Sunday, November 21, 2010

Not-so-great Christmas gift ideas

The Christmas season is upon us once again. If you’re thinking of buying a romantic or naughty gift for your sweetie, we’d like to offer you some suggestions of what not to choose. There are some pretty wacky toys out there. Here is our list of the top 5 bad choices for naughty Christmas gifts:

1. The Vortex

This simple little gadget attaches to your vacuum cleaner hose and turns your vacuum into a powerful vibrator. Not to mention, noisy as hell! But perhaps if you’re planning on giving your woman a vacuum cleaner for Christmas, she’ll be a little less pissed off if it comes with a vibrator!

2. The Blowguard

This little marvel is designed to make giving a hummer a song. It’s a silicone mouth guard with a vibrator attached at the end. This one has to be seen to be believed so check out our site for a link. If retainers and bite guards turn you on, you’ll love this one.

3. The Colt Power Stroker

For the man in your life, there’s the Colt Power Stroker. The rubber masturbation sleeve is shaped like a grenade – and no, we are not making this up. Perfect for the guy who’s into war memorabilia! Or not.

4. Vulva Roll-On Fragrance

From the sound of the name, you might think this is another one of those products designed to make women smell ‘fresh’. But no, this is a fragrance that actually smells like vulva. It’s meant to be applied to the back of the hand so guys who loves the smell of a sweaty crotch can get a whiff anytime they want.

5. Hotdoll
And finally, let’s not forget about our furry friends. Hotdoll is a rubber companion for your horny doggie, allowing them to get out their pent-up frustration without the risk of new puppies.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why You Should be Wary of Sex Information on the Internet

I just stumbled across this post on yahoo from a few years ago, extolling the virtues of baby oil as a personal lubricant. A stellar example of why we need to be very selective about where we get our sex information from.

Birth or Not

Have you heard about this yet? There's a couple in Minnesota who claim that they are pregnant and are leaving the decision about whether to have an abortion to a public vote on their website. No, I am not making this up. Check it out at Or don't, and refuse to give these people any more attention.

They have received a lot of media attention and a lot of hits - obviously because this is a pretty controversial concept. They claim that it is a true story and that the reason they are doing this is to allow people to have a real impact, a voice that actually counts, on an abortion issue.

It's quite clear that it is a hoax, and most likely a ploy by an anti-choice activist to gain sympathy for his viewpoint. The main reason why I believe it is a hoax is that it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever that this couple would be so unsure about their decision to have an abortion - so ambivalent about it that they will simply go with whatever the majority decides. They say they can't make up their minds. But why are they so unsure about having this baby? They say that they've been pregnant twice before, both pregnancies ending in miscarriage. They are married and have been for quite some time. So why are they willing to abort this pregnancy? The father, Peter, says that he wants to have a baby but he knows that they can have another if they end this pregnancy. WTF? It seems pretty clear to me that he's painting a picture of callous, heartless people who conceive and abort babies carelessly - as if that's what people who choose to have abortions are like. It's seems obvious that it's meant to make people angry.

Here are some other questions:
- they are supposedly not taking sides on this issue and yet Peter has a track record of writing and working for extremely conservative religious groups with an anti-choice leaning
- why do we hear so much from Peter and not much at all from his wife, Alisha? all we get from her is posts about her baby's development along with ultrasound pictures - she doesn't sound like a woman who is seriously considering abortion - could it be perhaps, that all of the posts about exactly where the baby is in its development are meant solely to tug at our heartstrings and make us realize that it really is a baby?
- if this is just some social experiment in true democracy, where are there google adsense ads on their site?

There are only three possibilities here:
1. It is real and these poor people felt that this was the best way for them to get their 15 minutes of fame and possibly make some money in the meantime.
2. It is an elaborate anti-choice campaign.
3. Both

If it is an anti-choice polemic - which I'm quite certain it is - it's truly ironic. In attempting to prove that abortion is wrong, and perhaps that it should be illegal, instead what they've done is make it very obvious that having other people make a decision about your own pregnancy and your own life is ludicrous. Why on earth should others vote about this decision? And why on earth would they ever actually allow people who they don't even know to tell them what to do in regards to such an important matter? So thanks Peter and Alisha, you've just proven the point of all of us pro-choicers, abortion is and should always be a personal and private decision.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Another page from the 'What Were They Thinking?' files

I saw this commercial through the Bitch website. I figured there was no way in the world this was real - had to be a spoof. But guess what? It's not. It's totally real and they totally smell this stuff. Now if it was a spray that makes your vulva smell flowery, I would have an issue with it any - those 'feminine sprays' are just nasty and who's to say your vulva smells gross? But this is not a spray to make your vulva smell nice. It's a spray that smells like vulva. No, I'm not kidding. It's a spray for people who like the smell of sweaty crotch to put on the back of their hands so that they can get a whiff of sweaty crotch anytime they like. I know, everyone has their kinks and their little turn-ons. But really? Do people really buy this? And I'm not even going to comment on the creepy guy creaping around the gym.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Purity's a Ball!

I caught a show on Vision TV last night about Purity Balls. In case you've never heard of this phenomenon, Purity Balls are gala events, usually put on by Christian churches and organizations, in which girls pledge to remain abstinent until they're married. A particular feature of the Purity Ball is that the girls attend with their father who also makes a pledge to her to be her authority and protector. The girls actually makes the pledge to their fathers and to God.

Okay, I am totally on board with everyone's right to have their own values around sex. Some people believe that sex should be reserved only for marriage. I don't believe that but I don't have a beef with it. But I think this whole thing is completely messed up.

First of all, the condescending sexism is so blatant, it makes me nauseous. Why are fathers authorities over their daughters? If you believe that parents are authorities over their children, where are the mothers? Why is just the dads? Why on earth should a girl have to make a pledge to her father about her sex life? It's really none of his business. And where the hell are the boys? These things are for girls only. Do boys not have to pledge to preserve their purity? Why don't they take their mothers to dances and pledge before them to remain abstinent? Apparently it's only the girls that have to be pure.

It's a throwback to a much older time when women really were considered property. The father is the guardian of that property and ensures that it's not spoiled. In this video, which shows the actual pledge. The girl says that she is waiting until she 'gives herself to her husband'. So here's my question about that - are women simply things to be given away? And is her virginity, her sexuality the whole of her so that when she 'gives that away' she is also 'giving herself'? Some serious questions here that I don't think these girls have a chance to really look at.

The other thing is that this is all just ever-so-slightly creepy and incestuous. It feels a lot like boundaries are being crossed here. I just don't think a Dad should have his nose so deeply embedded in his children's sexuality. yes, it's a great thing for parents and kids to talk about sex but I don't think kids actually owe their parents information. They shouldn't be obligated to stay 'pure'.

They seem to focus a lot on the fact that girl's need positive attention from their fathers and that this ball is a great way to do that. She gets to feel special and she gets the undivided attention of her dad. That's great. But why do these too have to be combined? Is pledging not to have sex the only way for her to get attention from her Dad?

One of the men in this video claims that girls who have strong relationships with their fathers don't need attention from men. Hmmm.......that sounds all nice and good on the surface. It's a little myth we all like to believe. "The reason I so f'd up about men is because my Daddy never loved me." But think about that one a little more - what he's really saying is that the only reason girls have boyfriends and have sex is because they need male attention. Did it ever occur to this guy and girls need sex too? They do! Sex is a biological need and women have it just as much as men. We don't just want attention from guys, a lot of us want some action too! But I guess we're supposed to believe that women are not sexual and have sex only because it's part of the deal of being married and that's the way to get a baby.

The show that I watched last night put these events in a positive light, listing all of the many great things that girls and families get from it - a sense of purpose, support, feeling special and loved - but noted there is no proof that the purity balls actually work in delaying the age of first sex. But there's where it's wrong. There is proof. A 2005 study of 12,000 teens found that those who took abstinent pledges participated in vaginal sex later than those who did not, BUT they were much more likely to participate in anal sex and oral sex than those who did not take a pledge. There were also much less likely to use condoms, resulting in STI rates almost exactly the same as non-pledging teens. Perhaps they need to have a 'terms' section of the pledge that defines exactly what sex is. Oh wait, that's not possible, because the word 'sex' is never used in the pledge.

This is the main thing that drives me crazy about this whole thing. There's a massive public event focused on pressuring girls into not having sex, and yet I bet the vast majority of these families, even though they will participate in this public event, will not have a candid discussion with their children about what sex actually is and how it works. Some of the girls in the video look like their 9 or 10 years old. Do they have any real understanding of what they are agreeing too? Have they even start to have any real interest in sex? How can you say you'll never do something if you don't even know what that thing is? At 10, sex is icky! It seems like the most bizarre and disgusting thing anyone could ever do. At 16, not so much - it start to become pretty appealing. It's just not fair to make these girls pledge this so early. And if you're going to do that, then the terms should be spelled out - is a blowjob okay? is anal sex actually sex? can you even kiss? Just saying 'keep myself pure' doesn't do it because everyone thinks they're pure.

After the girls say their pledge, they get a ring symbolizing their pledge. On the show, it was tiara rather than a ring. This is a reminder of their pledge. I have a better idea. Instead of a ring, each girl should get a vibrator. That way, when she is 'tempted' she will have not only a reminder of her pledge, but a useful tool to help her stay abstinent.

Friday, October 1, 2010

legalized prostition in Canada?

Sex workers scored a huge victory this week when Ontario's Superior Court of justice threw out three key prostitution laws..........or not. It will be interesting to see what happens now that Canada's out-dated and misguided prostitution laws are finally up for discussion. The three laws that were ruled unconstitutional were:
- keeping a bawdy house
- communicating for the purpose of prostitution
- living off the avails of prostitution (pimping, for lack of a better word)

The sex workers and their counsel, who brought the suit, argued that these three laws jeopardize the safety of sex workers, making it illegal to do the necessary things to protect themselves, such as pay security guards or managers, use the same premises for their work on a consistent basis, and contact clients to make arrangements and negotiate terms prior to meeting them.

The thing is, prostitution itself is not illegal in Canada. But these three things are. These laws create a strange legal limbo where it's really difficult to judge exactly what part of the activity breached the law, and those parts of the activity that may actually make it safer and more controlled are the parts that are illegal.
I understand that there are reasons why those laws were put in place - the communication law makes it illegal for people to solicit sex on the street and the pimping law makes it illegal for people to do just that, coerce or force someone into prostitution in order to make money. But they are blanket terms which catch many other activities that, in my opinion, should not be illegal. The laws need to be rewritten to serve the purpose they are intended to serve.

Does this mean prostitution will be formally legalized in Canada? I sincerely doubt that.

I think Stephen Harper is crapping his pants now at the prospect of having to deal with this. This is not something the conservative government wants to get forced into addressing. On the other hand, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's exactly what they want. This gives them yet another easy law and order issue to pontificate on. They know full well that the majority of Canadians don't even know that prostitution is not actually illegal in Canada. They can do what they've done with the statutory release issue - simplify it to a single message that no one can argue with 'The Ontario Superior Court has struck down our prostitution laws. We know Canadians want to protect their children so we are appealing to keep our street safe.' Who could argue with that? No one, except those that know the reality behind it.

REAL women (you have to love REAL women, don't you?) is arguing that de-criminalizing prostition will make Canada a haven for human trafficking. Wow! Let's find the biggest alarm bell we can and push it hard! That's not what this is about. It's about recognizing that prostitution exists and will always exist and having laws that make it more dangerous for sex trade workers is not helping anyone. Striking down these laws doesn't invite human trafficking - we still have many others laws that address all of the different things that happen under that scenario - laws that relate to consent, assault, sexual assault, and unlawful confinement. And as far as the concern about children being led into prostitution, the same thing applies. The Canadian sexual assault laws still apply and having sex with a minor is sex without consent which is sexual assault. Although, to that end, the Ontario court has stated that their decision does not affect any provisions dealing with those under 18.

So the protestations are a smoke screen thrown up by those who don't want to recognize the reality of the sex trade in our country. It's here. It will always be here. Our lack of action on this issue put the men and women that work in the sex trade at risk - not to mention those that use their services. It's time that we either simply legalize it, or replace these laws with some that address the real social and safety concerns instead of the imagined ones.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Next Entry in our Series of 'What Were They Thinking?' toys.

I got an email today about this new toy from Topco. Look closely. No it's not an actual hand grenade, it's a masturbation sleeve. Do you really want to masturbate into a grenade? What is the appeal, wondering if it's going to be you or the toy that explodes first?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Score one for free speech in the US!

John Stagliano, famous porn producer and head of Evil Angel productions, will not be going to jail for violating American obscenity laws. There were two movies he was charged for as well as for having a trailer on his website for one of the movies, which supposedly could have been accessed by minors. Stagliano has been fighting these charges for 3 years, and last month, they were thrown out of court because the judge was not satisfied that Stagliano could be conclusively linked to the production and distribution of the two videos.

I'm not a fan of Stagliano. What I've seen of his stuff is certainly not my cup of tea. He has produced some pretty famous movies, but he presents images of women that I'm just not comfortable with. However, I am fully in favor of his right to do it and for the adult consumers right to choose to watch it or not. He's been in the porn industry for many years and he knows the rules. The performers in his videos are all over 18. There are no illegal acts portrayed in the movies. There are warnings and age requirements on all of his websites. He is following the laws and community standards of practice.

So why was he indicted? It is not because the two movies (Milk Nymphos and Storm Squirters II - ridiculous? yes, obscene? by who's standards?), were particularly offensive, or because he produced and distributed something that actually violated any other law. These are not hard core violent films. They are your average, smutty movies that are being churned out by the thousand every year. So why go after Stagliano for producing the kind of movies that have become commonplace in America? It's because Stagliano is one of the biggest porn producers in the USA right now. Anti-porn groups are looking for a precedent to go after the porn industry and Stagliano would be one hell of a precedent. The stuff he makes is a pretty easy target too, because there are a lot of people who would find it offensive.

But does the fact that some people find his films offensive mean that he should be denied the right to produce them and even jailed for doing so? The American obscenity laws a vague and very subjective. The main two standards by which material is judged to be obscene are whether it 'appeals to purient interests' and 'serves no artistic merit or purpose'. Who makes the call about those two standards. Who is to say whether a movie has artistic merit or not? Who is to say that a video appeals to purient interests?

This is the first obscenity trial to take place in Washington in 25 years. The charges were laid in 2007, during the Bush administration, during which time the number of obscenity charges more than doubled. It's not hard to see that a campaign against porn was being launched. I'm not a fan of slippery slope arguments but here is a bonfide slippery slope. If Stagliano were convicted, who would be next? Once a precedent is in place, it's much easier to go after all kinds of adult film producers. And where does it stop? Would we start seeing mainstream film producers, Hollywood and independent film producers brought up on charges because their movies were deemed to appeal to purient interest and have no artistic merit?

It would be nice to celebrate Stagliano's victory but unfortunately, it's a bit of a hollow one. He did not 'win' the case. It was not determined either that his movies did not violate the law or, better yet, that the law itself should be challenged. The charges were thrown out on the technicality that he couldn't be conclusively linked to the videos in question. So is it a victory at all? Is there another charge for another big public figure in the offing?

Only time will tell is Obama will have as much interest in porn as George W. did.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I heard yesterday that dutch porn star Bobbi Eden has pledged that if the Netherlands wins the World Cup, she will give each one of her twitter followers a blow job. Not surprisingly, the number of her followers has jumped from 5000 to 30,000. Adam of the Unknown Studio asked me what I thought of this? Well, what is there to think of it? Is it shocking? No, I don't think so. I think we are so far beyond something like this being shocking. Adult actors have been doing these kinds of things for a long time now. Those who don't have any exposure to the world of porn just might not be aware of it.

In 1995, Annabel Chong was the centre of a firestorm of controversy when she and director John T. Bone staged an event where Chong would have sex with 300 men in one day. It didn't actually work out that way but the entire event became quite infamous and brought out severe criticism on both sides of the porn debate. Questions of exploitation and safety come up. Was she actually choosing to do this, as she professed, or was she pressured? Was it safe? What kind of image of women was she promoting?

Since then various kinds of things like this have been staged and these types of videos abound on the internet. It's become commonplace. Is it exploitation of women? Well, I kind of think it is. But each woman involved in these types of things has to know for herself whether she is truly okay with it or not - we can't really know that from looking at a video or reading about it. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible for women to enjoy sex like this and to want to do it. Does it perpetuate a negative image of women? I think it does. I think, regardless of how the women involved see themselves and whether they are coming from a position of empowerment or not, our history of objectification and exploitation of women makes it hard to see these kinds of things as anything but that.

But back to Bobbi Eden. Is this particular offering of mass sexual acts shocking? No, not at all. It Bobbi exploiting herself? I don't know. She has sex on film for a living. That's her job. So perhaps not. I couldn't find out a lot about Bobbi in the brief web search I did but it does look like she's quite well known and somewhat accomplished - she's been in a music video and she's written for some fairly well known magazines. We have entered an era where many female adult film actors are taking charge of their own career in the industry and actively marketing and managing themselves effectively becoming successful business women. Bobbi Eden may be one of those.

So this World Cup thing is a very clever marketing strategy, in the least. It's certainly garnered her a lot of attention from people who didn't know who she was before. Will she goes through with it if the Netherlands win? I doubt it. How could she? It's not physically possible. But I bet she will do some sort of staged event like Annabel Chong and film it for distribution. The opportunity is there, why not make some more money out of it?

Sugar Babies?

I caught a bit of the Tyra Banks show yesterday afternoon. I haven't seen her in a long time so I thought I'd see what she's up to now. Looks like the same old thing....judging women for their choices around their sexuality. This show was about 'Sugar Babies'. These are women who hook up with very rich men to get their financial needs met. Of course, this is nothing new. This has been going on since before recorded history. But what is new, or at least somewhat new, is a website and service devoted specifically to helping men and women connect for this purpose. I believe there are actually a few such sites but she had the owner of a particular one on the show, as well as two women who claimed to be sugar babies.

I have to admit, I am torn by this phenomenon. Part of me wants to say 'Hey, if everyone is consenting, where's the problem?' But the other part of me sees the gender inequity that leads to this kind of thing. Why is it mainly women who do this and very rarely men? She did actually have two men on the show that were self-professed 'him-bos' (that name and the blatant misogyny behind it something I'm not even going to get into here), but it's quite clear that it's mainly women who participate in these types of relationships. The reasons are obvious, I think. There are far more men in positions of great wealth and power than there are women. As well, I think that men are much less likely to believe that finding a rich and powerful person to care for them is the easiest way for them to get their financial needs met or to live a wealthy lifestyle. The first assumption by men is that the way to wealth is to build it yourself, not to ride on the coattails of someone else. Historically women have had to depend on men to survive because they were denied the ability to own property, to accumulate wealth of their own, and to participate in most trades and professions. Their only option for wealth was to marry well, if that was even an option for them. Although that has changed, we still do not have equal access and that history still carries on in our psyche. A lot of women still believe that their financial security depends on men.

Here's a case in point. My mother was always very clear with her three daughters that we should have jobs and careers of our own and that we should plan to take care of ourselves. Although my mother married in her early 20's in 1962 and had three children, she always worked. She worked because she wanted to and because she was contributing financially to the family. My sisters and I did not grow up with the belief that we were just waiting to get married so we wouldn't have to work anymore. All of us have professional degrees. However, a few weeks ago, I was having dinner with my sister and her family. We were talking about trades because we had just been to an Alberta trade fair. My 11 year-old niece mentioned a friend of the family who worked in the oil field and made a lot of money. 'That's what I need to do,' she said, 'I need to marry someone who does what Bob does.' I was shocked. Here's a girl who was not raised with this type of value and expectation and yet still, her first thought about how to make money is to find a man with money. I said to her 'No sweetie, you need to find out if what Bob does interests you and if it does, go do it yourself. Make your own money, honey.' This little girl is smart, really smart - she'll be able to do anything she wants. But that thought had not occurred to her.

So my feminist soul has a dilemma here. I actually do support the right of these women to do what they're doing. According to them, they are completely forthright with their 'sugar daddies' and they with them. They both know the parameters of the relationship and the expectations. The men are not being used because they know exactly what the woman expects. The woman knows what the man expects and makes a choice as to whether she accepts it or not. If there is upfront knowledge and informed consent, I don't think anyone is being abused or exploited. If that's what they choose to do, it's their business. I do not believe that they are necessarily exploiting themselves, or devaluing themselves. A major point of contention on the show was whether this was prostitution or not. I don't think it matters. If everyone agrees, it is an agreement. I don't believe that taking money for sex, if that is a part of what they are doing, is necessarily wrong. So I don't judge them like Tyra Banks and her 'expert' do.

But it does make me sad that so many women still feel that their most valuable asset is their sexuality. And maybe that is judgmental of me. Who am I to say that's not okay? I just wonder if the women who make these kinds of choices do it because they feel that's the best thing for them, that they know they could make the money themselves but they just don't want to, or if they feel that even now, they will never be able to achieve the kind of lifestyle they want without the help of a man.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Do we need .xxx?

I was driving home last night when a piece on CBC radio caughty my ear. They were reporting on the progress of an application to have .xxx established as a new top level domain name. Although this application has been in process for the past six years, this is the first I had heard of it. Knowing the potential implications of this, I stopped to listen.

So here's the deal. An internet domain registry service called ICM has been trying to get the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbering to approve their proposal for a .xxx top level domain, to be used solely for adult content. This idea has been brought forward to ICANN and others many times in the past, but this six year battle that ICM has engaged in is not only to have the domain established but for ICM to have exclusive rights over it - ie. if you want an .xxx domain, you'll have to pay ICM and only ICM. Other domains like this exist but they are small and not widely used.

My concern, the second I heard this was that if such a domain was established, attempts might be made to make a .xxx domain mandatory for all adult content on the net. Given the climate in North America around sexuality and pornography, it's not a stretch to be concerned about this. That could put my website and my business, and those of my fellow business owners in the industry in jeopardy. How does one define ''adult content'? I've been lumped in with random porn sites and other adult content industries and denied business services before so this makes me vary wary.

However, after listening to the interviews and doing some digging around, I don't think we need to be concerned about that........yet.

So what is this all about? ICM, and the proponents of this idea claim that it will help internet users avoid unwanted adult content and will help protect children from incidental exposure. They say that it will make filters even more effective because parents can simply block the entire domain.

But if use of the domain is voluntary, will it really make a difference. A .com domain costs anywhere from $7 to $20 a year so what will likely happen is that adult site owners who have a .com right now will simply add a .xxx to increase their traffic. They won't drop the .com. So bam! We've just doubled the number of porn addresses on the web! Great way to control kids access to porn. Not only that, but then everyone will know that there is a virtual goldmine of porn over the .xxx rainbow. Type in and you're sure to come up with some porn. So does this make it easier or more difficult for kids to access porn.

It seems obvious to me that this is nothing more than a money grab. ICM has spent $10 million so far to make .xxx a reality. Yes, you read that right, $10 Million!! So guess how much they expect to make from it? As mentioned before, a .com domain name is, at most, $20 a year. ICM does not state, on their website, how much the domain will actually cost but a rep. from the Free Speech Coalition said she has heard estimates of anywhere from $50 to $275/year. Why so much more than .com? It's because you can only get it from ICM so they can charge whatever they want. The president of ICM did say in the interview that they expect to make up to $150 million a year from .xxx! He said that they already have 156,000 domain names parked - so if all of those end up paying their $50, that's $7.8 million in their pockets before they even start!

In a totally transparent and somewhat smarmy move, he mentioned that 10% of the cost of each domain would go towards child protection charities. What does that have to do with anything? The only reason ICM wants to make that so public is to try to win people over to the idea that this is good for everyone. 10% is nothing to them when they're making that kind of money.

Do I think .xxx is a bad thing? No, not really. My only concern is that we will get some right-wing crazy group lobbying ICANN and their governments to make it mandatory for all adult content. I know how difficult that would be to enact and enforce so I don't think it's something we need to be worried about for now. I don't think it's fair business practice to allow it to be exclusively owned. Website builders know that they'll pretty much have to get the .xxx name for their site or they'll lose a huge amount of traffic and revenue to someone else who scoops it out from under them. It's basically strong-arming them into paying for an extra site. Other than that, is it damaging? No, I don't think so. Will it help to prevent incidental exposure to porn on the net? No, I really don't think it will. Will it line to pockets of some brilliant, but pretty clearly unscrupulous business people? Yes, most definitely.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sexual Compatability

I spent a lovely evening last week driving to and from a party in Airdrie listening to Savage Lovecasts all the way. Anyone who's read this blog knows that Dan Savage is my hero. I love the way he's able to draw out the hidden agendas in his listener's questions or their partner's actions. I love that he will unabashedly call some right-wing conservative hypocrite a 'lying piece of shit asshole'. But I found myself really questioning one of the main ideas he was espousing that became a theme in the string of podcasts I listened to. He said many times that he thinks it's very important for couples to have sex before they decide to get really serious, get married or have kids, so that they know if they are sexually compatible. I completely agree. I agree with him that our society belittles the importance of sex in a marriage and that lack of sexual compatability can, and often does, destroy a relationship. However, through the course of these podcasts it seems that he was saying that couple's just need to 'get that out of the way' - that they just need to have sex once or a few times to know if they work togehter. Then that question is answered and they can move on to other things. This is where I disagree.

When couples first start dating, sex is usually pretty good. Unless there's something wildly different about them (eg. I actually like men and you don't have a penis, I know I need to be beaten soundly to get off and that clearly scares the hell out of you, I'm afriad of semen and you expect regular blow jobs... or something of the like), and they like each other and attracted to each other, they're probably going to have really good sex for the first little bit. At the beginning of a relationships, we're in that lovey dovey, let's-make-out-in-the-movei-theatre phase. And we're also usually not particularly honest about what we want and how we really feel about our partners sexual abilities. It's not until we've been together for awhile that the bloom starts to come off the rose and differences in our wants and needs start to surface. Sometimes that can be many months or even more than a year down the road! That's why I believe that people need to spend a lot of time together and wait until they've really been through some things before making a serious committment. Either that, or they need to be the kind of person that can make a committment to work through things and stick to it no matter what, so that when those issues arise, and they usually do, they will be serious about working them out. People who can do that are truly rare.

So yes, I agree that sexual compatability is very important but it's not something you can ascertain after a couple of dates.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Oh So Cosmo!

Once again, a new channel showed up on our TV - Cosmo Television. Yeah! Now I can finally get all of the insightful and profound social analysis offered by Cosmo magazine on TV! As promised, Cosmo TV is very much like Cosmo magazine. Loaded with gender stereotypes and sexual misinformation. The worst has got to be 'Oh So Cosmo' which is supposed to be a dating and relationship advice show but basically seems to be about telling women what to do. About every 30 seconds, 'stats' flash up on the screen letting us know how 'guys' feel about various things that 'girls' do. These kinds of 'stats' make me crazy because of course, the implication is that if a large number or majority of people think or act a certain way, then it's normal. Who are they actually asking? If it's guys that read cosmo, you know that they didn't get a very large sample. And really, why do I need to know that 57% of men prefer blondes? Obviously the point of that stat is, if you're blonde, rejoice! And if you're not blond, get blonde.

The episode last night had their female host, Josie, dramatizing Cosmo's advice for making a good impression on a guy. What we learned here was that we should approach him first, we should show interest in what he's interested in, and we should buy his friends beer. Oh, and that we should have sex with him because '90% of guys believe that a hook-up can lead to a long-term relationship'. Oh, how I wish I had cosmo TV before when I was dating. It would have been so much easier!

After this advice, came the cosmo quiz in which we learned whether we are mysterious enough to capture the attention of a man. The results of the quiz revealed that I give away far too much and will easily get myself hurt because of it. You don't want to give away too much but you also don't want to be so much of an enigma that you're playing games. It's a fine line we gals have to walk in the dating world! The quiz made me nauseous because it's that same old 'play hard to get' advice that we've seen over and over. We should never tell a man exactly how much we like him, we should never appear to be clingy or needy, and we should make him come to us. Does this game really work for anyone? If might work at first but if your goal is to develop a real relationship, at some point, you're going to have to drop the game and be who you really are. If you've played the game long enough, that's going to come as a real shock to your partner. Isn't it better just to be real from the start? In fact, I got the result I did because on every question I took the most direct and real answer - I would just tell him what I'm feeling and do what I feel I'd like to do. But then again, I'm far too open.

To me, the message of 'Oh So Cosmo' is that women should never ever trust their own instincts in the dating world. If they do, they'll never get a man. Instead, they should seek out every opportunity to find out what other people think, and ask any dating expert they can find. That way they'll know how to behave and won't doubt themselves in these situations. Hmmmm.......there's something wrong with that logic but I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe if I watch some more Cosmo TV, I'll figure it out.

Friday, May 28, 2010

In spite of everything you've heard, Canadian teens are becoming more responsible.

The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality has just published a study showing that the number of pregnancies among Canadian teenagers dropped by 36.9% from 1996 to 2005! Who would've guessed? It seems all we hear about in relation to teen sexuality is how over-sexualized they are and how they are getting involved in sex earlier and earlier every day. If that were true, one would expect that the numbers of teen pregnancies would be increasing right along with all that horrible, early risk-taking behavior. But they aren't. In fact, teen pregnancy rates are down significantly in the last ten years in most developed countries, including the USA (their drop was 25%). Alexander McKay, co-author of the study and research co-ordinator of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of Canada says that the number of teenagers having sex has remained essentially stable, over this time period, with somewhere around 50% of those 17 or under having been sexually active. McKay says “Teenage women in Canada are not more or less likely to be sexually active than they were 10 or 15 years ago. The difference is that we have seen a steady increase in the percentage of sexually active young women who are using contraception. That comes mainly in increases in condom use but also increases in birth control.” (quote taken from Globe and Mail, May 26th). So in spite of all the public bemoaning about 'those girls growing up too fast', it appears that all the evidence tells us that:
1 - the numbers of teenagers having sex has stayed pretty much the same since 1996
2 - the ones who do have sex are making good choices about contraception
3 - far fewer of them are getting pregnant

But there are still some, that in spite of all of these good news fact, hold steadfastly to their belief that Canada's sexual morality is going to hell in a handbasket. Point in case, Barbara Kay, of the National Post, who is quickly becoming one of my least favorite wingnuts, published an editorial on Thursday entitled 'Teen Pregnancy Study Fall Prey to Wishful Thinking'. In it, she asserts that the decline in teen pregnancy rates is mainly due to a decline in birth rates in Canada on the whole. How this follows, I simply cannot understand. She also asserts that the general decline in birth rate is due to a huge increase in the number of abortions, with 47% of the decline in births being attributable to abortions. Huh? How she is getting this stat is not at all clear to me. How in the world can you determine that 47% of the decline in births was due to abortion? But I had a look at some statistics directly from statistics Canada to see what I could find. First of all, the number of live births in Canada did take a dip in the 90's but has been steadily climbing again since 2001. So the decline in birth rates is nowhere near as dramatic as she claims. Secondly, the number of abortions has been steadily decreasing. Since a highpoint in 1997, with almost 112,000 abortions, it has dropped by a little over 12% with less than 97,000 abortions in 2005 (I personally wonder is this is due, in part, to the decreasing access to abortion services in Canada). So really, Barb, what are you on about? The stats show very clearly that although our birth rate has declined, it was actually on a slight increase throughout the period of this study. And it shows that fewer people are getting abortions (the teen rate for abortions reflects a similar trend and has been dropping steadily since 1996).

However, good old Barb states that "The bottom line is that fewer young people are having early sex, slightly more of those who have sex are using contraception, and a critical mass of those who are having sex, in spite of a tsunami of education, prefer not to use contraception, but have no problem with abortion as retroactive contraception. It seems to me on the evidence that western sex ed programs must be something like dietary information programs to combat obesity that present a list of healthy foods on one side of a blackboard, and a list of practices like anorexia and bulimia on the other side, making no moral distinction between them." Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Again, why focus on one, clearly biased editorial? Because it reflects the views of too many people in Canada who still cling to their ideas and opinions in spite of the overwhelming evidence that sex education in Canada is working and that our teenagers are making better choices about sex. The proof is in the comments on Barb's article. Here are just a few:

"First, SIECCAN has an agenda to push. If wonder [sic] what it is, check the report their sister-organization in the US (SIECUS) prepared for the UNESCO last year: It advocates "sexual education" at the earliest possible age including teaching kids aged 5-to-8 about masturbation, "gender stereotypes," and the rest of the closet pedophile agenda." - yes, those SIECCAN researchers are really just closet pedophiles out to lure children into their trap!

"In any study one has to look beyond the author's conclusions to find the real reasons for same. Today 90% of abortions are either a method of birth control or sex selection....Our first step as a nation is to defund abortion from the healthcare system for anything other than medical necessity including rape/incest. Let those on welfare or unable to afford it go through a course on responsible sexual relationships before any state funding is provided. Make it clear the funding is only provided once." - so really, this whole study just shows us that we need to stop funding abortions - how did this get to be an abortion debate? And only those on welfare should get not only abortions, but also sex education. Talk about an agenda!

It's people like this, who have not taken the time to understand the issues and clearly don't care to, who influence the actions our government takes regarding these matters.

So even though all evidence points to the fact that sex education is working, that not only teen pregnancies but also teen abortions are on the decline, our federal government still makes the outrageous decision to underhandedly completely obliterate funding for the Canadian Federation of Sexual Health (formerly Planned Parenthood) and to try to put legal abortion back up for discussion.

We need to take a giant step into the world of reality and start listening to the people who are actually in the know about these things, like Alexander McKay and SIECCAN. Because opinions and fact are not one and the same. You know what they say.......opinions are like assholes, everyone's got one.....

Saturday, May 15, 2010

You'll really get a bang out of this toy!

I just got a notice about this new toy. I'm not even joking - this is a real toy! This is from a line of toys 'inspired' by the porn movie 'Pirates'. In case you can't tell from the picture, that cute pink thing branching off of the toy is a cute pink elastomer GUN. Yeah, I really get off by masturbating while staring down the barrel of a gun. Who thinks of these things?

Friday, May 7, 2010

More on the shameful spectacle of the Ontario sex Ed program

I am currently attending the Western Canadian Conference on Sexual Health where I got to hear directly from members of the Canadian Teacher's Federation who were involved with the development of the Ontario sex Ed curriculum. Imagine my surprise to hear from them that, before the program became public, it was reviewed AND APPROVED by the Ontario Catholic Bishops! Did we hear that in the media? No, certainly not. What we've heard is them loudly and publicly proclaiming that they do not support the implementation of the full program in Catholic Schools. Whether or not they actually approved of the full program including the grade three section regarding differences and homosexuality is unclear to me. But what is clear to me is that they seemed to do their best to make sure that there participation in and approval of the program was not public and that their objections to it, whatever they are, are not. All of the details and subtleties of this issue are being lost and all we are really hearing is that there is massive outrage about this program. In actual fact, this is not true. It was set for implementation in the Catholic school system with their blessing and the blessing of the bishops. What we are also not being told is that the program was developed in order to bring Ontario into line with other provinces and the recently developed Canadian guidelines on school-based sexual health programs. The international declaration on sexual and reproductive rights guarantees the right to accurate sexual health education and it specifically identifies the things that are taught in this new program. And guess what? Canada signed this declaration. Canadian children are promised access to this information by international declaration. The Catholic bishops clearly know that. It's time for them to tell the whole truth and publicly stand up for a program they supported in private.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ontario Fails the Public School System

Last week, I heard on the radio that the Ontario School System was introducing a new sexual health education curriculum. This new program, which covers grades one all the way to junior high, has been in the works for two years. It includes, among many other things, basic health education in grade one, mainly learning the proper names for all the body parts, including sex organs. In grade three, children will learn about the concept of sexual orientation and preference - understanding terms like 'straight' and 'homosexual'. The topic of puberty will be dealt with in grade four and five. In grade six and seven children are taught about different types of sexual activity and they learn what oral and anal sex are. I was thrilled to hear this. Studies have shown clearly that comprehensive sex education programs are more effective in reducing early pregnancies than abstinence-based programs. The radio story also noted the outpouring of objection from religious groups. I wasn't surprised by that, anytime you even say the word 'sex' in public, someone objects.

But sadly, the very next day, the news came that Ontario premiere Dalton McGuinty had caved in to public pressure and put the program on hold. He stated that there had not been enough public consultation on the issue and that more time was needed to consider those views. Does this make any sense at all? Why in the world is he allowing anyone, much less conservative religious groups to dictate what is taught in public schools?

Those who object to it make it sound like a bunch of gay teachers got together and decided they should tell grade 3 children about sodomy. This is not at all what this is. This program was developed by educators and experts in sexual health education over a two-year period. It is based on other programs in Canada and around the world that are considered best practices in sexual health education. What makes Dalton McGuinty, or anyone else for that matter, think that these lobby groups know better than actual researchers and educators? Why is this open to public consultation at all?

If the Ontario school board came up with a new curriculum for Math or Language Arts would we even know about it? No. We would simply trust that teachers and the school board know what they are doing when it comes to education. But when the topic is sex, suddenly that confidence in teachers goes out the window.

The pressure groups, including the Canada Christian College and the London Islamic School, are objecting, in part, to the fact that the curriculum was not initially made public, but rather quietly rolled out to public school employees in January. It was only recently made public. Conservative MP Christine Elliot says that the Ontario government 'got caught trying to sneak the curriculum through'. Really? Are they under any obligation to clear this curriculum with anyone? They didn't get caught doing anything. What happened was that this coalition of religious groups caught wind of it and threatened to pull their kids out of school. Then it became a media story.

Charles McVety, president of the Canada Christian College has accused McGuinty of listening to special interest groups with an agenda in allowing this curriculum to go through. Wait a minute? What are you Mr. McVety? are the head of a conservative religious group that lobbies the government. Wouldn't that make you a..........special interest group? And you oppose comprehensive sexual health education and you strive to promote 'family' values. Wouldn't that mean that you agenda? And yes, Dalton McGuinty listened to you. So yes, he did listen to special interest groups with an agenda. But only when he choose to put a hold on the program!

What makes me so angry about this is that I'm sure if you could do a poll of all Ontario parents, the vast majority of them would say that they support sex education for their kids and that they want the new program. But those are the ones that are not speaking up because they don't think they have to. Are they going to sit back and let these people determine how their kids are taught? Are they going to stand by and allow these groups to push their religious agenda on their kids in the public school system? It appears that they are because I haven't heard anything about protests from the other side.

I haven't seen the details of the curriculum but I bet you anything that children are sent home with a note about upcoming sex education portions of their health program and an option for parents to pull them out of the class. This was the way it was when I was in elementary school many years ago and I'm fairly certain they are still doing that. If you don't want your kids to hear that information, pull them out of that class. It's as simple as that. Don't tell other parents what their kids should and should not learn.

The fact of the matter is that kids learn about sex before they even hit the school system. They have already heard a lot about body parts and oral sex and who's gay and who's queer. This is not new to them, even in grade three. The point is to take the opportunity at school to give them accurate, more objective information so they can better understand what these things actually mean. And they can make choices based on all the information that's coming at them, not just what they get from the net or from their friends.

People say that it's not the business of the schools to teach sex ed. That parents should teach their children about it. But what do parents know about sex? Many of them don't know a damn thing and that's because they never learned it in school either. And a lot of parents are just too embarrassed, to unsure, or perhaps just too disinterested to teach their children about sex. Should the kids miss out on vital information because of that? If you want to keep sex education in your home, that's fine, do that. Keep your kids out of the classes and teach them at home. Or better yet, let them go to the class and then discuss it with them at home. But don't deprive other kids from learning information that could very well save their lives.

Shame on you McGuinty. I wish you had the balls to stand up to these groups. I only hope that in the end, you will give them only lip service (pun intended) and put the curriculum back in place.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Is It Addiction, Is It Self-Help, or Is It Just Schadenfreude?

In searching my usual spots for new sexual health news, I came across this article from women's health . Yet again, another angle, another spin, another reason to write about Tiger Woods. I am sick to death of hearing about Tiger Woods. I couldn't care less about Tiger Woods. For his family and friends, what's going on in his life is vitally important, but why should the rest of us, who have never met the man, even know about any of this?

And yet the media seem to be mesmerized and will use any excuse they possibly can to write about it. I hesitate to write even one word about Tiger Woods but this article really caught my eye as being particularly ridiculous. The article quotes Mary Canning, a marriage and family therapist as saying “Woods has created a dialogue among couples, giving them a definition for a serious problem that’s plagued relationships...Women are finally realizing, ‘I’m not the only one.’” Come on now? Are we really saying that it never occurred to women that other husbands cheat until this story broke? Couples never dealt with infidelity and never talked about it until Tiger Woods cheated on his wife? This is the saddest excuse I've seen for continuing to report on this story and continuing to invade Tiger's and his family's private lives. It's helping people? No one ever talked about this before and now they recognize that it's a problem? No, cheating has been going on for centuries, millenia, really, and people have been talking about it that whole time. We do not need to hear about Tiger Woods to know that we are not alone with our problems around trust and fidelity.

The funniest part of it is that, after trotting out this quote, the author of the article lists 4 other examples of wayward husbands who attracted huge media attention when their affairs became public. Wait a minute, I thought no one had a definition for this until Tiger ended up in the news.

The article purports to be about the concept of sex addiction and whether it is simply an excuse for cheating. What I would contend is that this article is simply an excuse to write about Tiger Woods, yet again. The fact of the matter is that the media loves a feeding frenzy and they want it to continue for as long as it possibly can. It sells magazines and TV ad spots and they like that. But they want to tell us that all of this perverse voyeurism is actually good for us. They try to make us believe that it's okay for us to pry into people's private lives because we are learning from it and people are being helped.

The sad and plain fact is that all of this is nothing other than making entertainment out of the mistakes and miseries of others. Is Tiger Woods the only person to ever cheat on his wife? Of course not. Have a million men done exactly what he did? Of course. So why are we supposed to be shocked and appalled by it? I'm not excusing his behavior. It's abhorrent, for sure. But it's not news. Not by a long shot.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Idealizing the Innocence of Girls

Before Telus decided to kill our SEX TV Channel, I caught an episode of 'Sex TV' entitled 'Girl Power'. I'm not a fan of Sex Tv at the best of times. It oversimplifies and over-sensationalizes. This episode was no different.

It started out with a backstage look at a Spice Girls tribute group (shows how old the episode was) as they got ready for a show, interspersed with scenes of the teenage girls in the audience waiting for the show to start. The voice over at the beginning explained how the image of female sexuality has been changing, with more and more representations of women who are both strong AND sexual, rather than there having to be a choice. It talked about the stronger presence of images of powerful sexual women. This got my attention and I kept watching. Perhaps, I thought, we'll see some discussion about a newer feminist paradigm around female sexuality.

Not so much.

It turns out this opening narrative had nothing to do with the show as those statements ended with a 'BUT......are young girls becoming too sexual too soon?' And so here we go again. The rest of the show talked about how girls are maturing much faster than they used to, and are bombarded with images of sexuality everywhere to go. Is this forcing them to grow up to fast and to have sex too early? According to this show, yes it is.

What really boils my potatoes about this old saw of an idea is that we are trying to pretend that girls are not sexual beings - at least until they become adults. It's just not true. Just before this show was a little montage of women confessing when their first sexual thought was. They all shared memories from their early or late teens. Come on already! My first sexual thought would have been somewhere around age 4 or 5. It's not that I wanted to have sex but I certainly thought about and was curious about things related to bodies and sex. We all are. Sexuality is not a separate little compartment in our lives that suddenly pops open at puberty. Girls are sexual from the time they are born. So if that's the case, why are we so terrified about them expressing that part of themselves?

It is only in much more recent times, around the turn of the century, that we have held these kinds of ideals around innocence and purity, and yet shows like this and people who share these views distort the historical facts by claiming that girls are entering puberty earlier and earlier and that they are being 'thrust' into the world of sexuality when they are so very young. In fact, this same show, after reporting 'alarming' statistics how the age of menarche has become progressively younger, suddenly switched gears and reported that in ancient Rome, girls were normally married between 12 and 14 years of age. How does this make any sense at all? Since the main reason for marriage at that time was creating families, those girls would most certainly have not been married had they not reached menarche and been capable of having children. So what is really going on here? Clearly, throughout history, it has been understand that women mature physically at a young age and that they are ready to take on adult responsibilities of sex and child-bearing. So why now, do we treat girls so gingerly and make such an effort to protect their innocence? Why is female sexuality so precious and yet at once so threatening.

Don't get me wrong here, I really don't think that girls should be getting married and having babies at 14. But the reason that I believe that is because we our society is not set up to prepare and then adequately support girls to do that at that age. Come to think of it, I don't think our society is set up to support women to make good sexual decisions and to bear children at any age. But that's another story.

The fact of the matter is that both girls and boys are sexual. They are not innocent. The innocence we work so hard to protect is an ideal created by adults who find it easier to pretend their children are ignorant than to deal with the realities of their lives. This idealization and refusal to deal with reality has some dire consequences. Why are the vast majority of teens afraid to talk to their parents about sex and contraception? I think a big part of it is that they are afraid they will destroy their parents image of them. Most parents think their children are perfect and in our society, a perfect child does not have sex, and doesn't even think about it. How can a child talk openly and get good information from a parent who idealizes their innocence? The result is children who hide their real lives from their parents and parents who have no clue what their children are really doing.

There was a very strident young woman on the show who had written a book that I've since forgotten the title of. She believes that sex is sacred and that girls in our society are tramps who have lost all respect for themselves. She shared a story that she heard (she could give no real information to support whether this story was even true or how often something like this might happen)about an 18-year old girl who had planned to go to a motel to have sex with her boyfriend. This plan came about because both of them lived with their parents and had no privacy. The girl needed a ride to the motel so she asked her Dad take her. On the way there, she discovered she had forgotten her birth control pills. The father drove her home to get them and then back to the motel. We were clearly meant to be horrified by this story. I thought it was an example of a nice father. This is an 18-year-old girl who can make a decision about whether she wants to have sex or not. She'd thought it out and planned for it because she was already on the pill. She told her parents what she was doing instead of sneaking around. And her father helped her out with her good choices. I think this is how we all ought to behave where our sexual choices are concerned. But in this looney woman's mind, the idea that parents would be that open and accepting with their children was abhorrent. It's ass backwards - rewarding ignorance and decrying honesty.

So for the end of the show, we cut back to the Spice Girls concert and watch 12 to 14 year old girls mouth the words to 'Stop Right There' as they dance around in their boas and satin shorts. Exactly what we are meant to feel about this, I don't really know.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why Women Studies?

Yesterday on CBC's 'The Current', one of the topics was the number of 'Women's Studies' departments in Universities across Canada that have changed their names to 'Gender and Sexuality Studies' or something of the like. The guests, strangely enough, were columnists from the Toronto Star and National Post rather than directors of or professors in women's studies departments. Barbara Kay, columnist for the National Post, spouted off her view on why women's studies programs are unnecessary and, she seemed to say, actually dangerous and unethical. Having taking many women's studies classes, studied feminism and women's history, worked for many feminist organizations, and being a proud feminist myself, I found her viewpoint absolutely stunning. I kept shaking my head wondering where this woman actually lives. It certainly isn't our planet. But the sad fact is that her view is one shared by many women today. So many women today think that feminism is about hating men and trying to prove that women are better. They believe that feminism is no longer necessary as we've achieved the equality the feminists were fighting for. It would be great if this was true, but it's just not.

Although, as The Current always does, they had an opposite viewpoint, expressed by Catherine Porter of the Toronto Star, I was still frustrated that Barbara Kay was not challenged even more vigorously on some of her arguments. It's clear to me that she is a product of her society who is so immersed in it that she cannot even entertain the idea that perhaps things could be different.

She maintains that women's studies programs are merely a recruitment camp for feminists that teach biased information and that they are not places of serious study. This is ridiculous and unfair. The purpose of the women's studies programs is to bring into the universities viewpoints and information that are not taught in other courses. It is a fact that regular history courses all but ignore the contributions of women throughout history unless those women happen to have become world leaders. There is no discussion of the contribution of women in society, politics and economics. Almost all the information covered relates to the contribution of men. And if anyone would like to argue that with me, I welcome it because I majored in history and I can tell you what I learned. Women have contributed and truly changed the course of history in many ways but those things often happen in the sphere of the home and community, not on the grand stage of world politics. And because of that, they are ignored. Women's history courses seek to teach that. They don't alter history or teach a biased view, they simply provide a place to learn about vast chunks of our human history that are ignored. Of course, there are may other aspects to women's studies courses than history but this is what I know so that's what I can talk about more easily. The same can be said of economics (I took a course that looked at alternate views of what actually constitutes 'work' in our society - utterly amazing because we never get to hear these ideas), and philosophy, and sociology, and political science. Barbara Kay maintains that the courses she took in University were good 'objective' courses free from the bias that is found in women's studies, but that is utter bullshit. Every course has a bias, the only difference is that women's studies programs are usually clear about theirs.

She also talked about how feminism is not relevant to women today because we've already acheived equality of opportunity. Women, she says, can have any job they want and the only reason for the vast under-representation of women in our government, in the head office of our corporations, and among the partners of our law firms is that women self-select out of those positions because they don't want to put in the hard work and hours required. She doesn't even consider the idea that maybe the fact that those crazy hours that preclude having and raising children are required for those types of positions is actually the problem. When Catherine Porter raised the idea that perhaps those things needed to change, perhaps we needed to change the values of our system so that wanting and needing time to raise a family is not considered a career liability, she was accused of being an idealist. Why? Why is not permissible to posit an alternate way of doing thing? Why should we simply accept that the way it is is the way it must be? Women do not self-select out of these positions, the system selects them out because they cannot participate in the same way men can. And if they choose then, not to have children or not to spend any time with their children, they are forced into making a choice and a sacrifice that men simply do not have to make. And yes, men have children too but the vast majority of child-rearing is currently done by women. It just is not the same.

She also said that feminism is no longer promoting equality but rather women's interests and that men are suffering because of that. That almost made me puke. I am so sick of hearing this. She accused feminists of setting up and 'us' and 'them' mentality and then went and used the same argument herself. Boys are suffering in schools because there's so much emphasis on education for girls. Bullshit! Why does the advancement of women have to hurt men? And if men actually are falling behind, they need to do exactly what women did, and fight for their rights WITHOUT taking away rights from women.

She mentioned that feminists are so concerned about violence against women but they don't care about violence against men. Says who? Pretty much all of the feminists I know who are concerned about violence against women (and I know a lot of them) are against violence in general and are peace activists on many levels. She questioned why there are no men's shelters. I'll tell you why there are no men's shelters. It's because we don't need them. Yes, I'm fully aware that there are some men out there who are abused by their partners who have nowhere to go but it's a small number. Most of the men who experience abuse in their homes will either not be forced to leave their home or if they are, they will have the resourced to pay for a place to stay because they have more economic power in their relationships (ie. they are usually working and not staying at home with their kids). The fact of the matter is, domestic violence happens much more to women because of the inequality of women in our society. Men who experience it usually have more options. and if they don't, they should be working together and making the shelters happen, just like the women did! Don't whine that you don't have a shelter and the women get all the shelters, make it happen! Women didn't just get shelters, they worked hard for them and they continue to fight hard for their funding to keep them.

Women everywhere, and particularly young women need to understand that feminism is not a question of 'us versus them'. It's a question of valuing, protecting, and nurturing women's contributions to our society and to our world. We have come so far in Canada to making that happen but we're not done yet. And their are women all over the world who are just beginning and deserve our support. Feminism is not a relic, it's alive and vital. And women's studies programs are not recruitment camps for feminism, but they are an important part of the effort to value, protect, and nurture women's contributions. Because if we don't know what those are, how can we ever nurture them and how can we move forward?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Birth Control for Breakfast

I have taken to watching Rachael Ray in the mornings while I have my breakfast. The only reason for this is because I have a bit of an addiction to TV and she seems to be the only watchable thing on. I like her. She's fun and harmless and sometimes really funny.

This morning, the first thing on the show was a bit on how to choose the right birth control. And, surprise! It wasn't all that bad! The first thing the guest doctor said was that women need to realize that the only contraception option that protects against STI's is condoms. So, for a lot of women, condoms are an important choice - even if they are also using another method. Yeah! She also said that she and her husband of 14 years use condoms as their primary method. Yeah! Score one for the lovely and much maligned condom - saver of lives and preventer of unwanted little ones!

The whole thing was actually very good - she covered several different methods including two which are not hormonal: diaphragms and condoms. It's nice to hear someone talk about methods that don't screw with your body chemistry. They are very effective, inexpensive, and virtually free of side effects, and yet, we hardly ever hear about them when contraception is discussed in the media. Pills always seem to be the answer - and if not pills, some other method of getting hormones into your body.

The one thing I would have liked to see was more discussion about side effects. The doctor very briefly touched on the fact that hormonal contraceptives have side effects - with a fleeting mention of low libido. Women really need to know that these drugs (yes, virginia, they are drugs) have a lot of side effects that are very common and some of them are very serious. It's extremely important to talk to your doctor about whether you smoke, what other drugs you take, and if you have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, or migraines before you decide to take the pill or use the ring or patch. They never tell us that hormonal contraceptives can make you batshit crazy, or that they can kill your sex drive, or all of the other even more serious things that can happen. It's up to us to ask those questions and to run back to our doctors and demand answers if those things happen.

But, in the meantime, score one for Rachael Ray for a passable piece on sexual health. I thought it was kind of funny that after the birth control segment, she was going to show her audience how to make stuffed hot dogs. Too bad I missed that.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sometimes Desire doesn't come before Arousal

I love Dan Savage. I adore him. So when I got my iPhone and discovered I could download his podcasts, I was over the moon. I spent an entire drive to and from Calgary listening to SavageLove podcasts. Awesome! He had one question that I wanted to call in and respond to though. A woman was calling because she was taking meds for a serious problem with depression and found that it had destroyed her sex drive. This is a pretty common problem for people who takes SSRI's like Paxil and other drugs in that family. I've lived through this myself and suffered a severe lack of sex drive due to other circumstances too.

Dan and the doctor who was his guest were very sympathetic to her and gave her great advice about dealing with the drugs. But they didn't deal with the sex drive issue. No one ever does. They just look at whether you can reduce or change the drugs and hope for some relief. But often, that doesn't change anything. And for many people, getting off the drugs completely is not an option. So what do you do?

Here's something that I have discovered that perhaps many people know but no one ever talks about. Desire doesn't always precede arousal. We are taught that the way people have sex is that they feel desire (ie. something turns them on), then excitement and sensation starts (ie. they start getting down to it), and then the excitement builds and they have an orgasm. Even those who criticized Master's and Johnson's sexual response model still concluded that sex usually start with desire. But actually, it doesn't have to.

Sometimes sex starts with willingness instead of desire. Sometimes it starts with just wanting to give a partner something or just wanting to want to have sex. Then, when you get going and get hands and lips, fingers and tongues involved, the desire kicks in. Our bodies are wonderful and they will usually respond no matter where our head is at. So if you want to do it, let your body take the lead. Quite often, it will get you there.

We're so conditioned through everything we see and hear to think that great sex starts with being so turned on you just have to have it. You know, those movie scenes of people ripping each others clothes off in elevators? Well, it would be nice if we could all have elevator clothes-ripping sex - but for a lot of us, it's not like that. And if you're not feeling like ripping your partner's clothes off, it doesn't mean you're not going to enjoy sex. It starts will being interested and willing and then allowing yourself to get into it once it's started. It's like the jump-rope games you used to play as a kid. You may not be the one that starts turning to the rope, but once it gets going, you can jump in and really enjoy the game!

Women are not supposed to do this. Goddess-bless all the wonderful feminists that fought for us to have the right to say no to sex when we didn't want it.....but I think it's gone too far the other way. Now we think that if we are not 100% into it, if the desire isn't totally there, we shouldn't say yes - or that if we do it's bad or inferior sex. It really doesn't have to be. You can say yes for all kinds of reasons, not just because you're so turned on you can't help yourself. And if the willingness is there, it could end up being great sex. If you are suffering from a total lack of sex drive, this may be exactly what you need to do in order to have any satisfying sex at all. It sucks that you never feel horny anymore. But you don't have to be horny to have a good time. It just takes a change in the mindset.