Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey... Will Not Be Reviewed Here Today

A lot of people have told me to read Fifty Shades of Grey. A lot of people have said it would be up my alley. One friend even asked me to tell her what sex acts in it were actually possible, which I take as a compliment and an indication the book might actually be worth reading. But I have been too busy lately writing a novel and reading vintage erotica classics like The Pearl as research for it. So, for now, this video of Ellen DeGeneres reading outloud from it is going to have to be enough for me.

Happy May Day

I apologize that my intermittent blogging prevented me from getting this video to you yesterday. But it isn't less true just because today is May 2.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sexy Things Powerpoint

I'm writing a longer post right now -- *gasp*, content! -- but I'm taking a break to laugh my ass off about this Powerpoint presentation. Seriously, if this isn't the reason Powerpoint was made, I don't know what is. But it would be a bad idea to show it at a board meeting.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Five Fun Links #10

1) In honor of the Iowa Caucuses: SANTORUM!

2) Plus, a lot of people are googling "Santorum" for the first time.

3) A blog about writing literary erotica.

4) Coming soon to Vegas: sci-fi themed prostitutes?

5) Doctor Who companion Katy Manning (Jo Grant) in a Playboy shoot from 1978. Probably the only Playboy shoot ever to feature a Dalek as a prop. (NSFW)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Five Fun Links #9

1) Susie Bright on being bisexual in the early days of the bisexual movement.

2) Do you believe any of these 5 myths about sex in history? (I did.)

3) Polyamory in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: coming soon to a theater near you?

4) Sex injuries!

5) Worst sex writing of 2011.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Polyamory and Occupy Wall Street

Time Out: New York recently published an article about non-traditional relationships at Occupy Wall Street. I initially read the article because I wanted to know what it said about polyamory -- but, while the poly group seems to be having a lot of fun (as is often the case!), I was more impressed by the insights of Catherine and Sebastian, the monogamous couple that was interviewed.

Catherine quotes Kurt Vonnegut: "When you fight with your spouse, what each of you is actually saying is, 'You're not enough people!'" She hopes that the future of relationships includes a more communal style of living. “Nuclear families can be so isolating,” she says. Sebastian points out that even if you believe in nuclear families, that model isn't looking sustainable.

According to marriage historian Stephanie Coontz, couples demand too much from their spouse. "We expect more of our partner than ever before," she says. "Deeper love, deeper friendship, more emotional and practical support. But we expect less of other people, friends or family who could help support our relationship."

Living with other couples can provide the nonsexual benefits of polyamory—you can have a support system while remaining monogamous, and passionately so.

"Monogamy and nonmonogamy are about sex, and marriage is about much more than sex," says Sebastian. "Monogamy is a desire in your heart. It is not a law. Laws don't work in relationships. Relationships are living things that evolve." Sebastian says marriage changed his heart, and living in Zuccotti provided another epiphany. “We should fight against a society that makes it impossible for you to live financially, unless both partners are working six days a week," he says. "We don’t want to disappear into communes so this can keep going on. This is the time to fight back."

The reason reading this made me so happy is that I've often thought there are a lot of things about polyamory that could benefit other types of relationships. Unlike other kinds of nonmonogamy (which are great, and I say this without judgment), polyamory is not just about sex -- it's also a philosophy that emotions are messy, that love can't be contained, that possessiveness and jealousy are destructive, that no person can or should be everything to another person. All of these ideas can be transplanted to monogamous relationships as well, and Catherine and Sebastian are living proof that these ideas are gaining a following, even in more traditional relationships.

I'm very happy to see these issues being discussed in the Occupy movement. One of the strengths of that movement is the fact that it refuses to be about just one thing, and so it becomes a space where everything can be discussed. This drives more traditional political activists crazy because they can't think of anything past 2012. They aren't wrong: we do need to be very concerned about 2012. But I've always believed that social change is a gradual change, and it doesn't keep time with two- and four-year election cycles. Election cycle change is cyclical (Democrats voted in, Republicans voted in, Democrats voted in, etc.), but social change happens at the root of an entire generation's belief system.

Occupy is the second kind of movement. Its members are posing questions that the entire country is now trying to answer. Does democracy go hand in hand with capitalism? What is the responsibility of a nation to its citizens? What is a fair distribution of wealth? What kind of country do we want to be? The Occupy movement is asking the questions. Our whole society is trying to answer them now -- you should have heard the discussion at Thanksgiving dinner at my house! As for figuring out how to cash in on Occupy for political gain, that's up to the Democratic Party. I wish them the best of luck, but it's their problem. Hopefully they'll figure out how to align themselves with the changes of outlook that are going on, not just among the Occupiers but among the rest of America.

I am extremely encouraged to see that Occupiers are asking questions about polyamory, and poly-related ideas. These questions aren't the main thrust of the movement, but they are connected to the question of what kind of a country we want to be. The extraordinary success of the LGBTQ rights movement in the last forty years is proof that attitudes can change very quickly -- and ideas that infringe on our ability to be ourselves and love whomever we choose are discarded quickly in a country built on freedom. We have a long way to go before we shed all our sex-negative attitudes, but we're on the right track.

Via Poly in the Media

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Five Fun Links #8

1) Nonmonogamy in the Atlantic.

2) Scientific American debunks some classic porn myths and suggests some benefits.

3) Dan Savage on the moral freak-out that shut down a sex club in Maine.

4) For you Star Wars fans out there: Slutty Stormtroopers! (NSFW)

5) Tumblr, why do you always have such hot videos for me? (Very NSFW, 18+)

Proust on Sadism

I have spent the month of November -- which is National Novel Writing Month, after all! -- working on the novel I started this summer. It is set in the 1950s and 1960s, and it is about obscene literature and sadomasochism.

In the section I have been working on for the past week and a half, a character makes the argument that the pulp fiction of the '50s is nothing new, and that its writers are in fact part of a long literary tradition. I've been exploring this idea by tracking down works of literature that address this subject matter, and today I finally tracked down this quote from Marcel Proust. It appears on page 162 of the Gallimard edition of Swann's Way, as the young narrator spies on a lesbian couple having some kinky sex:

"Les sadiques de l'espèce de Mlle Vinteuil sont des êtres si purement sentimentaux, si naturellement vertueux que même le plaisir sensuel leur paraît quelque chose de mauvais, le privilège des méchants. Et quand ils se concèdent à eux-mêmes de s'y livrer un moment, c'est dans la peau des méchants qu'ils tâchent d'entrer leur complice, de façon à avoir eu un moment l'illusion de s'être évadé de leurs âmes scrupuleuses et tendres, dans le monde inhumain du plaisir."
"Sadists like Mademoiselle Vinteuil are such purely romantic beings, so naturally virtuous, that even sensual pleasure to them seems like something evil, the privilege of the wicked. And when they allow themselves to give in to it for a moment, it is in the guise of evil that they try to dress their accomplice, so as to have, for a moment, the illusion of having escaped from their scrupulous and tender souls, into the inhuman world of pleasure."

That's an astonishingly open-minded and, I think, accurate description of the kind of people who are drawn to BDSM, especially when you consider that it comes from a book published in 1919!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Swimming Against a Tidal Wave

Every once in a while I hear a criticism of sex-positive blogs (like this one) -- that they present a rosy view of sexuality, and never deal with the negative sides of sex like rape, like rape, sexually transmitted disease, human trafficking, etc. I think about this a lot, because it certainly isn't responsible to act like sex is fun and amazing for everyone, everywhere, always. There's a dark side to this subject. You can't deny it.

Now, I've always been able to duck these criticisms because I don't feel like I'm required to present a balanced view of my subject. I don't claim to be a "sex-pert," a sex educator, or an authority of any kind on the subject. I'm just an enthusiast. I like to explore the subject of sexuality -- and when something makes me geek out (and isn't too private to share with strangers on the Internet) I write about it. This blog isn't meant to be a definitive work on the subject. I'm just an enthusiast.

But when sex-positive people are criticized for not dealing with the dark side of sex, it really rubs me the wrong way. I got thinking about it again recently after the cast of the Sex Is Fun podcast had difficulty expressing why they shied away from darker topics, and I think I finally figued out why this criticism bothers me so much. People are quick to criticize a sex-positive blogger, podcaster or expert for not giving equal time to darker topics, but nobody expects equal time for sex-positive topics from sex-negative experts.

Sex is presented a number of ways in our culture. It's presented as fantasy by TV, movies, advertisements, fashion models, and porn. It's presented as sin by religion. It's presented as disease by doctors, STI awareness campaigns, and abstinence educators. It's presented as politics by women's rights activists, fundamentalists and marriage equality crusaders. It's presented as crime by police, newspapers, television, and some feminist movements. It's presented as humor by everyone from stand-up comics to your friends at the bar. Some of these six ways of talking about sex are important, some of them are fun, and some of them are pure bullshit. But none of them are really about enjoying love and sex, or embracing them as a force for good in our lives.

Compared to these six ways of talking about sex, the sex-positive message is tiny and marginalized. These five approaches are what you get from every mainstream media outlet. Sex-positive commentators are struggling to be heard on blogs, podcasts, small presses and free alternative papers. For those of us who are trying to present sex in a positive light, it's okay to take the darker side of the topics as rote. It's okay to overcompensate in favor of the positive message. It's okay if Violet Blue or Susie Bright don't spend all day talking about human trafficking -- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has more than got that stuff covered. There's not much for The Stranger to say that every major media outlet in America hasn't already said.

Sex-positive writers are swimming against a tidal wave of negative messages about sex, yet they're the ones who are expected to give equal time the negative side of sex? Why not ask Dr. Phil to give equal time to the positive side of sexuality? Sex-positive writers haven't got the time. There are too few of them and they're fighting an uphill battle to elevate the discourse about sexuality. That's the reason, for instance, that you will hardly ever see a bad review on this blog -- I could write ten bad reviews a day of things I felt portrayed sexuality badly and still never scratch the surface. Rather than become an increasingly bitter blogger, I've decided I'm only going to write good reviews of things that deserve recognition for some welcome sex-positivity. The only exception I've made in three years was for something I felt was passing itself off as sex-positive when it really wasn't.

Here's the size of it: sex-positive outlets have enough work to do countering negative messages. The don't have time to send them, no matter how valid they may be. It's very important that people talk about sex as a vector for disease, or in the context of sex crimes -- but plenty of people are already doing that. On the other hand, very few people are talking about healthy, happy sex -- you know, the kind of sex most people are having. And that's too bad. Because the when healthy, happy sex is ignored, when it isn't spoken of, when it is repressed, when it is locked behind millions of bedroom doors and made invisible, that's when all the negative stuff can perpetuate itself. A culture with a healthy attitude about sex wouldn't have half the problems we do.

So, to all you bloggers, podcasters, writers, actors, web series directors, here's a request from me and my fellow enthusiasts -- keep it positive!