Betty Dodson. Credit where credit is due.

I wish I had seen this in time to post it on V-Day (maybe I'll repost next year) but now that I've seen it I didn't want to wait that long. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bi Lines - Celebrating Bisexual Writers

Last night the Bi Writers Association hosted their second annual reading by bisexual authors to coincide with the Lambda Literary Awards (Lammies). Since it is a requirement of all bisexual events that the name has to be a pun, last night's reading was called Bi Lines: A Celebration of Bisexual Writing in Reading, Music and Theater. Sheela Lambert was the master of ceremonies.

There was a wide range of subject matter, including a readings by Edmund White from his new book about Arthur Rimbaud and Jenny Block from Open (reviewed here), musical performances by Rorie Kelly and Rob Barton, a slideshow of artwork from Christy Road's graphic novel Bad Habits, a bisexual Jane Austen parody by Ann Herendeen, memoirs by Bobbie Geary and Honor Moore, and Ron Suresha's thoughts on the sixtieth anniversary of the Kinsey Report. Rachel Kramer Bussel was there too (not really a surprise, she shows up everywhere) with a reading from a soon-to-be-published story about a girl getting off to her boyfriend's tale of his lust for his college roommate. The story was freakin' hot. It was nearly open insurrection in the room when the organizers cut this story short for time.

I think most people would probably agree the evening's highlight was an excerpt from Erika Kate MacDonald's one-woman show Fluid, which is about her sexuality. With the help of some hilarious visual aids Erika postulated a mathematical theorem to explain how gay a bi person is, which involved a stunning array of variables and calculations that would have boggled Isaac Newton's mind. Though the formula clearly proved she was 90 percent gay (ironically, in case you're wondering) Erika also told the story of how she fell for a guy at age 25 and had to explain to him that she'd never slept with a man before.

All in all it was a fantastic evening. I don't go to many bisexual events. I'm not bisexual (so far, but I am experimental so anything could happen) and a straight guy's motives for showing up at a bi event are rightly suspect -- so I always feel a bit like I'm the riff-raff they're trying to keep out! Last night was more a gathering of writers and I definitely felt at home in that crowd. I was very impressed with the variety of the works which transcended a narrow topic and offered a lot of insight on everything from gender roles to bi eroticism to history; and showcased the work of some very talented people.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

IML Leather Market

I spent last weekend visiting my partner Annabelle and her fiancé R. in Chicago and had a wonderful time. Last weekend in Chicago is what has been referred to a "Kinky Christmas" because both Shibari Con and International Mr. Leather are happening simultaneously. Unfortunately I didn't get to go to the first one (maybe next year) but I did spend a wonderful afternoon at the IML Leather Market which Annabelle tells me is the largest sale of kinky products in the world.

Imagine a hotel convention room full of nothing but BDSM paraphinalia -- floggers, ropes, S&M porn, hot clothing made of leather and rubber and vinyl, elaborate whipping posts, dudes getting laced up in leather body bags or trying on straitjackets -- and a whole bunch of gay men wondering around in fetish gear shopping. And then, just when you think you've been through it all you discover there's another convention room the same size with even more stuff. I woke up really early to catch my plane out there so it might have just been sleep deprivation but I was overwhelmed. I went there planning to splurge and buy some stuff but there was just so much selection I found myself making mental notes of what I might want to come back for -- and then forgetting! It was a bit like being a kid and suddenly being turned loose in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Where do you start? I did get a wooden paddle and pair of SAP gloves, basic items that I've been looking for, so it wasn't a total loss. I also tried on a vest from North Bound Leather that I really liked and found a flogger I was particularly fond of at Mr. S (couldn't find a picture or link, unfortunately). So I definitely have an idea for a souvenir I'd like to buy on my next trips to Toronto and San Francisco.

As an added bonus I ran into and got to briefly talk to Cunning Minx from the Poly Weekly podcast but didn't get to talk to her too much. Annabelle and R. know her so much better than I do that I barely have anything to add when they're together! Dan Savage was also at the Leather Market that day but I didn't see him (Annabelle might have). He wrote a great article on Slog about IML that drives home one of the reasons it's so great.

Speaking of Annabelle and R., take a moment to read Annabelle's newest article at Sexgenderbody which is about why a poly person such as her would possibly want to get married.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Prop 8 Opposition Crosses Partisan Lines?

This morning the New York Times has a very interesting article symbolizing the way that the fight for gay marriage is now crossing partisan lines.


SAN FRANCISCO — The David and Ted show is back in business.

Eight and a half years after their epic partisan battle over the fate of the 2000 presidential election, the lawyers David Boies and Theodore B. Olson appeared on the same team on Wednesday as co-counsel in a federal lawsuit that has nothing to do with hanging chads, butterfly ballots or Electoral College votes.

Their mutual goal: overturning Proposition 8, California’s freshly affirmed ban on same-sex marriage. It is a fight that jolted many gay rights advocates — and irritated more than a few — but that Mr. Boies and Mr. Olson said was important enough to, temporarily at least, set aside their political differences.

“Ted and I, as everybody knows, have been on different sides in court on a couple of issues,” said Mr. Boies, who represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore, the contested 2000 vote count in Florida in which Mr. Olson prevailed for George W. Bush. “But this is not something that is a partisan issue. This is something that is a civil rights issue.”

I grew up around a fair number of Republicans and I understand that party's pre-Bush philosophy. While I think their individualist policies can be a tad heartless at times they hold some appeal for me. What I never got was why so many Republicans got so bent out of shape about what other people decided to do in their sex life, since that opposition seemed at odds with their fierce support of self-determination and a person's right to live their life without interference from the government. Now that the GOP has fallen on hard times I'm overjoyed to see some Republicans are reexamining their hypocrisy.

However, not everyone is so happy by this indication that Republicans are pulling their heads out of their asses. A lot of people who have been fighting the battle for gay marriage a lot longer than these two seem to think they're a couple of ambitious glory hounds trying to argue another major case before the Supreme Court and are on the verge of a colossel blunder that their more experienced comrades have been avoiding. A bit further down in the article you'll read:

Not everyone in the gay rights movement, however, was thrilled by the sudden intervention of the two limelight-grabbing but otherwise untested players in the bruising battle over Proposition 8. Some expressed confusion at the men’s motives and outright annoyance at the possibility that a loss before the Supreme Court could spoil the chances of future lawsuits on behalf of same-sex marriage.

“It’s not something that didn’t occur to us,” Matt Coles, the director of the LGBT project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said of filing a federal lawsuit. “Federal court? Wow. Never thought of that.” (...)

“We think its risky and premature,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, marriage project director for Lambda Legal in Los Angeles, adding that a loss at the Supreme Court level could take decades to undo.

The ACLU and Lambda Legal are probably two of the largest players in the fight for marriage equality and their opposition is not a good sign. I admit when I read that I had a paranoid thought -- what if this isn't two celebrity lawyer hogging the limelight. What if it's deliberate sabotage? Are Republicans that smart?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sad News, Fellow Geeks: Prop 8 Upheld

Today the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage that passed Election Day. Prop 8 was one of the few dark clouds of last November’s election. The Yes on Prop 8 campaign consisted largely of Mormons from Utah using disinformation of interfere in California politics despite the fact that getting involved in politics violates their tax exempt religious organization status and the fact that their own members have been persecuted over marriage. By spreading a lot of crazy rumors (like their claim that if Prop 8 wasn’t passed kids would be required to learn all about gay sex in kindergarten, no matter what their parents’ wishes) and, to a certain extent, preying on the homophobia of the huge black electorate that turned out toe elect Barack Obama, Mormons and other bigoted gay marriage opponents managed to pass the law.

Opponents sued on the basis that denying one minority the right to get married when everybody else can is clearly against the law. Well, apparently the Supreme Court didn’t feel like wading into civil rights issues because they upheld the ban. They did give the gay community a tiny consolation prize: the 18,000 gay couples married in California before the ban took effect will remain legally married. We can only hope the fact that so many gay people can be happily married without undermining straight marriage will change a few minds in 2010. If you look at the statistics, gay marriage has been gaining ground almost everywhere, California included, as people get over their initial knee-jerk reaction.

Closer to home (for me at least) the debate of whether gay marriage should be legalized continues. Today, the state comptroller issued a report that states the economy of the State of New York would benefit greatly from gay weddings. Something to the tune of $210 million would be pumped into the economy in the next three years by gay couples getting hitched, the government estimates. Considering how hard California has been hit by the financial crisis, maybe they should reconsider…

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Stop the Presses: Late May 2009

Open Source Sex 5/7/09 (SF Chronicle): Violet Blue interviews pornstar Sasha Grey, star of the upcoming non-pornographic Steven Soderbergh film The Girlfriend Experience.

Open Source Sex 5/14/09 (SF Chronicle): Violet Blue interviews the founder of Carnal San Francisco, a new website with sex-positive material and comprehensive listings of San Francisco sex events.

Savage Love 5/21/09 (The Stranger): Dan Savage lets a bar full of drunk Slog readers answer letters for him this week, with hilarious results. Thus it is once and for all proven that you should ignore the opinion of anyone who comments on Slog.

Control Tower 5/19/09 (The Stranger): Mistress Matisse interviews sex workers who service couples.

Kink Reality vs. Kink Fantasy: Annabelle River reflects on the role of fantasy in making kinky sex hot.

Friday, May 22, 2009

In the Flesh 5/21/09

Last night found me and one of my friends on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in a bar named, quite appropriately, Happy Ending. The occasion was Rachel Kramer Bussel's monthly In the Flesh reading, where writers of erotica and other sexy writing come together to read their work. Bussel, a prolific erotica writer who also edits Penthouse Variations and numerous books such as Spanked and the Best Sex Writing anthology, has been hosting this event for several years and it's apparently a great success. The bar was standing room only.

The first reader was Anna David. She read from Bought, her second novel, about a naïve journalist who is investigating the world of high-end LA escorts. The scene we got to hear was about the journalist meeting a call girl she is destined to befriend and being shocked by the tale of her relationship with a powerful, married film producer.

Robin Glasser read next from her book My Life as a Concubine. This turned out to be a rather Henry Miller-like book, a memoir of the author's bohemian life in Paris. In the section we were lucky enough to hear, the author's hot sex with her boyfriend is made even hotter because he is arguing with his visiting brother through the closed door -- a "verbal ménage à trois."

Mara Altman graced us with an excerpt from The Quest for My Orgasm, a sex scene described in some of the funniest, wittiest terms I've ever heard. Altman was particularly good at capturing the humor in sex, one of the most delicious parts of the whole experience and one of the most often ignored.

After the break Craig Yoe graced us with a slide show from his book Secret Identity, about Superman creator Joe Shuster's second career illustrating kinky pulp stories. I read and reviewed Secret Identity a few months ago. Yoe's goofy sense of humor doesn't come across in the book, so I was happy to see him read in real life.

Jeremy Edwards read next from Oysters and Chocolate, a story about a man whose fantasies about a coworker who doesn't know he exists finally come true.

The last reader Suzanne Guillett read an untitled memoir of "a very memorable summer that happened a few years back." Recently engaged and on a month-long writer's retreat in Prague, the author joined a gym and studied boxing with a Czech man. The piece is the story of how she fell in love with him through boxing lessons, the only kind of touch their situation allowed.

If you're not lucky enough to live in New York and can't attend the readings yourself, never fear: RKB posts video clips of the readings on You Tube. As of this writing the videos from last night aren't up yet but there's a wide variety of other videos there, so eat your heart out.