Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'm a Sex Expert!

I was just doing an innocent little search on the web for the name of a woman a had heard was now the newest sex expert. Two hours later, I've surfaced from a sex-advice surfing session that took me through an absolutely crazy array of 'sex experts'. I know that everyone thinks that they have something to say about sex but are you really someone that should be giving out advice on the net? My search marooned me in AOL's 'coaches' section where I did not find any mention of the woman I was searching for but found no less than 12 love and sex experts and even more relationship experts. Do we really need this much advice? How could you possibly decide who's advice to take? The experts range from people who actually have education and professional experience in human sexuality such a Yvonne Fullbright, to people who have some counselling experience and seem to think that makes them sex experts like John Gray, to Star Jones who, for the life of me, I cannot figure out why she's there. Star Jones is a lawyer and a talk show host. Why on earth does she qualify as a sex expert?

So after sampling some of the pearls of wisdom from these 'coaches', I have some expert advice - on how to choose a sex expert.

1. Read their bios. What is their educational and professional background. Have they actually studied sexuality in the area that they claim to be an expert on? Do they have professional experience in sexual health research, counselling or sex therapy? Personal experience does not qualify you to give advice. Most of have had sex - are we all experts?
2. Do they give real, thoughtful answers rather than soundbites? It's hard to find good information in the sex advice world because most of the articles, particularly on the internet are very short and to the point. A soundbite is not going to tell you anything that will really help you.
3. Do they allow for differences in individuals or do they focus on generalizations and sexual stereotypes? John Gray has built an empire based on sexual stereotyping and people eat it right up. There is always a sliver of truth in a generalization but not all women are from venus and not all men are from Mars. A really good sex expert understands that people are unique and advice should either focus on the individual, or, when that's not possible, allow for individual differences amongst the generalizations.
4. Is their advice based on research and fact or personal values? Dr. Laura anyone? For some sex and love 'experts' their job as an expert serves no other purpose than to allow them to push their personal agendas. If an expert is constantly telling people what is right or wrong, they are more interested in their own opinion than on actually helping. Good sex advice offers suggestions, not moral imperatives.
5. Do their values and focus fit with yours? It's impossible to be free of values when you talk about sex. Every expert has their values around what sex means and what is and is not healthy sexuality. Some experts believe that open marriage is synonymous with infidelity, some think that internet porn is dangerous and leads to addiction, some actually believe that homosexuality is a mental illness. If you're going to go surfing for advice on the net, you need to realize that all of these experts have values around sex and you just need to pick out what those are. Don't take advice from someone who's values are not consistent with yours - you'll only end up frustrated.
6. Are they selling you something? Watch for subtle or not so subtle attempts to get you to buy something. Are they sponsored by a drug company or toy company? Are they pushing their latest book? It's not such a bad thing to buy books or toys to enhance your sex life but posing as a sex expert just so you can push a product is dishonest.
For more information on how to choose an expert, buy my book, 'Sexperts: How to Find the Best Bang for Your Sex Advice Buck!' ........ just kidding!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Blended Orgasms are the New Black

Ladies, we have a winner! It appears a we have a new greatest sex thing that you simply must try. A few years ago it was female ejaculation. That's old news now. Now we have......the blended orgasm! I've heard this term several times in the last few months. Lots of women at my parties have been asking me about the blended orgasm and how to have one. I've heard that term in reference to a lot of different things so I didn't really think much of it and just talked about orgasms in general. But it appears that the Blended Orgasm has now been deemed by the popular media as a very specific thing, that being a combined G-spot and clitoral orgasm. Laura Berman was talking about it on Oprah about a month ago and today I found an article in Cosmo all about this latest greatest new orgasm. According to certified sex therapist Dr. Ava Cadell, quoted in the Cosmo article, "By simultaneously having your clitoris and G-spot stroked, you mix the unique sensations of each peak into one, resulting in a longer, deeper experience." Wow, who wouldn't want that?

So really, I have to admit, the article isn't so bad. For many women, rubbing the clitoris while stimulating the G-spot is very pleasurable - and they gives some good ideas for how to do that. My problem is this, the article and this 'blended orgasm' trend in general make women think we are all the same, and we just aren't. I have talked to hundreds of women in my eight years of work in this field and I have met women who have never had an orgasm, women who don't orgasm with partners, women who don't orgasm when they masturbate, women who only orgasm through oral sex, women who hate oral sex, women who have ejaculated, women who hate G-spot play, women who hate vibrators, women who love vibrators, women who have their strongest orgasms during anal play, women who can only have orgasms during penetration, and women who can have orgasms by just thinking about it. So how in the world can we describe one very specific sexual act and say that every woman will have a shattering orgasm from it? What happens then is that the women who try this and find it doesn't work for them think they are either doing it wrong or there's something wrong with them. It's just not a fair and accurate description of sexuality. I wouldn't have a problem with it if it was framed as 'something to try' but these things never are. They are always presented as the very latest and greatest way to have sex that you simply must try now.

And just to be little picky here, trying to reach the G-spot with a penis is definitely possible but not easy. The fancy position described in the Cosmo article in which the woman dangles her legs off the bed and he stands between her legs can work, but usually only if maintains some distance and does not insert his penis all the way, or if he is careful to go more slowly so that there is movement of the head across the G-spot. The article doesn't mention the fact that this spot is located close to the opening of the vagina.

I'm not even going to get into the fact that this article assumes that all women have male partners. That's an entirely other issue.

Newsflash! Teenage Girls Have Sex!

I was watching Tyra Banks' talk show a few weeks ago because she had a feature about a survey she had done on the behavior of teenage girls. Rather than being an informative discussion about teen sexuality, it was her usual fare of taking women onto her show, exposing their sexual behavior and then taking turns with her audience berating and judging them. So I didn't think too much about it and turned it off when the judgemental rants became too much for me to bear. But today, in sifting through my usual sites that I watch for sexual health news, I discovered that this survey that the Tyra Banks show did, is actually being reported as real news. Both the New York Post and MSNBC featured stories on the 'shocking' results of her survey. The Today show had an interview with Tyra in which she clearly positioned herself as an expert on this topic and offered her thoughts on the results and what should be done about them. What a sad state we have come to when we are looking to a supermodel with not one shred of experience in this area for comment about what to do about risky teenage behavior. True, they claim the survey had 10,000 respondents, which is a fairly large number, but I have some major issues with reporting this information as if it can be generalized to the whole population. I also can't stand the way it's being reported. It's framed as if it's legitimate news when really all it is is a simplistic and sensationalized attempt to get viewers for the Tyra Banks show and the Today show.

So here are my questions about this survey:
Why is it being generalized when the survey was conducted solely through the website for the Tyra show? Isn't it very likely that this is a self-selected group? These are obviously girls who watch Tyra, which has to represent a particular segment of the population. And I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that at least some of the girls who responded to this survey were looking for a chance to appear on her show - as a small group of them did. These girls are not stupid and would understand that they're not going to get on the show by saying that they are responsible young women who make careful decisions about sex and use condoms consistently. Who wants to hear that? No, they would know that their best chance of getting on the show lies in saying that they participate in risky, outlandlish behavior. I'm not saying that the young women that were on the show were lieing about their behavior, I'm just saying that the survey was likely to attract girls with 'a story'. Girls who don't have a story probably wouldn't feel so compelled to fill it out - what do they have to say?

Next, what's new about this? The 'stats' gleaned from this survey are not all that different from other national surveys that have been done in the US. It's being treated as if it's so new and shocking. Young people have always had sex and many of them don't use birth control. It's not new. And since this is not a controlled, representative study, there's no way to say that this indicates things are getting worse - which seems to be the implication Tyra is making. The survey indicated that 14% of the respondents had sex at school. This information brought gasps of horror from the audience on the show. But why? Where can you have sex when you're a teenager? You don't have your own place, options are limited, you spend a lot of time at school - why wouldn't that be a place you choose?

And why are we focusing only on the girls? These girls are having sex, not using condoms, and getting pregnant with someone. Why are the boys not on the show? Tyra likes to frame herself as an advocate of young womens' self-esteem and claims this is why she did the survey and the show. That would explain why it focuses on girls rather than boys. But does she really think it helps a girl's self-esteem to bring her on a national talk show and call her out as a violent, stupid, drug-addicted slut?

And finally, where does all this get us? The claim that this is done in an attempt to understand and helps girls is so paper-thin it's laughable. If it was an attempt to understand, she would have focused on the girls' stories of how and why these things happened to them and talked to real experts in teenage sexuality and counselling about what can be done to prevent risky behavior. Instead all she did was race through each girl, have them give an account of all the terribly slutty and horrifying things they did, ask them each why and then call down their explanations as stupid and immature. That's very helpful. I'm sure each of these girls has been reformed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Triple O?

I missed Oprah last week when Dr. Laura Berman was on but I was alerted to it when someone asked me a question about the show. I'm very much aware of Dr. Berman. She has a background in social work, health education, sex therapy and psychiatry. She definitely does have knowledge and experience in sexual health, sex counselling and sexual pleasure.

I am little leary of some of the things Laura Berman does though because she's so very much in the media. She got famous through Oprah, who had her on the show many times several years ago, and she has been on countless TV shows, and in many magazines since then. The trouble with that is that talk shows and magazines are usually looking for the simple answers, the boiled down sound bites, the stuff that is easy to understand and easy to digest. Laura Berman is quite happy to provide that. I think it leads to a belief that sexuality is less complex than it really is. Whether she intends to or not, she does end up giving some over-simplified and stereotypical information. This was the case here.

The question I was asked was about Dr. Berman's explanation of the 3 different types of orgasm, and how exactly one can tell the difference between a G-spot and clitoral orgasm. I looked at Oprah's website and read the summary of the show to catch up. Again, I can see the truth in what she's saying but it so over-simplified that it becomes a problem.

The idea of three different types of female orgasm goes back to Sigmund Freud. He claimed there were only two though, because he didn't know about the G-spot. Later, when Grafenberg put forth the idea of the G-spot, we started hearing that there were three different types. Later still, we started hearing that a G-spot orgasm is accompanied by ejaculation.

There are two points that I think are very important for women to understand about this idea of three different orgasms. First, is that it is rooted in Freud's theories and when he came up with the idea, it was very thinly veiled misogyny. His idea was that woman can have an orgasm by clitoral stimulation alone, but this is a less mature, less valid type of orgasm than the vaginal orgasm - which can only be obtained through penetrative sex with a man. The second thing to understand is that this idea is not based on real scientific research but rather on surveys and on opinion. We don't actually know exactly what it is that causes a woman to have an orgasm. It's a complex set of factors including different types of physical and mental stimulation and emotion and environment. Women themselves have a very hard time being accurate about exactly what it was that made them have an orgasm - they might know the activity or the position but they usually cannot tell if they had an orgasm because the clitoris was being stimulated or because the G-spot was or because everything was. Separating it out like that is not really valid, and, I believe, not particularly helpful.

My concern with the idea of three different types of orgasm is that we are saying that one is better than the other. It sets women up to be unhappy with their sex lives and always wondering what they are missing out on, or if they are not good enough because they haven't experienced this or that type of orgasm.

My belief is that there are many different ways to have an orgasm and pretty much every one feels different, but there is no actual delineation of three distinct types. Bear in mind that this is my opinion. This is based on personal experience, years of talking to women about their experiences, and lots of research and study on sexuality.

The clitoris is an amazing organ. We used to believe that it consisted essentially only of the parts we can see externally. Medical study has shown that the clitoris actually has very deep nerve roots that extend from the glans all the way down either side of the labia, ending close to the perineum. It appears also that the clitoral tissue covers a much larger area than what we can see and extends down into the vaginal wall - this is new information that we don't have conclusive evidence of yet. So, based on that information, my belief is that the vast majority of physical sexual pleasure for women comes from either direct or indirect stimulation of the clitoral tissue. It may seem like an orgasm happened just from vaginal penetration but that action was creating stimulation of clitoral tissue. The same with the G-spot. I'm not at all saying that penetration and G-spot stimulation are not pleasurable on their own, I'm just proposing that the clitoris is often involved.

One last point I want to make on this - about ejaculation. It has come to the point now where the idea of female ejaculation has been accepted as a fact but the truth is that we still have no solid understanding of what this actually is. Again, my concern is that women are being told that if they have a G-spot orgasm, they will ejaculate and that this is the ultimate in sexual pleasure. It's just not true. Everyone is different. some women don't even enjoy G-spot stimulation. And ejaculation is not a common experience. Some women report that this has happened to them, and that's valid. But any of the theories on what female ejaculate actually is and where it comes from are exactly that, theories. I prefer a more open view of sexuality that says that there is no one thing to strive for, but rather to explore and enjoy what you find along the way. If you ejaculate, then that's what your body does, and that's wonderful. If you don't, then that's what your body does, and that's wonderful too.

I am also leary of Laura Berman because she has given California Exotics, one of the biggest sex toy manufacturers in the world (possibly the biggest), the right to use her name on a line of toys. While the toys are not the worst in the world, they are certainly not the best. Some of them, like the pelvic exercises and the clitoral pump are things that she endorsed in one of her books (before her toy line came out), so I can see the point behind those. But now the line also includes all kinds of generic sex toys that look the same as other, poor quality Cal Exotics toys, except that they have Laura Berman's name on them.

And here's my other concern about Dr. Laura Berman, she has given her name to a line of toys produced by California Exotic - one of the largest toy makers in the world and notorious for very cheap toys, often knock-offs of better quality toys. I know that I'm a toy snob, but I think that if you actually care about putting a product on the market that supports your belief of what toys should do, and supports your commitment to healthy sexuality, you should do it wholeheartedly and either go to a toy company that produces the best toys, or start your own manufacturing division. My suspicion is that she simply sold her name to Cal Exotics because they asked her to or vice versa.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ding Dong the Today Sponge is Dead

Okay, this has nothing to do with sex advice but I just cannot let this one go without commenting on it. In my routine readings of sexual health news, I discovered that the company that now owns the 'Today' Sponge has filed for bankruptcy. Woohoo!!!! Why in the world, you might ask, would that make me happy? Well, I hate the Today sponge. I know hate is a strong word but that is how I feel. I truly hate it.

Some women, and even some sexual health care providers think the sponge is great because it's so easy to use and it's great for women who have partners who wouldn't agree to using condoms. And that would be true if it actually was a good alternative.

But here's what I hate about the sponge. First of all, it's nowhere near as effective as other methods. It's actual use effectiveness rate for birth control is somewhere between 84% and 68%, with the lower rate applying to women who have already had children. The actual use effectiveness rate for condoms is 85%, for the pill, it's 92%. So relying solely on the sponge for contraception, is not really a good idea.

The main thing I have against the sponge is the unbelievable amount of non-oxynol 9 it contains. Non-oxynol 9 is a the most commonly used spermicide. It definitely kills sperm but it all kinds of other things. N-9 is an industrial solvent. Should we really be putting a sperm soaked with industrial solvent into our vaginas? I don't think so. I used to be a big proponent of N-9 because I thought it offered women more control and more options for contraception, particularly if they were in situations where they couldn't say no to sex without a condom. But after several studies came out showing the N-9 actually INCREASES a woman's chance of contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, I changed my mind. There was a lot of controversy about this to start with, with some studies showing a potential protective effect, but with more studies done, it became clear that women who use products that contain a large dose of N-9, and use them often, have a significantly increased risk of contracting STI's. This is because N-9 is so irritating, that it will cause abrasions in the vaginal tissues that allow bacteria and viruses to enter. The sponge contains the highest amount of N-9 of any spermicidal product on the market, 1000 mg - almost 10 times higher than any other product.

Now I know it can't be proved that the sponge causes STI's, but I do think the evidence should give us all cause for concern. When Allendale Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to the sponge and began re-introducing it to the North American market in 1999, I wrote to their marketing director and asked if they had any plans to include the information about the clinical studies and risks in their packaging. He, of course, said no. He told me that the packaging clearly states that the sponge does not prevent STI's and that is sufficient. I pointed out that there is a big difference between not preventing STI's and helping to cause them and that perhaps a company that is planning to market a product that contains the largest dose of N-9 on the market should clue women into the fact that large doses of N-9 have been shown to increase the risk of contracting STI's. He did not agree. What about women who have HIV+ partners? Shouldn't they know this? What about women who have lots of partners or work in the sex trade? Shouldn't they know this?

In searching for more information on the joyous death of the sponge, I discovered that the company that bought the sponge from Allendale, Synova, had just begun a multi-million-dollar re-branding campaign to boost sales of the sponge, before they declared bankruptcy. They put out a 'hip' website and redesigned the package, to try to grab women's attention.

Here's an excerpt from a New York Times article from last summer:
Barry Schmader, executive vice president and creative director of Synova’s advertising agency, Dudnyk, of Horsham, Pa., said the new colors and graphics were chosen to create “high impact” and to help the Today Sponge compete on store shelves, especially with condoms. “We need to stand out on the contraceptive shelf space and compete for presence,” he said

The idea that they wanted the sponge to compete with condoms makes me want to vomit. When given the choice over using condoms or using a sponge, there is no choice. Condoms are much more effective and they provide excellent prevention against most STI's. The sponge has a poorer effectiveness rate and provides no protection, may even increase the risk, for STI's. The fact that they launched a marketing campaign to try to get women to buy sponges instead of condoms is unbelievable to me. If women want to use the sponge as a backup method to other contraceptives, that's fine, but they are no replacement for condoms. Women don't get enough information on how contraceptives really work and what the best options are in the first place. The last thing we need is more marketing designed to make up our minds for us!

So I celebrate the death of the Today Sponge. Clearly, several companies have felt that there was enough profit potential in it for them to invest ridiculous amounts of money in, so I'm sure it's only a matter of time before we see it again.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Look Mom, No Hands!

If you aren't a regular reader of Andrea Nemerson's weekly sex advice column, Alt.Sex, you probably should be. Andrea is one of the few 'sexperts' that I think really has it together. Her advice is funny, direct, and she knows what she's talking about. You can find her in the Vue in Edmonton and on her site at altsexcolumn.com. This weeks' column was even funnier than usual and pretty good. But Andrea is not a immersed in toys as those of us who play with them for a living, so her advice to this frustrated toy user could have been a little more complete. The letter was from a woman who loves G-spot play but hasn't been able to have an orgasm because the sensations she creates with her toy are too intense for her to continue to hold on to her toy! There are a few really good options to get her where she really wants to be and unfortunately, Andrea's suggestion of the Rabbit Pearl, is not one of them. The Rabbit just isn't the right shape, size, and motion for the kind of G-spot action she's looking for. She also suggested a Snugglepuss. Although I LOVE, (did I mention LOVE?) the Snugglepuss, I don't think it's a toy this letter-writer would get the most out of. The Snuggle is inserted and then is moved by rocking back and forth. This gal likes to move her G-spot toy in and out at a very rapid rate. I doubt the Snuggle would give her the intensity she's looking for, although it could open up a whole new world for her.

What I would suggest is getting either a Thumbelina, which would give the constant G-spot massage along with strong clitoral vibration, and perhaps get the job done a lot quicker, or getting a base for her G-spot toy so that she can use it hands-free. Andrea mentioned a thigh harness - not a bad idea but a thigh harness is only large enough to attach to the arm of a chair, not to strap to a bed - so it might be difficult to manage. I would suggest the new Dildo Anchor Pad from Sportsheets. This is a velcro pad with holes in it that will secure a toy with a flared based. The pad is made to be used with the Sportsheets Bondage BedSheets but will work on any flannel or jersey material. This overtop of a firm pillow could hold her toy in place. The best suggestion I have is a new product from a company called Love Bumper. They make firm pillows for sex positioning. We hope to bring Love Bumpers in soon, but for now, you can get them at their site. The Love Bumper 'Lil Pony' would be perfect. This is a firm pillow that you straddle and you can fit a vibrator into the pocket on top. I think it's a perfect choice for this situation. Hands-free, restriction-free toy use. And thankfully, Love Bumpers are washable.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I deliver sex toy parties for a living. In spite of the fact that this is my life, I've never actually been to a toy party delivered by any company other than my own, The Traveling Tickle Trunk. When I set up TTT, I did it based on some basic principles that are very important to me, rather than what anybody else in the industry does. These principles are:
- sell only high quality, safe products - don't sell garbage that your customers will be throwing out the next day
- don't bullshit people - tell them the truth about the products and let them decide for themselves if they want it or not
- let everybody see, handle and check out all the products first-hand (within reason of course)
- know what you're talking about when it comes to sex and give real information rather than the sensationalized stereo-typical crap that comes out of most 'sex experts'

So I've been following this model for many years and I hear from my customers all the time that TTT parties are very different, and much better, than the other toy parties they've been to. They will often give me examples of those differences. But I never get to see them for myself - I think it would be quite deceitful of me to host or go to another party knowing I'm only there to check them out, not to buy. That would certainly piss me off so I'm not going to do it to anyone else.

But today I was watching a show on Slice called 'Workout'. In this episode, the main character threw a Surprise Party for her girlfriends. If you're not familiar, Surprise Parties is one of the biggest adult home party companies in North America. So I got to see a few clips of how this particular sales rep. managed her party. Granted, it was on TV so it may have been a bit different. It looked like it was probably fun but I could pick out the products she had on the table and the things she was holding, and they were not good.

Here's some stuff that, judging by what they showed in that episode, Surprise Parties does that The Traveling Tickle Trunk would never do.
- deliver a party wearing an expensive suit and silk blouse - exactly who are we trying to kid here? you're selling vibrators in people's living rooms - for TTT, it's a comfortable casual setting and we dress to reflect that and that we see ourselves as on the same level as the people who are attending the party - who are usually very casual too
- call the vagina, vulva or clitoris the 'down there' or the 'hoo ha' - are you 5 years old? - there is no reason to use baby language. Everyone at the party is an adult and adults can handle the real words for their body parts - I sometimes see the initial shock on people's faces when I first use the word 'clitoris' or 'vagina' at a party but then they relax right away because they understand exactly what I mean, they know that I'm totally comfortable and that they can say whatever they want too and don't have to worry about offending me
- coerce or goad someone into trying a product - in this example, the hesitance on the part of the women was probably more for the camera than it was real, but I've heard stories from many people where they were told they 'had to' go to the washroom and try the arousal gel or they were made the one guinea pig for something that they were clearly uncomfortable with - if people want to try it, they will, it's never appropriate to embarrass or humiliate someone
- sell 'the tounge' - that toy is one of the most disgusting and most over-rated toys ever made - the sense of making a nasty cyber-skin toy that looks like a tongue is just beyond me - it looks like a cow's tongue - isn't that the sexiest thing you can imagine? - and just because it looks like a tongue, doesn't mean it feels like one - tongues feel nice because they are very warm, very wet, and very flexible and moldable - this ugly cyberskin cow tongue is none of those things.

Okay, that's my rant. If you want to see the clip, go to Slice.ca, and find the full episodes of the show 'Workout'. This was episode 9. (And yes, I do enjoy questionable reality shows. It's my thing. I have no defense for it. Everybody has their faults).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Panties in a Knot about Tieing People Up

I was laid out for the last two days with a back problem and could do nothing but lay around and watch TV. Fortunately, you don't have to surf too many channels to come up with a show giving sex advice. On Monday, it was Tyra Banks. Tyra seems to be on a tyrade (I'm so sorry, I had to do that) lately about women who work in the sex industry. She's had several shows where she brings on women who are porn actresses, strippers or prostitutes and then she and her audience take turns berating them and trying to convince them to quit. She doesn't distinguish between any of these jobs - just labels them all 'sex industry'. I bet Tyra would say I'm in the sex industry too.

This Monday show was particularly bad because the woman she had on was a dominatrix. the point of the show was to try to make her see that she was humiliating her adult daughter and causing her untold psychological damage by doing this for a living. Important to add here that her 21 year-old daughter had no clue that her mother was a dominatrix until she decided to go on the Tyra Banks show. It was clear that her daughter, Tyra Banks, and the entire audience do not understand the psychology of BDSM and what a dominatrix does in spite of this woman's repeated attempts to explain it.

After 15 minutes of berating her, Tyra had a 'family counsellor' give her two cents. This counsellor, who gave no indication that she has an training or experience in sexuality, let alone kink and fetish, was able to diagnose this poor woman as having serious control issues resulting from her becoming a mother too early in life. That's why she needs to do this crazy job that allows her to feel in control. She was also able to tell her that she has a dominant/submissive relationship with her daughter that is dysfunctional. All this after only 15 minutes of knowing her - this counsellor is good!

I don't really understand what the point was here. I thought the woman was quite clear about what she did. She explained it, they showed a few little clips of some of her sessions (probably dramatized), made it clear that she actually doesn't have sex of any kind with any of her clients, and that she provides a services for them - a place for them to act out these fantasies and to get these needs met in a safe and controlled way. But there was no possible way that anyone there could accept that this might be true. Since it has to do with sex, it must be wrong.

They kept coming back to the point that her daughter was so distressed about it. I'm not surprised she was distressed! If I found out at 21 that my mother was a dom and was dragged to a national talk show and shown video of her whipping a guy in a mask, I'd be distressed too! But all she needs is a good heart to heart with her mother who can explain what's going on and allay any fears she has about her safety. If you don't have any exposure to BDSM, it can look very scary from the outside. You just need to have someone show and explain to you what's going on.

What really galls me about this whole thing is that Tyra Banks, of all people, stands there and judges women for using their bodies to get money from men. She even said several times that she thought is was so sad that they felt the only way for them to make a living was to get money from men by using their bodies. Exactly how did Tyra Banks make her fortune? She can try to convince herself that she made her money selling underwear and swimsuits but we all know that it's not women who buy Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and the Victoria's Secret Catalogue. She sold her body. She was selling a fantasy. She was selling sex. So exactly who is she to judge an exotic dancer or a prostitute for doing the same thing?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Some sense about porn from Josey Vogels

I don't always love Josey Vogels' column, My Messy Bedroom, but I did like this weeks' column about heterosexual men and porn.

This is an issue that straight women usually have to deal with at some point in their relationships. Most men watch porn, at least a little. Particularly today because it's pretty hard not to, with so much of it around all the time. As I've said before, the woman who thinks her partner doesn't watch porn has a partner who is really good at hiding his porn. The common wisdom for women is that all porn is degrading to women and that a man in a happy relationship should have no need for porn.

These assumptions are both dead wrong. First, yes, a resounding yes, some porn is extremely degrading to women. In fact, quite a lot of it is. But certainly not all of it. And what is degrading is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. It's an extremely complex question of whether a particular depiction is actually misogynistic or degrading and part of the answer lies in the opinion of the person who looks at it. But films of women having sex are not, in and of themselves, degrading. That completely depends on the acts portrayed, the context of it, and the real-life situation in which that film was created. Some porn producers are quite respectful of women, and indeed are women who respect other women.

The second piece of common wisdom is the big issue. Many women believe that a man in a happy and sexually satisfying relationship should have no interest in porn. This could not be further from the truth. Any man, and indeed any woman, who is interested in sex will have some curiosity about porn. It depicts things that s/he may not be able to have in real life, but is interested in. Often it's not even that s/he wants a partner that looks like that or wants to do those things, it's just that the idea is interesting or exciting and watching a porn film is the only way to experience that, or more probably, the only way s/he would ever want to experience that. I am often surprised at the things that I am aroused by. I find it exciting to watch but would never in a million years want to do it in real life!

So I applaud Josey's take on this issue. If you look at the link you'll see comments from a lot of people giving her major grief about it. Oprah did a show about sex a few months ago and she had a woman on who expressed the same viewpoint - that in some cases viewing pornography and erotica can enhance rather than hurt a relationship. There was an absolute shitstorm rained down on her for allowing that opinion to be expressed on her show. The idea that porn is always bad is an ideological viewpoint that a lot of people are not ready to let go of. I believe it comes back to the fact that we have such a deep-seated shame about sexuality in our culture. And I also believe that the real taboo in our culture in not in the sexual things we do or do not do, but rather in being honest and open about it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Talk Sex.......ual Stereotyping

This is a note I wrote a couple of months ago after seeing Sue Johansen on the Tyra Banks.

So yesterday I watched Sue Johansen on the Tyra Banks show. I'm sure most people know who Sue Johansen is, but in case you don't, I'll enlighten you. Sue is a nurse from somewhere around Toronto (I really don't know exactly where she came from originally). She started a radio call-in show about sex many many years ago. Over the years it has taken on a life of it's own until it became a national show and then a television show. She now does the show only in the U.S.A., she does regular speaking tours, and she is often on these very big national talk shows in the states.

Everyone just loves Sue because she's about 178 years old, she's cute, and she talks about sex! The problem with Sue is that she doesn't really know what she's talking about. These are the three things, in summary that really piss me off about Sue Johansen:
1. she gives out misinformation, rarely seems to check her facts, and doesn't give a crap that she's doing it
2. she does not know one single thing about sex toys but she talks about them on her shows like she's an expert
3. and this is the one I have the biggest issue with - the advice and information she gives is absolutely rife with sexual stereotyping, personal value biases and judgments, and generalizations.

Even I have to admit that sometimes she says good things and that just talking about sex openly is a good thing. but people think she is the goddess of sex information and she's just not. I cannot even tell you the number I times, at toy parties and presentations, I have had to correct someone who says to me 'Sue Johansen says that .......'.

So anyway, there were many things she said on Tyra that pissed me off but this is the big one. She was talking about how guys falls asleep after they have sex and how this makes women feel used and lonely. According to Sue, there are five things a man has to say to his partner after sex and they are:
1. I love you
2. I needed you
3. I wanted you
4. I respect you
5. I will never leave you

For the purpose of some further exploration about what sex is really about, let's break this wonderful instruction down. Sue is assuming many things here when she says this:
1. The woman needs to feel loved and needed and the man really doesn't give a shit and doesn't need to hear that from the woman.
2. The man is having sex with a woman, not another man who has promptly just fallen asleep as well and can't hear what he's saying.
3. Only men fall asleep after sex. Lots of women do too. It's a physiological response to the quick and extreme release of tension and endorphins that happens when you have an orgasm.
4. The woman wants to hear all that stuff. What if this is a booty call or a hot guy she brought home from the bar? That's the last thing she wants to hear! You don't want your booty call to tell you that he will love you and never leave you, you want him to say 'That was awesome. Where did you throw my underwear when you ripped them off with your teeth?'
5. Women are so insecure that they need to hear that after having sex. I think the underlying message here is that women don't have sex for their own pleasure, they do it because to feel closer to a man and to get him to make and keep a commitment to them. I have been in my current relationship for seven years now so yeah, I'm in a long-term relationship (and don't let this get out but I am actually married). I don't need my partner to say this stuff to me after sex. I already know all that stuff. Having sex doesn't make me feel insecure about it. It's just fun and a nice time with him. If he says stuff like that to me after sex or any other time, it's nice but I don't need it. Usually what I want to hear after sex is 'thanks sweetie - here's a tissue' (I'm usually saying the same thing to him). He oftens falls asleep right after because that's just what he does. Sometimes I do too. And that's just fine with me - I know that he's happy. and it give me some space to relax too.

Right after she dispensed this wisdom, one of the male viewers said that his girlfriend doesn't talk to him after sex and that he feels used when she does this. This totally stumped Sue. She said it's unusual and asked if he's talked to her about it. He said no because she just falls asleep. She was baffled and implied that there was something deeply wrong with this woman - that she had some sort of emotional block. 'Well, I don't know what could be going on there', she said. I do! Perhaps she is having awesome sex, is completely wasted when she's done, and she falls asleep. Maybe he's a really good lover! Or maybe he's a bore and that's all she wants from him. I don't know. But the point is, this isn't cause for alarm. And there is a very easy solution to it that never occurred to Sue. He could ask her, sometime other than when they've just finished having sex, why she falls asleep right after. He could tell her that he would really like a minute or two of cuddle time with her. If she can't do that, they can probably work something else out where they will both get what they need. It's called communication.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Clueless about Cowgirl

I saw few minutes of Talk Sex with Sue about a week ago. It baffles me that people cannot figure out from her answers that Sue really doesn't understand a lot about how sex works.

One question was from a woman who was concerned about causing her partner pain during their favorite sexual position. She enjoyed the reverse cowgirl position (on top of him but facing his feet), and she liked to bend her upper body quite far down and forward so his testicles rubbed her clitoris. She said that this made him somewhat uncomfortable and she wanted to know how to fix that.

First of all, Sue had a heck of time understanding what she meant and had to get her little dolls out to make sense of it. She said she'd never heard of this before. I have a hard time with that. It's a pretty common thing. Lots of women, and indeed, lots of men, enjoy that position.

Then, she focused on the fact that she was handling her partner's testicles. She was sure this was what was causing his pain. So she told her to stop doing that and use a vibrator instead.

She completely missed the point. What's likely causing the discomfort - and the caller may have even known this and just not wanted to say - is that when she's bending that far down, she's forcing his penis to bend back away from his body which is an unnatural position for it and it can hurt. There are two simple solutions. One is actually what Sue suggested. She can sit up and have him use her hands or other one can use a vibrator on her. Or he can sit up a bit so that the angle is less extreme for him. He can even prop an triangular pillow, like a liberator, behind him so that he can lean back and relax and still be comfortable.

This is not rocket science, it's simple anatomy.

Cheery O's

Here's a repost of a note a wrote about an Oprah show last spring featuring one of the newer self-declared experts, Dr. Oz.

I was watching Oprah yesterday. This was a health show and they had an 'ask the doctor' question. A woman was asking if there was something wrong with her because she can have many multiple orgasms - anywhere from eight to eighteen! Of course there was raucous laughter and a lot of discussion about how this was not a problem. I'm not going to pick on that. I don't think it's a problem either - neither did she. She was just wondering if there was something weird about her.

What I did pick up on was that the doctor said 'only 15% of women have multiple orgasms'. Okay - I hate it when 'experts' trot out these kinds of statistics. They never explain the stat to you or where they got it from. This guy seems to know a lot, sure, but he is not a sex therapist. Contrary to popular belief, doctors, even urologists and gynecologists, get very little training in actual sexual health functioning. Pleasure and healthy sex is not their game. Bodies and whether they are working right is their game. So they actually don't know a lot about sexual response and everything that is involved. They often know enough to be dangerous and to spew meaningless and scary statistics at people. But anyway, my point is this, that is a stupid thing to say unless you are prepared to explain it.

I have no idea where he got that stat from (my suspicion is that it came from somewhere in the vicinity of his ass). But my guess would be that what it really means is that on that particular survey, 15% of women reported that they have had multiple orgasms. He made it sound as if only 15% of women can have mo's. My firm belief is that every woman can have them, the other 85% just haven't learned how yet.

Some women just have the brain and the body working for them right off the bat. They are comfortable and in touch and easily sexual. They have orgasms early in life and easily. Most women, however, have to learn how it works and have to practice at it to learn how to have orgasms on their own and with partners. It is not as natural as it's made out to be. Once we start learning how it feels and how it works for us, it becomes easier and more comfortable.

I think it's the same with multiples. There is an art to the multiple orgasm. Some women will just have an easy time of it and it will happen without effort. Most will have to work at it. And here is the key. If we want to have mo's with a partner, we need a partner who wants that to and is willing to work for it. I never had multiples until I was with a particular partner who knew (from previous experience) how it can work for women. If a partner pays attention, he/she can tell where a woman is at, what part of her rhythm, if another one is likely to happen, and what is needed to help it along. Of course, we can do this for ourselves, but it's important that the partner is wanting to go for this ride too. All it takes is some willingness to depart from the known and venture into the possible.

Now 18 orgasms in a row is a bit extreme. As she said herself, it's exhausting. So we may not want to aim that high. But certainly two or three is not too much to ask. Don't let anyone tell you that it's not possible.


Welcome to Talk Sense! I'm Brenda and I am the owner of a sex toy party company in Edmonton, Alberta, called The Traveling Tickle Trunk. Our company focuses on honest, real sexual information free of sexual stereotypes and biases.

At my parties, I often hear questions and comments from our lovely party-goers about things they heard supposed 'sex experts. These 'sexperts' are everywhere, giving out all kinds of advice in magazines, on TV shows, and on-line. And yes, some of the 'sexperts' do actually give out good advice. But I've spent a lot of time looking at these things now and what I've found is most of the very popular, big name 'experts' have no education or work background in sexuality whatsoever. They just lucked into a good job and they can write well or make cute comments on TV. Their advice is rife with sexual stereotypes, and is often just a re-hashing of decades-old information and 'common wisdom'. Yet because they are so popular, and are tauted as experts, we think what they say must be true. I spend a significant amount of time at my parties talking with people about what they're heard from these experts and dissecting these pearls of wisdom.

And so, I've decided to start 'Talk Sense' to have a place to record these conversations and to give some alternate views to the 'common wisdom'. If you've ever seen 'Talk Sex with Sue', you'll know where the title comes from.

If you have a question about a piece of sex advice you've seen or heard, or if you want to give your viewpoint, write to me here.