Tuesday, July 31, 2012

More Shades of Grey

I know these books are getting far more attention than they deserve but, having plodded my way through half of the second book, I feel the strong need to write an addendum to my VUE column and my comments here.

I have a few problems with the second book. Mainly that it's horrifically boring and overly sentimental. I also can't deal with the amount of control Christian tries to exert over Ana. Most of the time she pushes against it and I do like that she doesn't just go along with whatever he says, but he usually does end up getting his way. I just read a part where he tries to keep her from going to work because he doesn't think it's safe for her to be by herself. He only agrees to let her go when she agrees to having his bodyguard drive her. Oish! The control thing is still very much presented as a character flaw in him - he is overly anxious and worried about people he cares about getting hurt, this is a problem for him and Ana understands it. She doesn't see it as romantic. But he still gets away with it. You definitely get the sense in the above described scene that the only way she could actually get her way and go to her job by herself is to leave him. That's not cool. Reading that scene actually made me feel panicky - like this is where the abuse actually starts. In real life when a man won't let a woman leave his sight, that is a sign of big big trouble.

But what really boils my potatoes about both the first and second book is how Ana questions and fights Christian's need for control in every aspect, particularly financial, but when it comes to her reproductive health and her own body, she completely rolls over (literally). Many people have praised the Fifty Shades books because of the repeated mention of condoms and explicit explanation of their contraception efforts. The problem is, it's Ana's body but it's all in Christian's hands. He has a doctor come to his house and put her on birth control pills. The doctor treats Ana like shit - as if she's there for Christian and not her. She doesn't ask her anything about her health and just hands her some pills and tells her how to take them.

In the second book, Ana and Christian get back together after only five days apart. Ana has stopped taking her pills. Makes sense, it wasn't her decision to take them anyway and she's not having sex anymore. Two days after they get back together, Christian has the evil doctor return. This time she berates Ana for not taking the pills, calls her stupid and thoughtless and tells her she could be pregnant - all this without even asking her when she had sex and if she used a condom (which she did). She has only had sex three times during this period and since she used a condom every time, it's pretty unlikely that she's pregnant. But the doctor scares the bejeebers out of her and makes her feel like an idiot even though none of this was her choice in the first place. She then gives her a pregnancy test which is inane because there's no way a preg test would come up positive the day after she had sex. Then the doctor tells her that because she obviously can't remember to take pills, she'll have to give her a shot. She doesn't explain what the shot is, how long it lasts, or what side effects there might be. Again she doesn't ask Ana anything about her health history or screen for contraindications to this drug. She doesn't offer her any alternatives. And Ana just accepts the scolding and the shot without question. Good grief!

I'm sad to say that I think this actually mirrors a lot of women's experience in accessing birth control. Why do we think that doctors have the right to tell us what's best for us when it comes to our bodies and our reproductive health? Why do we accept this kind of treatment when we wouldn't accept it about anything else? Just like Ana, we wouldn't let a man tell us we can't go to work, but we will let a doctor shoot hormonal contraceptives into us with little or no explanation.

I'm not actually blaming us here, I'm blaming the society and the medical establishment that has led us to believe that doctors know more about our bodies than we do and that we don't have the right to question. And I'm pissed off at E.L. James for including this scene in this book and making it look like this is a perfectly normal encounter between a woman and a doctor.

Ana sticks up for herself, nowhere near as much as she probably should, but she does. She should stick up for herself in this area too.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

One Sex Toy That Never Should Have Been and One Product That's Not a Sex Toy but Should Be

Yesterday I had someone visit to drop off samples of toys we might like to carry. This is always a difficult thing for me because manufacturers and distributors assume that all stores are the same. They think that we will love anything that everyone else is loving. But we have a different standards than most other stores and a lot of these things people bring me are just not right for us. I won't mention any names because this was really a lovely woman with the best of intentions. But there was one thing in this bag of goodies that really stood out for me. This item is not actually made by the brand she represents but they do carry them. It's called a The Pleasure Web. Sounds awesome! But this is what the Pleasure Web is.

It's a tiny jelly cockring with six holes in it so that you can put the bullet vibe (included) into any one of the holes. The one that we received only had one bullet. But I chose this picture because here you can see both of the suggestions as to how to place the vibrator. Do we notice any problems here?

What's up with the one that is sticking straight up out of the toy? Where is that supposed to go? It looks very much like that thing would be poking directly into me - and not in a good way! If you look at the placement of the other vibe you'll notice a problem there too. The vibe is horizontal so it's not poking out at anyone but it goes directly through the centre of the ring. The is a small and very tight ring. It's going to fit tight and put a lot of pressure - that might feel okay if you didn't have this hard vibe cutting through the ring directly on top of your penis. I can't imagine this would be comfortable for anyone.

The ring is very thin and flimsy and the holes are much smaller than the vibe. It took a lot of effort for me to get the vibrator in there. I'm sure if I did that two or three times, the ring would snap.

This is another case of someone coming up with someone they thought was cool but it's either a designer who has never played with this kind of toy or just doesn't give a shit. Probably both.

I do have to say that the little bullet vibe is actually awesome. That by itself might be worth the price of the toy. Ditch the stupid web ring and use the vibe, and you'll have some fun.

I also came across this today.

I understand the point and I do think it would be good exercise - but you have to admit, it looks ridiculous. Particularly the guy at the beginning who seems to have a model with a rather phallic front end.

This could be great for your thighs. It could also be highly pervertible. I'm tempted to give it a try.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Never One to Miss an Opportunity

Today i got an e-mail about a brand new 50 Shades of Grey themed kit that is 'sure to sell out'. I've been flooded with this stuff as everyone is trying to ride this most recent wave of interest in toy. But this one annoyed me because it's so damn cynical. It's the '50 Shades of Purple' kit from, you guessed it, our old friend Laura Berman.
This is the same kit that she has been marketing forever except that they've added a set of crappy steel ben wa balls to the kit along with the crappy furry cuffs and crappy flimsy blindfold and crappy little feather. I couldn't get a price on it because it's not actually out yet, but the price on the other kit without the crappy ben wa balls is $45. So this one is probably $65 or $70. I know these products because they are also sold separately through Cal Exotics and they are so NOT WORTH IT! Considering the quality, this kit should cost about $35. I get just a little tired of companies marketing cheap crap with nice packaging and fancy names, trying to make it sounds like it's more than it is. If you want a 50 Shades of Grey experience, you'd come much closer with just a necktie like they use in the book and a set of Smartballs (which cost $38 and are not crap - they will last for years - and are more similar to the experience described in the book than these dumb little steel balls). I couldn't track it down but I am fairly certain that Cal Exotics also has this exact same package under their own brand name and not Laura Berman's. If you really want this box 'o garbage, get that one because it will be about $20 less. But if you like the idea of a kit of fun and naughty stuff, look up sportsheets and whipsmart/adventure industries. They make all kinds of intro kink stuff that is not scary - great for the beginner. And all of it is good quality that works well and lasts. They both have a few kits of blindfolds, ticklers and cuffs that will provide many more hours of fun.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lock up Your Children - They're Selling Vibrators at Wal-Mart

I just happened upon a story from Tempe, Arizona from this past Friday. It was a 'news' story letting Tempe residents know that Target and Wal-Mart are selling - gasp - vibrators! I don't know much about what goes on in Arizona, or anywhere in the USA for that matter, but I do know that the vibrators they showed, which are made by Trojan, have been on the market for several years now. Trojan and Durex both came out with small vibrator lines around the same time with the same objectives, to diversify their product lines and break into the toy market and to market that new product line directly in mainstream stores. If you look around a little, at least in Canada, you'll find that most drugstores carry at least one of the Trojan and/or Durex vibrators and you'll also find that most sex toy shops don't. These are simple, in my opinion inferior, sex toys, that were made to be sold on drugstore shelves. One look at the packaging will tell you that. Most of them don't have pictures of the toys on the packaging, the toys have very non-descript names, and they are called 'massager' or 'personal device'. So no, this is not news. I don't know how long they've been around in Arizona, but in Canada you can find them in almost any drugstore and, surprisingly, our kids haven't all become sex crazed maniacs. Two of the 'people on the street' interviewees on this piece were irate that these products were in a 'family' store because if their kid sees them, they would have to explain what it is. Oh no! I have to talk about sex with my kids! That is so inappropriate! But the things is, they won't have to talk about it because these toys are in the condom aisle along with the condoms and lube, not the kids toy aisle. Your kid is probably never in that aisle. If she is, she's just as likely to ask about the condoms as she is the toys. Nobody had a problem with those being there. What about tampons? Should they not be in the store because we don't want our children asking questions about that? What about ovulation kits? Breast pumps? Lingerie for that matter? Why are people singling out vibrators as a problem? Anyway, the kid is not going to even notice the toy because it's in such a wimpy, non-descript box. So relax, you won't have to tell your kid what a vibrator is. I'm ambivalent about this whole thing. I don't think it's a problem to have vibes in drugstores. They are open later and more easily accessible than most sex shops so if you really need a vibe, you can get one. And maybe this will open up the world of sex toys to someone who feels nervous or embarrassed about going into a sex shop. But the problem is that the selection of toys at a drugstore is very small so you have to take what you can get. You don't have a lot of options to choose exactly the kind of thing that will be right for you. I worry that a hasty choice will lead to a disappointing experience which will then lead that person to conclude that toys are not for him. The other problem is that I would doubt very much that your average wal-mart checkout person knows anything about toys. If you need some assistance in understanding how to pick out, use, or take care of the thing, I don't think you're going to get it there. Will they know that there are a lot of toys that shouldn't go up your butt? Will they even be willing to broach that subject? Will they know to warn you not to put silicone lube on your silicone toy? And will they take the toy back or give you warranty information if it breaks? I don't think so. I think it's always better to buy your products from places that know what they're doing. Buy your fruit in a local produce store or farmer's market. Go to a computer store to get your computer equipment. Buy your guitar from a local music shop. And get your toys from an independent toy seller. You'll almost always get better products, better product information and better service. However, since Wal-Mart and Target are not going anywhere soon, I don't see why it's a problem to have a couple of vibes there on the shelf next to the lube and condoms (which I also think you should get from a sex shop, but if you're in a hurry.......). If you want to get everything in one place, why should toys be any different?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Condoms Don't Prevent Rape

Today, I noticed that one of my friends had re-posted a short note about the 'anti-rape condom' on their page. This is actually not a new thing. This device has been around for almost two years now, but the post reminded me about it and I thought this might be a suitable time for a tirade. Okay, first for those who have never seen this thing, here it is:
It is like a female condom. Women are supposed to wear it inside their vaginas. It has barbs on the inside. If a man puts his penis in there (or, I suppose fingers too), the barbs imbed in his penis and the whole thing attaches to him. He has to seek medical attention to remove it. Some people have suggested that this is genius but I beg to differ. There are so many things wrong with it that I think I will have to count them. 1. The person who invented this thing is obviously laboring under the delusion that rape is only a man putting his penis into a woman's vagina. There are a lot of ways to sexually assault someone and this is just one of them. So this is not dealing with rape, it is dealing with only one form of sexual assault of many. 2. How is this preventing rape? It doesn't prevent it, it merely hurts the man who tries to rape someone. We all know from the copious amounts of research that has been done on this that rape is rarely sexually motivated and that sex offenders almost always re-offend, even when they've been caught and convicted. Do we really think that a man who encounters this 'vagina dentata' will never ever assault someone again? I doubt it. He will check first before he inserts his penis or he will just assault women in different ways. 3. Which brings me to the fact that sexual assault is almost always pre-meditated and often thoroughly planned. Any guy who thinks that he may encounter this device can easily check for it and remove it. This thing has been widely publicized and if it ever caught on in any particularly area, a rapist would know to look. 4. Are women supposed to walk around wearing this all the time? Are we really saying that rape is such a common and normal thing that we should stick something in our vagina and wander around with it on a regular basis? The only way this stands a chance of working is if you wear it all the time because you never know when you might get raped. I think telling women to live in constant fear and readiness to be raped is an awful statement about our world. 5. How comfortable could this possibly be? You can't feel a female condom if it's inserted properly but that is just a thin tube of plastic. This has big barbs in it. I can't imagine it feels comfortable. Are we supposed to walk around with something poking our vaginas just because someone might rape us? 6. Which leads to - if you do wear it all the time, it must cause some sort of irritation which could easily lead to infections or a risk of STI's. 7. Many people have brought up the concern that a man who encounters this device is going to be plenty upset and may take that out on the woman he is assaulting, leading to further danger for her. Instead of giving women anti-rape condoms and rape whistles and wasp spray and personal alarms, lets give them cops who listen to them and believe them and judges who convict sex offenders and governments who take sexual assault seriously and mandate stiff minimum sentences for it. This is the only way societies will come to understand that sexual assault is wrong, it's a crime, it's serious, and it's not ok. Let's do that instead of just giving women a nasty barbed condom and saying 'lots of women get raped, you better be ready for it'.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

And from the "Painfully Obvious" department....

Yesterday, a bunch of new stories came out about a study on sexting from the University of Texas Medical Branch. It found that, oh horror of horrors, 30% of the 1000 teenagers they talked to 'admitted to sexting'. What's so funny to me is that these stories go on to say that the study also found that those who had sexted were much more likely to 'admit' to having had sexual intercourse. Wow, what a surprise! Okay, so I 'admit' that I didn't read the study. This is just plain boring so I'm not going to waste my time reading the study. So I don't know exactly where they found these kids and what they asked them. I'm not concerned about that. What I'm concerned about is the conclusions being drawn. The study authors are quoted only as saying that sexting is an indicator of sexual activity, not that it causes it, but the news stories I read strongly implied that it did. One even went so far as to suggest that doctors ask teenagers if they sext because that will tell them if they might be sexually active. Good grief! Why not just ask the kid what he or she is doing? They will tell you or they won't and that's their business. If a doctor asked me if I took naked pictures of myself I would tell her that the last time I checked, you couldn't get pregnant or get a disease from that so mind your own bloody business. But I digress. Is it just me, or is this study utterly pointless and obvious? Doesn't it just make sense that kids who take naked pictures of themselves and send them to their boyfriends or girlfriends are most likely kids who've already gotten naked with said boyfriend or girlfriend - or are planning to do so very soon? It doesn't take a genius to figure it out, does it? I don't really think sexting is the gateway to sex. It's naughty and fun and if you're having naughty fun with someone, that's yet another way to do it. I don't think it happens to often that some guy convinces a girl, against her will, to send him a picture of his boobs, and then suddenly, wham!, out of the blue, she's having sex with him when she really didn't intend to. If that does happen, sexting has little to do with it. That's an abusive dynamic and it can happen with anyone in any way - taking her cell phone away won't change that. Other part that makes my eye twitch is the liberal use of the word 'admitted'. They 'admitted' to sexting, they 'admitted' to having sex. I know this is a term that is used often in health surveys and does not have the connotation in that context that it does in others. But when you report it in a news story, it does have that connotation. It makes it sounds like there is something very wrong with those behaviors and these kids 'admitted' to it - it's very close to the word 'confessed' in this context. A good journalist should use different language. 'Reported' would be a better word. This is just another case of teenagers talking about normal sexual things they do and adults getting their knickers in a twist because they don't want to accept that teenagers are sexual. It's really time to get over it.